In the nearly three years since the #MeToo movement transformed journalism, Magnum Photos, the world’s most prestigious photo agency, has portrayed itself as an industry leader. Magnum issued a code of conduct for its members in 2018, and its CEO boasted the same year it had not received a single complaint against any of its photographers. The agency chose women as both president and CEO, added more female photographers, and insisted it was taking harassment and abuse seriously.
But even as Magnum touted its efforts to confront the industry’s abuses, women who worked with one of the agency’s best-known photographers were telling a different story. Eleven women have described to CJR inappropriate behavior from David Alan Harvey over a span of thirteen years, ranging from suggestive comments to unwanted sexual advances to masturbating without their consent on video calls. His behavior was reported to Magnum as early as 2009, but the agency sat on the information for more than a decade. It finally took action in August of this year, but only after the allegations spilled into public: a story published on the website Fstoppers reported that Magnum was selling explicit photographs of sexually exploited minors on its website, including photographs from a series taken by Harvey in Bangkok in 1989. That led photojournalist Amanda Mustard to write a Twitter thread about Harvey, alleging that sexual misconduct allegations against him were an open secret in the industry.
On August 20, three days after Mustard’s post, Magnum announced that it had suspended Harvey after receiving a “specific allegation” relating to his personal conduct and had hired an employment lawyer to conduct an investigation. Magnum also said it would review its archive in response to the allegations it contained exploitative photos of children, and removed Harvey’s Bangkok series from the website. On October 28, Magnum announced it had suspended Harvey for one year after determining he had breached the agency’s code of conduct and bylaws. The statement referenced a single “historical allegation” that it did not describe.
Harvey, seventy-six, is a high-profile veteran of the industry, known particularly for his work from Latin America. He has photographed dozens of assignments for National Geographic since 1973 and joined Magnum as a full member in 1997. He is also known as a supporter of and mentor to young photographers. In addition to teaching Magnum workshops around the world, he conducts his own $3,400 workshops for young or aspiring photographers, offers virtual mentorship courses, and runs Burn, an online and print magazine for emerging photographers, through which he also awards grants. To many young photographers, he has near-celebrity status: a powerful man at the pinnacle of the field, backed by the industry powerhouses of Magnum and National Geographic.
The inappropriate conduct outlined to CJR goes well beyond the single, anonymous case cited by Magnum in its suspension of Harvey, raising questions about the scope of the Magnum inquiry. The women who spoke to CJR separately described similar patterns of behavior: Harvey often offered young female photographers mentorship or invited them to assist him, sometimes paying for international flights to join him. Some of the women said he targeted women of color, or women who were not from the US. Two women he offered to mentor say he masturbated on video calls with them without their consent. Two women say he pressured them to stay in the same hotel or same room as him. Two women described instances of physical abuse. Four women described unwanted advances from Harvey that made them uncomfortable. A former assistant said Harvey pressured her to allow him to photograph her against her wishes, and falsely told her she would have a say in whether he published the photographs. Some of the women said they realized too late that association with him came with reputational damage, as many in the industry jumped to the false conclusion that the women had a sexual relationship with him.
Through his attorney, Harvey declined to offer general comment or to respond to any of the specific allegations. Caitlin Hughes, Magnum’s chief executive since last year, said in an interview that the agency had never received a complaint about Harvey’s behavior before August and that it began to investigate as soon as it did. “We take any allegations extremely seriously, and have absolutely a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment or bullying of any kind,” she said, in comments made before the agency announced its suspension of Harvey. “I think we have shown in recent months that we are ready to investigate thoroughly and holistically and to hold our photographers and staff members to account for their actions in a process that is fair, and embeds the principles of natural justice.”
But women who hoped their complaints against Harvey would be fully investigated voice frustration. Two of the women who spoke to CJR were asked to participate in the probe and declined because they did not trust Magnum to conduct a credible investigation. Others were not aware of it—Magnum never publicly invited women to report complaints about Harvey. The outcome of the process—the mention of only a single allegation, and a punishment they considered lenient—confirmed their fears.
For some of the women, it was the Bangkok photographs that prompted them to speak out. The Thailand series, which is titled “Bangkok Prostitutes,” includes a photograph of a topless girl or young woman wearing only underwear walking toward the photographer in a small room. The point of view of the image is low, as if the photographer is sitting. The image was tagged “Teenage girl—13 to 18 years” and “Prostitution.” If the subject of the photo was a minor, she would be a victim of sex abuse. Hughes told CJR that Magnum was still trying to determine whether the subjects of the photos were minors when they were photographed and how the photos were tagged. “We are looking into exactly how that did happen, and also looking at what we need to do as Magnum in terms of reviewing our processes to ensure that doesn’t happen in the future,” she said, referring to how the photos were tagged. On November 9, three months after Magnum announced the review of its archive, Fstoppers reported that the agency was still selling sexually explicit images—taken by Harvey as well as at least one other Magnum photographer—of what appear to be children, as well as photos of apparent minors described as “juvenile prostitutes” and “young prostitutes,” through third-party websites.
MAGNUM WAS FOUNDED IN 1947 as a photographer-owned cooperative. The founders include the renowned war photographers Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the agency has counted as members some of those regarded as the world’s greatest photographers. For many young photographers, it still holds legendary status, and many jump at the chance to attend or assist at Magnum workshops or to have Magnum photographers review their portfolios.
That was the case for Yalda Pashai, who was studying photography at Ryerson University, in Toronto, when she volunteered to assist at the Magnum workshop during the contact Photography Festival in 2009. She was assigned to assist Harvey. From the first day, she says, Harvey was “touchy,” grabbing her waist in the classroom and making comments on her physical appearance. By the second day, she told Harvey to back off, she says.
