Magnum Photos - FAQ
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Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What is Magnum's policy towards copyright of photographs?

Magnum was founded by photographers who wished to work independently and to protect the copyright of its members' work. In 1947 when Magnum was founded, the norm for photographers was for the copyright to be held by clients. Since then much has changed, and the copyright laws around the world now offer statutory protection for the copyright of photographers' work, except where photographers have willingly agreed to part with the copyright to a client. Magnum remains highly protective of photographers' rights, and will not agree to undertake editorial assignment work where the client wishes to hold the copyright subsequently. Magnum remains at the forefront of the campaigns for photographers' rights generally, and is aggressive in pursuing circumstances where it perceives the copyright of its members' work has been breached and where it perceives the law has been broken.

Magnum Photos has a strong respect for the photograph as the photographer made it and selected it at the time. For this reason, the picture captions on this website are written or approved directly by the photographers themselves and the opinions expressed in captions and story text are those of the photographer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Magnum Photos, the organisation.

2. Will Magnum purchase photographs or sell them on a non-Magnum photographer's behalf?

Magnum is members' co-operative and only represents its members and the photographs of its members. Even if a body of work produced by a non-Magnum photographer is highly exceptional, Magnum will not be able to represent it unless the photographer becomes a member. See 'Magnum Membership' details in General Information. Magnum do represent some non-Member collections of pictures of historical or photographic significance - these collections are approved by the Magnum Photos Board Members.

3. What is Magnum's policy regarding the cropping of photographs?

It is popularly thought that Magnum does not allow any of its photographers' work to be cropped, but this is not the whole truth. Certainly, Magnum has a strong association with the respect for the photograph as the photographer made it and selected it. Photographs available from Magnum have usually been very carefully edited: the Magnum archive contains images chosen by the photographers in the context of their own integrity and values, and the archive is not a visual resource for picture users' general chopping and changing. But Magnum represents the copyright holders who are the individual photographers and while many of the photographers do not wish their work to be cropped, others are more flexible. It may depend on the photograph in question. Magnum's policy is that photographs cannot be cropped (or copied, or reproduced) without prior consent. So in circumstances where someone using photographs wishes to crop them, they should contact their local Magnum office for consent before doing so.

4. How do I become a member of Magnum Photos?

Magnum Photos is a co-operative owned and run by its member photographers. The photographers meet once a year, during the last weekend in June, in New York, Paris or London, to discuss Magnum's affairs. One day at this meeting is set aside for considering and voting on potential new members' portfolios. Successful applicants will be invited to become a 'Nominee Member' of Magnum, a category of membership which presents an opportunity for Magnum and the individual to get to know each other, but where there are no binding commitments on either side. In 2007, three new nominees were selected from among the many portfolios presented.

After two years of Nominee membership, photographers then present another portfolio if they wish to apply for 'Associate Membership'. If successful, the photographer then becomes bound by all the rules of the agency, and enjoys all the facilities of its offices and worldwide representation. The only difference between an Associate Member and a full Member is that an Associate Member is not a Director of the Company and does not have voting rights in its corporate decision making. Finally, after another two years, an Associate member wishing to apply for full membership presents a further portfolio of work for consideration by the members. Once elected as a full member, this effectively confers membership of Magnum for life or for as long as the photographer chooses. No member photographer of Magnum has ever been asked to leave.

5. How do I contact a Magnum photographer?

Unfortunately we cannot pass on personal details of any Magnum photographers. You can write to the photographer of your choice c/o the appropriate Magnum address and we shall pass your letter on, but we cannot always promise a prompt reply from the photographer concerned.

6. Can I assist a Magnum photographer?

Unfortunately it is very rare that any of the Magnum photographers use assistants when shooting documentary work. Occasionally there may be need for an assistant, but this is very rare.

7. Where can I find out information concerning Magnum and its photographers?

Information on Magnum Photos can be found either on our web site in 'The History of Magnum' section or by reading the general Magnum Books. The essays at the beginning of the "In Our Time" book and the book "Magnum" by Phaidon Press could be of use. Also a book on the history of Magnum by Russell Miller was published by Random House.

Information on the Photographers of Magnum can be found on the Photographers pages on this web site. In each Photographer's portfolio page you can find the bibliographies and biographies of each of the photographers that are of interest to you.