Dannin on Magnum

I’m not sure that ‘“The Dannin Papers,” a series of Guest Posts by Robert Dannin, who served as Editorial Director of Magnum Photos from 1985-90′ actually tell us a great deal about photography, revealing as they are about some photographers, but at least for me the first piece, now on part 4 of 6 about his years with Magnum, based around an interview he gave to Russell Miller in 1995 is a highly entertaining series about the inner workings of the world’s best-known photo agency.

It is more than just gossip. More seriously it also shows up Miller’s book as a highly sanitised version of the truth, and I can find little in it that reflects the inside information that Dannin gave him when he was producing his ‘MAGNUM: Fifty Years at the Front Line of History’, as well as giving some insight into the inner workings of what would appear also to have been one of the world’s most dysfunctional organisations. Dannin gets 5 lines in the book, with a note of his resignation and a very pithy quotation of his reasons; Haiti, the first of three disasters which Dannin recounted to Miller in the current post, does not even feature in the book’s index.

Perhaps things have changed a little since then, and though there are still some fine photographers in Magnum, it no longer really deserves or enjoys the reputation it had back in the last century, with other agencies now encouraging much of the best photojournalism and Magnum sometimes appearing a little past its best-before date. When I started in photography it was every young photographer’s dream to become a Magnum member, but I think few harbour that aspiration now.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.