Harvey tried to persuade her to stay in the hotel where he was staying, she says. “He would tell me there’s a lot of work to do…so he would say, ‘Let me get you a hotel room next to mine, and you can stay here and we’ll start working in the morning.’ I knew what was going to happen—it wasn’t going to be working. I said, ‘No, I don’t want a hotel,’ ” says Pashai. She told him she would only accept the offer if her boyfriend could stay with her. At that point he dropped it, she says.
Magnum staff member Song Chong was in Toronto to oversee the workshops. Pashai says she informed Chong, who no longer works for Magnum, about Harvey’s behavior: “She told me, ‘That’s David, that’s how he deals with all the girls.’ She said, ‘Be strong and keep telling him no.’… She pretty much told me if it gets worse, if I need to talk to someone, just keep coming to her.” After Pashai spoke to Chong, she says, Harvey’s behavior improved for a day before he returned to harassing her. Kiana Hayeri, who also assisted at the workshop, said in an email that she remembers Pashai complaining about Harvey. Hayeri, who assisted at Magnum workshops in Toronto for three years, says that Harvey had a reputation for behaving inappropriately and that she remembers Chong commenting on his behavior: “Song was clearly aware of the situation with DAH; so was everyone else.”
Chong says that she doesn’t remember Pashai telling her about being harassed but that she does not dispute her claim. “I do believe her, I just don’t remember a specific conversation with her where she might have sat me down” and complained about harassment, Chong says. “If something very explicit had happened, I would have intervened immediately, which is why I don’t remember exactly our conversation—I honestly don’t remember a specific conversation with her about specific allegations other than her feeling very stressed out and tired and overwhelmed.”
Chong says she did not witness any inappropriate behavior by Harvey and was not aware of any rumors of it until recently. She strongly denies making the comments Hayeri remembers. If she had received a report of misconduct, she says, she would have reported it to her manager.
Hughes says she was not aware of any complaints made about Harvey in 2009. If there was a complaint that was not relayed to management, she says, “I can’t tell you if that’s a cultural problem or an individual problem, but if that is true, something clearly went wrong.”
The following year, Harvey published one of Pashai’s photos on the cover of the first issue of Burn magazine. In 2011, she went to the Visa pour l’image photo festival in Perpignan, France. She was exhilarated to see her magazine cover everywhere. But as Harvey introduced her around as “his star,” people gave her looks of pity, she says. “It hit me like a brick because I realized who published my book and what it looks like to all these other photographers and agencies,” she says. “And that emotionally crushed me, because I realized they’re not going to see it as talent, they’re going to look at it as if I’m sleeping with him to get what I want. It was a horrible few days.”
When Pashai later published a photo-essay elsewhere, two years after her image was on the cover of Burn, Harvey was enraged, berating her for not publishing it with him, she says. “He was yelling at me that I owed him this project.… He told me I owed him because he was the first person to publish my photo as a cover. And that I ruined my relationships in the industry, because he’s one of the most powerful men in the industry.” The angry tirades came for a week via Skype calls, text messages, and emails, she says. She picked up the calls and tried to reason with him, she says, because she needed to retain her relationships in the industry and was worried he would bad-mouth her. When Pashai spoke to CJR, in 2018, she cited that experience as the reason she did not want to go on the record. The impunity in the industry for such behavior created a “poisonous environment,” she says. “There’s no one to go to, no one to report to.” Pashai left photojournalism several years ago.
BY EARLY 2018, staffers at Magnum learned that a journalist at The New Yorker was looking into allegations of sexual misconduct against two Magnum photographers, one of whom was Harvey. Naina Bajekal, who was then a freelance digital editor at Magnum based out of the London office, says the news prompted a flurry of closed-door meetings. At the time, Magnum did not have a code of conduct for its photographers. It also had no formal mechanism for handling complaints. “The problem with Magnum is obviously that it’s a collective, so the staff don’t really have any power over the photographers—they’re our bosses,” says Bajekal. “You have to tread very carefully around them, because ultimately they’ve seen staff come and go throughout their lifetimes, but they are Magnum. That makes dealing with sexual harassment very difficult.”
David Kogan, who was Magnum’s CEO at the time, declined an interview. But in a detailed written response to questions, he said the allegations prompted him to lead the agency in creating a formal code of conduct, which was adopted at a meeting in June 2018. “Magnum, like every other agency, had a long history of photographers having a loose relationship with the organization when it came to personal conduct. They did not (and probably still don’t) see themselves as employees, whereas staff were on contracts which had clauses in them that were relevant,” he wrote. The code the agency created specified that Magnum’s president, who is always one of its photographers, would deal with any allegations against photographers, and the CEO would deal with allegations against staff. “Photographers were very clear in dozens of emails that they could only be judged by their fellow Magnum members,” he wrote.
Kogan wrote that no allegations were “in the public domain in this period” but that Magnum’s then-president, Thomas Dworzak, “did investigate the photographers.” Hughes, Magnum’s current CEO, who was not yet at Magnum in 2018, said in an interview that Dworzak and Kogan were not able to identify any specific allegations or the people who made them, and so the “lines of inquiry dried up” and they were unable to take action.
