The co-operative set up after World War II quickly became home to some of the world’s greatest photographers including Ansel Adams, Eve Arnold, Don McCullin, Sebastiao Salgado and Steve McCurry.
But its managing director David Kogan told AFP on Tuesday that now with trillions of photographs being taken every year, everyone has become a photographer.
“The market has completely changed in the last 30 years,” he said. “Newspapers that spent a lot on photos are no longer spending that money. So we have to invest in new projects and to think of the future.”
Kogan said Magnum, with offices in New York, London, Tokyo and Paris, has been forced into a historic overhaul, bringing in private investors for the first time.
German-born media investor Nicole Junkermann, who co-founded the online gaming portal Winamax, and Norwegian Jorg Mohaupt, who sits on the board of Warner Music and streaming service Deezer, have loaned the agency money and are creating a new subsidiary called Magnum Global Ventures to manage its assets.
Kogan insisted that the deal “aims to correct certain historic weaknesses at Magnum without losing its soul.”
– ‘Strong brand’ –
He said Magnum would still be the majority shareholder in the new company, which he added would quickly turn a profit for the agency, which has long been in the red.
Magnum’s 92 photographers will still control their copyright and the admission of new members under the plans.
The agency’s major competitors Gamma, Sygma and Sipa have all faced bankruptcy in the past decade, with Sipa and Gamma later dragged back from the brink.
“For 70 years Magnum has survived crisis after crisis,” Kogan said.
“I am very aware of Magnum’s long history. Now we have to combine that heritage with a vision of the future.
“We have a very big and strong brand but our organisation is tiny, and our approach is very individual, very tied to our photographers.”
He said that the digital side of the business already accounts for 27 percent of its income, mainly through the sale of prints.
Magnum now hopes to expand into online photography courses and develop its new website to better mine its archive of more than 600,000 images.
“I think quality reporting will always sell,” Kogan added.
“If we can invest in the work of photographers so they can reach a larger market, and if we can use our online presence to bring attention to their work as well as selling prints and giving courses, that can bolster their work,” he added.