Decision to Clear Magnum Photos of Hosting Child Sexual Abuse Material Called Into Question

Decision to Clear Magnum Photos of Hosting Child Sexual Abuse Material Called Into Question

A recent ruling by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) on one of the inappropriate images of children found in the archive of Magnum Photos has been called into question by a former police officer with extensive experience in categorizing child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Last month, Magnum issued a statement apologizing for having made mistakes in its representation of vulnerable people, failing to present images in the right context, and for misrepresenting photographers’ work. The statement also explained that the IWF had reviewed its archive and cleared the legality of all of its sensitive images of children and that an independent legal expert agreed with the findings.

A few days later, the IWF issued its own statement confirming that it had completed its review and had decided that the images did not meet the IWF’s “thresholds for action.” The review was carried out after Magnum paid a fee of up to £16,244 ($22,610) to the IWF to become a member.

The conclusion of this review prompted surprise regarding two particular images in Magnum’s archive, one of which was revealed by Fstoppers on November 9 last year. The photograph by Patrick Zachmann shows a small child drinking from a bottle, naked from the waist down, and pulling on his penis. The child’s groin area is at the center of the photograph.

When questioned about this image, the IWF explained that it did not normally comment on individual photographs but would make an exception. “The IWF assessed the two images in question and one was subsequently referred to another independent assessor,” the IWF explained via email. “The two images were found not to breach the thresholds for IWF taking action, however advice was issued to Magnum Photos in relation to the images’ use.” The IWF later added: “In our view, none of the images we’ve assessed from Magnum Photos to date fail UK law and warranted a classification of A - C under the UK Sentencing Advisory Panel Guidelines.”

Steve Hunt, a former Digital Forensic Investigator, trained by the National Crime Agency and Europol as a Victim Identification Officer, argues that this image is more serious. For four years, he assessed and graded tens of thousands of child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) images using the system used in the U.K. Hunt is also a photographer of more than 15 years.

In the U.K., illegal images of children fall into three categories, of which Category C is the least serious. Hunt explained: “Having seen the redacted image and having had it described in detail, I would have had little hesitation in grading it as a CAT C indecent image, based on the age of the child, the semi-erect penis and the centering or focus of the image on the genitalia of the child.”

Hunt continued: “With regard to the IWF audit, I am very concerned that they were paid a considerable amount of money to perform this and clear the name of the very people who were bankrolling them. This appears to be a conflict of interests as any true audit or enquiry should be fully independent.”

Hunt called for the IWF to outline the reasoning for its decision regarding this photograph. He added: “I would like to mention that in all of this Magnum appear to be solely concerned with the clearing of their reputation and that of the photographer.”

The statement published by the IWF explains that Magnum did the right thing by being “proactive.” In 2017, Magnum used a photograph of a child being raped to promote a competition. Following an outcry, Magnum’s Global Business Development Manager wrote a few months later that “The protection of vulnerable and abused children is of paramount importance.” Magnum is yet to publish its Child Protection Policy.

The other image under scrutiny shows a group of young boys, perhaps in their early teens or younger, naked on the side of a swimming pool. The photograph was taken by Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins at the City of London School for Boys in 1974 and published recently in a book entitled Players: Magnum Photographers Come Out to Play. As outlined in this detailed article by Benjamin Chesterton listing multiple problematic images in Magnum’s archive, one of the U.K.’s most prolific child abusers taught at the school around this period:

At some time in the late sixtie,s a man called Alan Doggett went to teach at the school. Doggett was likely one of the UK’s most prolific child abusers. He was previously choirmaster at the notorious school St Pauls, from where he was asked to leave for abusing children and his activities hushed up.

Doggett ended up at the City of London School where it’s believed that he was involved in coaching water sports.  And in 1978, he killed himself as a result of being charged with sexual assault against a child (unrelated to his time at the City Of London School). He never faced justice.

Last week, Magnum photographer Carolyn Drake falsely claimed that Chesterton had called Magnum’s president, Olivia Arthur, a pedophile. Drake has since deleted the Instagram comment where the claim was made and did not respond to inquiries.

Magnum has appointed the chair of the IWF to conduct a child safeguarding review in order to audit its policies and procedures. The report is expected to be delivered in April 2021. Magnum stated that it is "committed to publishing the findings of the report and to implementing the recommendations."

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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Yeah but your audit experience is not of indecent images right?

I mean you can read. He's a police officer talking about an audit of indecent images.

You pay *for* your audit, Alexander. You don't pay to *join* the International Federation of Accountants & Auditors who undertake your audit I presume?