On February 14, 2018, Kogan called a meeting at the London office, where he told staff that the New Yorker story had been dropped. “He made it clear that Magnum was aware of allegations, but we should be relieved” because they weren’t going to be published, says Bajekal, who told CJR about the meeting in September 2018 and shared text messages about the meeting, sent to friends on the day of and in the days after, which corroborate her account. (Though I had never met Bajekal before interviewing her for this story in 2018, we have since stayed in touch and become friends.)
Bajekal was troubled by what she heard. Kogan’s message, she says, was that Magnum knew of allegations of misconduct but had no interest in pursuing them. She raised her hand to ask questions. “Doesn’t Magnum have a responsibility as an institution? Isn’t Magnum to some degree culpable, if it comes out we’ve known about this stuff and done nothing?” she recalls asking. “[Kogan] gave a vague answer—‘I would argue that individuals who know might be culpable, but Magnum as an institution isn’t.’ ”
At one point during the meeting, Bajekal says, Kogan called the allegations “gossip” and not “provable fact,” further troubling her. She put her hand up once again and asked another question: “We know sexual assault is difficult to prove, so at what point do you think employers should take action? Clearly the burden of proof can’t be at criminal levels,” she said, according to a text message sent by Bajekal to a friend one week later, in which Bajekal recounted the meeting.
Kogan’s response, she says, “was to shut me down,” calling her “just a freelancer.” He told staff that Magnum would impose a code of conduct for photographers, but Bajekal understood from his comments that the agency was not interested in investigating previous incidents. At the end of the meeting, Bajekal says, Kogan looked directly at her and said, “Remember, this stays within the Magnum family. I don’t want to hear any reports about this in the press.”
Another Magnum staffer who was in the meeting says Kogan portrayed the cancellation of the New Yorker story as a positive development, and remembers a tense exchange between Kogan and Bajekal, as well as Kogan telling staff to “keep it in the family.” After the meeting, Bajekal told her manager she would not accept the staff position Magnum had offered her, partly because of how the agency was dealing with the allegations, and she left soon after. She is now deputy international editor and editorial director for newsroom development at Time.
In a written response to questions, Kogan did not dispute most of the remarks Bajekal attributed to him, although he said the code of conduct was designed for historical allegations as well as current ones. He wrote that “of course” he would be relieved that the story was not going forward, because the agency “did not want allegations made of sexual misconduct. We did not want it to be happening,” but added that “we would have acted if there had been any.”
“The remark about gossip and not provable facts would have been based on the lack of any evidence or allegation made at the time,” he wrote. “If I shut her down it was because she was a freelance who was leaving. However, the very fact I let a freelance into the meeting points to the openness that I was trying to encourage.” He did not dispute that he asked staff to keep the information “in the family”—it was his job as CEO to protect the company, he wrote. “However, I was committed to acting on the issue—which not a single predecessor had ever done,” he wrote.
A third staff member at Magnum, who later left the agency, was not present in the meeting but says staffers discussed it in the office that day, and that some were frustrated by Kogan’s comments. That former staff member said a small group of senior staff and members knew which photographers the allegations involved, and generally what they entailed. (The aforementioned staff member who was present in the meeting said the same.) But the former staff member said they appeared more concerned about a damaging article potentially being published than whether any Magnum photographers had behaved abusively. “I think a lot of the staff felt there should have been internal investigations launched,” says the former staff member. “Their concern seemed to be just damage prevention.”
Kogan, in his written response, said he was committed to addressing the issue during his time at Magnum and took the allegations seriously. “I have no idea why David Alan Harvey has been suspended but I do know that the code of conduct I was responsible for creating and making happen was the first time that any agency had tried to live up to its responsibilities in this all-important area. I stand by that record,” he wrote, after the investigation was begun but before Harvey’s one-year suspension was announced.
Kogan said the agency repeatedly invited staff to report any allegations but received no complaints. He cited an interview with the British Journal of Photography as evidence he had also invited reports from outside the agency. Kogan left Magnum last year.
While Magnum touts its code of conduct as evidence of progress, it has not released the code publicly, and declined to share it with CJR. “I fear that actually it won’t be used responsibly and it will be kind of, rather, used against the organization, rather than seen as a positive step forward,” Hughes said when asked why Magnum would not release the document. Olivia Arthur, Magnum’s current president, wrote in a written response to questions that the code is a “six-page long internal HR document that we are not looking to put on trial by Twitter.”
Later in 2018, as CJR was reporting on sexual misconduct in photojournalism, Fiona Rogers, then director of global business development for Magnum, sent messages to Anastasia Taylor-Lind, a photojournalist who was interviewed for the CJR story. In those messages, Rogers asked whether Magnum was named in the story, and appeared to admit knowledge of misconduct by Magnum photographers. On May 4, 2018, in an iMessage to Taylor-Lind, Rogers wrote: “Honey I know it’s not terribly appropriate to ask, but do I need to be concerned about this Columbia report? We know the shitstorm is coming at some point, but as it is very likely to be me dealing with it, any red flags are very very much appreciated!!!”
Taylor-Lind wrote back, telling her, “I think you should be concerned and do what’s right. If a shit storm is coming—[and] it’s for a reason—maybe you need to take a stand? I can’t be on your side if you take a stance to defend sexual predators—even if you are paid to.” (I had never met Taylor-Lind before interviewing her for the 2018 article, and she shared these messages with me soon after. We have since stayed in touch and become friends.) In July, Rogers texted Taylor-Lind about the CJR report again. “Do you know if we are named?” she asked, adding, “I almost hope we are then we can get it all out and move on to a better future!!”
Rogers, who left Magnum in February, declined an interview request. In a written response to questions, she wrote: “It is completely false to suggest I knew about misconduct. These messages reflect my concerns at the time about media reports about the industry generally, but no complaints were ever made to me. Any report would have been dealt with incredibly seriously, as per Magnum’s process and in line with my own longstanding commitment to championing women in photography.”
Because the agency won’t release its code of conduct, it is still unclear what, exactly, Magnum’s process is for dealing with complaints, or what the agency considers misconduct. Magnum’s statement on Harvey’s suspension did not say what he had been accused of or what clause in the code he allegedly violated. It said Harvey “has been asked to engage willingly in sensitivity and anti-harassment training among other requirements,” which it did not detail. The statement also said Magnum had set up an “independent speak-up hotline with Safecall” and that “Magnum’s policies regarding conduct and acceptable behaviour are being further strengthened.” Arthur, the current Magnum president, declined to give details about the allegations, the training Magnum asked Harvey to complete, or how Magnum’s policies are being “strengthened.” But in a written response to questions, she said the suspension had nothing to do with the review of photos in Magnum’s archive.
IN ADDITION TO PASHAI, ten women told CJR that Harvey’s misconduct extended far beyond one incident, though none of them reported it to Magnum. One of them was Alicia Vera, who in 2009 was twenty-three years old and was looking to break in to photojournalism. Vera owned multiple Magnum books, and even a Magnum tote bag. When she signed up for Harvey’s workshop in Oaxaca that year, she was on the verge of quitting school and was looking for guidance, she says. So when Harvey began writing to her after the workshop, offering mentorship and inviting her to work as his assistant, she was thrilled. “I was really naive, excited to be noticed by a big-name photographer,” she says.
A few months after the workshop, they set up a Skype call so she could show him images from the photo story she had been working on. After they started talking, “at some point he stood up, he turned off the light, and it became clear to me that he was masturbating,” she says. Vera froze for a few moments before ending the call. A close family member says Vera told her about the incident soon after it happened.
Harvey had asked Vera, who identifies as Latinx, to travel with him to Brazil as an assistant, she says, and she thought it would be an important opportunity for her career. So she decided to set aside what happened on the Skype call and proceed. She was unable to get a visa for Brazil, but Harvey asked her to come to Madrid to help him teach a class in April 2010, she says. Harvey said he would reimburse her for her flight but would not pay her for her time. He told her he would need her to translate, but once there, she discovered everyone in the class spoke English, and she had little real work to do, she says. “At the time I didn’t really care too much—I was just like, ‘I’m here with this rock star photographer—what an opportunity.’ ”
He soon began making inappropriate comments, she says. The photo story she was working on at the time focused on sex workers, and he began asking her questions like, “ ‘Can you move like a stripper? Can you dance like a stripper? What have the strippers taught you?’ Really inappropriate things like that,” she says. “I didn’t know what to think of it. I was really young—I just kind of laughed it off and tried to change the subject.”
When Harvey asked to see her work one night, Vera says, she was excited that he was interested. When he asked to come to her hotel, she thought they would sit in the lobby, and agreed. But then he asked to come up to her room, she says, and she was too flustered to say no. “I was a little thrown aback,” she says. But “as soon as he lay down on my bed, I was like…What did I get myself into?” There was nowhere to sit in the tiny room but the bed. Vera kept her computer firmly on her lap, trying to send a message that she was there to show her work. “It became really clear to me that he did not care about my work at all,” she says. Eventually, he left.
Harvey messaged her several times after that trip, including when she was shortlisted for a grant from Burn. In September 2016, he sent her a message on Instagram asking if she was working on anything new. It had been so long since the incident, she thought—surely it was safe. She sent him a link to a gallery of her work, and then he asked to Skype, writing, “…just don’t make me crazy like you did one other time” and including a winking emoji sticking its tongue out. She understood that as a reference to what had happened on the previous Skype call, and she never responded.
For years, Vera never told anyone besides the family member what had happened. “It just made me feel really stupid,” she says. “And more than even stupid I feel hurt—hurt that the industry would protect somebody like that. It’s caused me more pain than I cared to admit.” She never thought about reporting his behavior to Magnum because of her embarrassment, because she thought it might hurt her career, and because, she says, “I felt like I was a nobody, so who is going to take me seriously?” Vera is now a successful photographer, with work published in outlets including the New York Times and Time. But at the time, the experience with Harvey deterred her from seeking mentorship. “It just really turned me off from seeking guidance from anyone else,” she says. “It took me a few years to start reconnecting with [mentors] again.”
She still hasn’t been able to leave the experience entirely behind. In 2018 and 2019, she attended the National Geographic Photography Seminar and Storytellers Summit, an annual invitation-only gathering of photographers and editors at the National Geographic headquarters that’s considered an important networking opportunity. Both times, she was “freaked out” to see Harvey there, she says, and worked to avoid him. “It really sucks that I have to see him at these events and I feel like my stomach goes into knots,” she says. “It seems that it’s been so long since it happened, but I still hold on to this feeling of shame, and it shouldn’t be this way. I’ve proven to myself that I’m a good photographer. I don’t need Burn, I don’t need him, but I still feel belittled by him.”
Vera first spoke to CJR in 2018, but she was too intimidated by Harvey to go on the record. That changed when she saw the Fstoppers article about the Thailand photos. “I was incensed,” she says.
IN 2016, SEVEN YEARS AFTER Vera first encountered Harvey, a similar story played out for Nyimas Laula. She was twenty-four, just one year into her career as a photojournalist, and she revered Magnum. With only an internship under her belt, she was still trying to establish herself as a freelancer in her native Indonesia when she replied to one of Harvey’s stories on Instagram, where he has almost half a million followers. She was astonished when he responded and struck up a conversation. Almost immediately he mentioned coming to see her, or bringing her to New York, and said he would soon teach a Magnum workshop in Bangkok. When Laula wrote back that she could not afford a Magnum workshop, he responded, “well just come and be an assistant and then it’s free !!!” When she asked how to do so, he wrote, “You gotta figure out how to join the DAH Circus.”
Harvey texted Laula, who is a woman of color, that she was “totally my type to hang with.” He sent her videos of his house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where he still lives; when she commented in surprise that he had an outdoor shower, he sent her videos and photos of himself showering. The videos are not explicit—they show his head, arms, and legs—but he appears to be naked. Laula, who remembers being surprised and confused, didn’t comment on the videos and tried to redirect the conversation.
Eventually they scheduled a Skype call so Harvey could review Laula’s portfolio. He did nothing inappropriate, Laula says, so she trusted him. Afterward, they continued chatting online. He soon asked her to do another video call for a “virtual photo shoot,” where he photographed her image on his screen. It was strange, but she thought maybe it was his way of connecting with other photographers. Afterward he sent her some of the images he had taken, and wrote to her: “You did put me in a crazier mood than I was before. I will try to get out of it.… Well you got me excited with that picture.” In another message, he wrote: “But now I’ve stayed excited !! Ha ha ha.”
In August 2016, he texted her, asking her to Skype. Laula said she had to leave in half an hour. “In 30 minutes we could rock the world,” he wrote, with a string of emojis. She relented, and they began a Skype call, which she thought would be another virtual photo shoot. Each time they videochatted, Harvey asked if she was alone, she says. This time, after she said yes, he began masturbating, she says. She pretended to lose the internet connection and ended the call. He immediately called back, she says, and began masturbating again. She ended the call again. He called a third time, again masturbating, she says.
In the following weeks, Harvey continued to ask her to Skype, but she found excuses to avoid the calls. At one point he wrote to her: “very sad. Hopeless. Pathetic. Sick. I need help. U better call me. I’m a twisted genius.”
Laula was confused. She says she doubted what she had seen and tried to brush it off. Harvey had offered her a scholarship to attend a Burn workshop in New York; when she couldn’t attend, he allowed her to use the scholarship to attend the Magnum workshop in Bangkok. (When she sought assurance that this would be possible, he wrote to her, “I can take you anywhere,” and “I can allow it. I’m an owner of Magnum.”) She was afraid that if she confronted or questioned him, she would lose what she considered a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for a workshop she could never afford on her own. “I kind of felt trapped in the situation,” she says. “Because I felt indebted to him that he gave me the scholarship.”
She went to the workshop in Bangkok. At one point during the week, Harvey asked Laula to come to his hotel room so he could photograph her. She was wearing long trousers and a long-sleeve shirt; he asked her to change into shorts and a tank top, she says, and asked her and his assistant to pose on the bed. Another night, the workshop participants met at the hotel’s rooftop pool, where Harvey promised to offer insight into the way he photographs, according to another workshop participant. There, he asked Laula and the assistant, both in bikinis in the pool, to kiss, and directed them to move in a sensual way, say Laula and a second workshop participant who witnessed it. The other workshop participant recalls Harvey telling the two women how to interact as he took photographs. Laula initially appeared hesitant, he says; he also recalls Harvey saying, “It’s just a kiss, not a big deal.”
For Laula, it was her first experience with an international workshop. “I didn’t have anything to compare to, so I was thinking that it must be totally normal to do that stuff during a workshop, especially when a big photographer like him from Magnum asks you to do that,” she says. She never considered reporting it to Magnum.
IN THE WINTER OF 2013, Harvey taught a Magnum workshop at the University of Texas at Austin, where Magnum’s extensive and historic archive is housed. Erika Rich, who was twenty-six and a recent UT graduate, assisted him. After the workshop one night, the photographers and assistants went to a bar, and Harvey took Rich’s photograph. Rich, who is white, was excited to see how the renowned photographer had captured her, she says. But when she saw the image, she was angry, embarrassed, and hurt. Harvey had cut off her head in the image, she says, focusing on her body from her neck to her midriff—her chest. “I just felt very devalued by that, just whittled down to my physical form and not my identity,” she says. “It didn’t feel like a way that a mentor or a teacher should be photographing an assistant or a student without their permission.” It also made her wonder if other women photographed by Harvey felt the same way, she says. She did not report her experience to Magnum.
Danielle Villasana and Spencer Selvidge, who were also assistants at the workshop, say that Rich told them about a negative experience with Harvey that night and that she was visibly upset. But neither of them was in a position to be able to do anything about it, says Villasana. “There was no way in hell we could write to the Magnum workshop and say this happened,” she says, noting that she had just graduated and was at the beginning of her career. “I felt completely powerless. And this is just the way it was. You stomach it and you deal with it because David Alan Harvey is one of the most famous photographers in our industry, and clearly his behavior was enabled by Magnum.”
A photojournalist who is a woman of color described Harvey pursuing her at the look3 photo festival in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2009, when she was a twenty-two-year-old just starting her career. As she held meetings to show her portfolio, most people were helpful. But Harvey’s interest in her became uncomfortable, she says, and grew more so as it lasted over several days. “He would try to get me into situations where I’d be alone with him,” she says, such as asking her to go with him to buy alcohol for a party. “I got into situations where I really didn’t feel comfortable being around him, and then tried to avoid him.” A second woman of color says that when she attended the same festival in 2013, also as a young photographer at the beginning of her career, she was interested in sharing her portfolio with Harvey. But his flirtatious behavior toward her made her uncomfortable. She saw him a handful of times over the course of several days, she says, and each time he was flirtatious with her in a way that felt inappropriate. “Because of his age and status in the world of photojournalism, it felt like an abuse of power,” she says. He told her he wanted to take her photograph and asked her to smoke weed with him, she says. At one meeting, he texted her surreptitiously while they sat with a group of people. At a party, she became so uncomfortable when he spoke to her that she fled the room, she says. Neither woman reported her experience to Magnum.
Such accounts go back decades. In the spring of 2003, Kate Schneider was a photojournalism student at Ohio University. Harvey visited the school to speak to students, and Schneider, who is white, attended a party after the talk. Harvey was there, and she says he beckoned her and a second woman to a back room. There, he put an arm around each of them, Schneider says, and asked their age. “He said, ‘I really love twenty- to twenty-two-year-old girls, they’re my favorite,’ ” she recalls. “He was very clearly trying to get us in a threesome.”
Schneider left the room and called a friend to join her at the party. That friend, Mark Tomko, says he remembers going to the party, and that Harvey was pursuing young women there. “That story is really tame. But he was being really creepy and touchy and gross,” says Schneider. “I never felt he would hurt me. I wasn’t worried, I just thought he was downright gross, and abusing his power.” She did not report her experience to Magnum.
The second woman Schneider referred to, who was also an undergraduate photojournalism student and identifies as a white Latina, doesn’t remember Harvey making those specific remarks. That night was the first time she had met Harvey, and she remembers that he was charismatic and exuberant. At one point in the evening, she says, Harvey cornered her in the kitchen of the house where the party took place. He appeared drunk, she says, and he drew close to her—“saying things to me about my appearance, about how much he liked me, ‘You’re so smart, your friends have wonderful things to say about you,’ that kind of thing.”
She became uncomfortable and extricated herself from the conversation, she says, but he persisted in talking to her throughout the night, which Schneider and Tomko corroborated. Later, when the student who had driven Harvey to the party was leaving and offered Harvey a ride, the woman says, Harvey declined and said that she would drive him to his hotel. “He hadn’t spoken about that to me at all, he just sort of announced it to the room,” she says. “What was I going to do?”
When they got in her car, he leaned over and tried to kiss her, she says. She turned away, rebuffing him, and when he persisted, she said no. He then stopped, she says.
After that night, Harvey kept in touch with her occasionally through emails and phone calls. When he called in the late spring of 2005 and asked her to work as his assistant on a National Geographic project in New York, it was a “no brainer” to say yes, she says. She needed a summer job before starting graduate school in New York, and this was an opportunity to work with a renowned photographer rather than wait tables. The work was interesting and enjoyable, and Harvey treated her professionally, she says, never attempting to engage with her in a sexually inappropriate way. And because he was in a relationship, it felt safe, she says.
“All of a sudden I found myself in this upper echelon of photojournalism,” she says. “In many ways it was a dream.” She was spending time with Harvey and other photographers, working for photographers she met through him, and attending interesting events.
In the fall of 2006, she assisted a workshop Harvey taught in New York. The work was fun, she says, though Harvey was demanding and would sometimes raise his voice when upset. One day, there was a problem with the projector she was manning. “I told Harvey I had set everything exactly to his specifications, but he wasn’t happy and he got really intense about it,” she says. “He wanted me to look at something, and I wasn’t looking at what he wanted me to look at.… He grabbed my face with his hand and forcibly turned my head to look at the thing he wanted me to look at.” She was stunned, she says, and felt that the room went silent. “I stepped out of his grip, and I looked at him, and I said, ‘That was not okay.’ And I left.”
Harvey later apologized for grabbing the woman, though he was still angry with her, and asked her to finish the workshop, she says. She agreed, but “that moment changed everything,” she says. Later that night, another photographer kissed her on the mouth without her consent while she was resting with her eyes closed, she says. She reacted angrily; rather than support her, the others there later blamed her for making the photographer feel bad. That was when she decided she’d had enough. “I really just stopped talking to David.… I would occasionally see him out [in social settings], but the friendship…that had developed, there was no going back to that for me.” Looking back, she says, that day was a catalyst for her pursuit of a career outside of photojournalism. Veronika Lukasova, a fine-art photographer and former photojournalist who was one of the participants in the workshop, says she remembered the woman being upset during the workshop, and that she understood the cause to be Harvey, though she does not remember the specific incident.
In 2012, the woman produced an industry event that she felt had been a success; afterward, she saw Harvey. She says Harvey approached a group of photographers with whom she was sitting, called to her, then elbowed the person next to him and said, “You know, the first time she met me, she fucked me.” The others in the group looked embarrassed and tried to ignore him, she says. But Harvey raised his voice, she says, and urged her, “Tell him, tell him, come on, that’s what happened.” She was mortified. She asked him to stop and said his assertion was untrue, but Harvey persisted, she says, and would not stop until another photographer stepped in.
“I was horrified. I was embarrassed,” she says. “It was that moment, and talking about it with friends later, that I became aware that everyone had always assumed I was sleeping with him. Just because I was working with him and I was a woman.” She did not report her experience to Magnum.
HARVEY OFTEN DESCRIBED HIS TEAM as the “DAH Circus.” For a former assistant to Harvey, who met him in 2011 and worked with him for about two years, it was a much darker experience. The former assistant, who did not want to be named, described working for Harvey as chaotic, confusing, and disturbing. She would sometimes wake up to a dozen messages from him about an idea, she says, and then he would never mention it again. He gave conflicting directions to different people on his team, creating turmoil, and often pitted the women on the team against one another, she says; he also isolated them from each other, admonishing her to speak only to him. He wanted her to be constantly available. She was never paid on time, and often had to ask for her payments repeatedly. She shared dozens of emails between Harvey, herself, and others on the team that support her account. By the end of her time working with Harvey, she says, she felt gaslighted and psychologically manipulated. Another woman working with Harvey at the time confirmed her account and offered similar details independently. Harvey sent both women a nude self-portrait, with a camera bag covering his genitals, which both women regarded as unwelcome, unprofessional, and upsetting. One of the women shared the photo with CJR.
The former assistant says Harvey behaved inappropriately with her the second time she met him, an incident she did not want to describe. She continued working with him, she says, because she thought that since the incident took place in public, and since she quickly established boundaries, she could stay in control. One time, Harvey was physically violent with her, she says. It was 2012, and the two had just landed after flying back from Sydney, where they had attended a photo festival and exhibit opening, and run a workshop. Harvey’s phone data wouldn’t work, and he handed it to the assistant and asked her to figure it out, she says. When she told him the data wasn’t working because Harvey hadn’t paid his bill, he became angry, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her, she says. In subsequent emails to her, he apologized that he “unraveled a bit” at the airport, blaming it on stress, and wrote “please know that my ‘hands on stuff’ was in the form of begging for assistance from a good friend, knowing you were about to rush off and NO INTENTION of physical malice…” The former assistant wrote back to Harvey: “Just promise—no more hands on stuff. I can deal with the anger, the frustration, the stress but not with the shaking/arm grabbing.”
The former assistant, who is a Latina woman of color, says Harvey often made comments about the tone of her skin and the shape of her nose, which he said looked “indigenous.” The second woman who worked with them says she also remembers Harvey making such comments. Harvey boasted to the former assistant of hiring a sex worker in Brazil, she says. When she traveled with Harvey to Arles in 2012 for Magnum’s annual general meeting, she says, he tried to trick her into staying with him alone in his hotel room, sending misleading messages to her and another woman on the team, an account that was confirmed by the other woman.
Throughout the time both women worked with him, they say, Harvey used his position in the industry to gain access to young women, and they say he was particularly interested in women of color. He often invited young female photographers to “assist” him with workshops, the former assistant says, even when there was no real work for them to do. “The girls were not hanging around to party or sleep with him, as he wanted people to believe. They were naive young girls who thought they were working, myself included,” says the former assistant.
“One of the reasons that David was so beloved is that many people thought he worked as a mentor and helped emerging photographers a lot, especially because of Burn. What they didn’t realize is that David did as much damage as he did good,” she says. After parties at his loft in New York, he would “talk about what young girl at the party had pulled him into the bathroom to have sex or give him a blow job,” she says. “He’d always name the girl, and it was always a young photographer. It was impossible to know what was real and what was a lie.” She says Harvey claimed to have “hooked up” with most of the young women in Magnum.
In the fall of 2011, the former assistant spent a month working for Harvey without pay in Rio de Janeiro, where she lived at the time. She backed up his photos, organized his hard drives, kept track of his cameras and memory cards, helped him with emails, and acted as a guide around the city. He was shooting images for a National Geographic story that was published in October 2012, and for a book. Throughout the month, he staged many of the photos the former assistant saw him take, she says, using his assistants and others as models and directing them as an art director would in a studio. The former assistant appears in a photograph that was published in the National Geographic story: the image shows her in a bikini playing with a beach ball. The photograph, which appears spontaneous, was staged, she says. He bought the beach ball and asked her to play with it repeatedly, over the course of several days, as he photographed her, she says. “If I’m throwing the ball up and he likes it, he’s like, ‘Keep throwing it up,’ ” she says. Another woman present confirmed that he directed the people he was photographing.
“Everything was always his idea,” says the former assistant. “He would tell these stories that were the opposite. But the truth is he would be like, ‘I want you wearing this,’ or ‘I want you making this gesture. I want her ruffling her hair.’ He directed everything.” (She also says it made her uncomfortable to be featured so prominently in a story about Rio because she is not Brazilian. Her photograph appeared on the cover of the Brazilian edition of National Geographic.)
Harvey has said he doesn’t consider himself a photojournalist, and some Magnum photographers blur the line between documentary and fine-art photography. As the name implies, Harvey never presented his book, titled (based on a true story), as photojournalism. In an interview with James Estrin in the New York Times, Harvey called it “a little novella on top of the documentary photography.” But “the straight story,” he said, “is in National Geographic, of course.” Yet according to his former assistant, the National Geographic story also contains elements of fiction, though it is presented as photojournalism. In an email, a spokeswoman for National Geographic said the magazine had not worked with Harvey on assignment since 2012, and “in light of these reports from Magnum, we have taken additional steps to remove his bio from our website and his ability to contribute to our Instagram account. Photographers on assignment for National Geographic are expected to work under our strict standards which include not staging photos that are published as photojournalism.”
In 2012, the woman moved to New York and began paid work for Harvey, helping run his workshops and working as a studio assistant. He began to photograph her more and to refer to her as his “muse,” and she became uncomfortable with his interest in her and increasingly unwilling to be photographed, she says. “He was obsessed with taking pictures of me. It was really bizarre, and I didn’t want people to think I was his girlfriend,” she says.
But he repeatedly pressured her until she relented, she says. He had a variety of methods, she says, including the promise of some control over whether the photos were published, which she says convinced her at first. “He was always very clear that I would have final say over the photos, and that he would pay me” a percentage of the profit from the use of the photos, she says. “That was the agreement from the beginning.” Both were lies, she says. He included photos of her in (based on a true story) that she did not approve, she says.
When she tried to put her foot down about not wanting to be photographed, it was hard to say no because she worked for him. “It was this weird power dynamic,” she says. In one case, Harvey was photographing a nude male model in New York for a Magnum print sale. The former assistant did not want to be in the photograph, but Harvey would not stop pressuring her, and she relented, she says. In the photograph, the man walks away from the camera, and the former assistant is seated on a toy horse, her hair covering her face. After Harvey took the photographs, the woman says, she was uncomfortable with them and told Harvey she was not sure she would consent to their being published. She left his studio and got on the subway. When she emerged, she had a message from Harvey asking if he could publish the photo on his Instagram feed, she says. But he hadn’t waited for her response—he had already posted it, she says.
Harvey also never kept his promise to share the profits with her, she says. In an email dated November 11, 2015, Harvey wrote to the assistant: “I am gonna owe you some money…as per my original promise.” Both the beach ball shot that had been on the cover of (based on a true story) and the photo with the nude model were part of a Magnum print sale, he wrote, and would sell for $100 each. “Magnum is gonna take 40% right off the top..so I thought what would be fair is 10% for you and 50% of the total for dah,” he wrote, referring to himself in the third person by his initials. “At the rate the last picture sold, the beach ball, you would probably end up with around 1k,” he wrote. “Does this seem fair?” The former assistant says she never received any money for those prints, or any of the other times he sold her photos for various uses.
In May 2017, the former assistant wrote an email to Harvey asking him not to use any photos of her in the new book she had heard he was working on, or in any future books or projects. He replied, writing, “Your wish is granted. Almost. :)” He wrote that his only upcoming book was called BeachGames, and that there were no pictures of her in the book. But, he wrote, he would not rule out using the beach ball photograph and the “nude dude” photograph in his future books. “Both iconic photographs of mine, and I am sure you would agree, both collaborations between thee and me,” he wrote, adding he had no future plans to publish any other photos of her.
Harvey never published a book called BeachGames, but he did have an exhibit by that name before her email, which included at least two photos of the former assistant. He also included at least three photos of her in his newest book, Off for a Family Drive, published in July this year. She never signed a model release for any of the photos he took of her, she says.
The former assistant says she tried to warn other women about Harvey, but he told them that she was jealous. “I thought I was there to do my work but also make sure he didn’t continue this behavior, but I was naive and stupid in thinking I had any control of that whatsoever,” she says. She stopped working with him in early 2014.
The former assistant says Harvey’s behavior was widely known in the industry. She did not report her experience to Magnum, though she says she discussed it with a low-level employee of Magnum’s Paris office. She says she also told many others, including family members of Harvey’s and people who worked with him on Burn and the Emerging Photographer Fund, a grant of up to $10,000 for young photographers that Harvey administers. After the former assistant spoke with Anton Kusters, who worked with Harvey on Burn and the Emerging Photographer Fund for years, about Harvey’s behavior, he wrote her an email on July 11, 2012. “I want you to know that if my sister came to me with a story like you have been telling me, I would really be upset about the situation and super protective and tell her to get the hell out of there immediately.” In a reply to him, she referred to “the shaking and arm grabbing incident.” Kusters declined an interview request but wrote in an email that the woman had written him a follow-up email and “reassured me that she was ok. She continued to work with David.” Kusters shared an excerpt from that message, in which the former assistant wrote, in part, “I am really happy to say that I feel that I’ve learned to control the situation and I feel a million times better.… I am trying to slowly branch out, leave the nest so to speak, but in that journey away I have found better tactics and more confidence in dealing with David.” The assistant shared the entire email, sent about a month after Kusters’s message. In a part of the message Kusters did not include, she wrote: “David flew a girl down from Chile and so the pressure is off of me, perhaps because I’m handling things differently. I don’t know. But either way, I am feeling a lot better and ensuring that, at least when I’m around, there is respect shown (for everyone! new girls included).”
“For those wondering, Why didn’t anyone say anything? We did,” says the former assistant. “People spoke; everyone knew. They laughed about it. ‘Oh, that’s David for you.’… They all knew, it’s just that no one cared. He was allowed to carry on, and act like this, and laugh with his buddies.… So there was no one more to tell, because they all knew. And if they say they didn’t, they’re lying. Being white, and a man, is a powerful thing.”
The stories about Harvey were so widely known that when he invited Mustard, the photojournalist who tweeted about him earlier this year, to visit his loft to show him her work in 2013, a colleague warned her not to go. She met Harvey at a portfolio review when she was just a year into her career. When she asked him to look at her work, she says, he told her to bring it to his loft the following week, and she was thrilled. When she told photojournalist Brett Grundlock, he urged her to reconsider. “I just told her about his reputation. It’s the secret that everyone knows,” Grundlock says. Mustard did not report her experience to Magnum. In March 2018, visual artist Sina Niemeyer told Harvey that she did not want Burn to publish a feature on her new book because she had received several reports of Harvey abusing his power to make young women in the industry “do things they actually don’t really want to do and make them feel uncomfortable,” according to messages to him that she shared with CJR.
In 2004, when Harvey invited Raquel Bravo Iglesias, a twenty-three-year-old aspiring photographer, to be his assistant at a workshop, Bravo Iglesias says, she received a warning from another Magnum photographer. Bravo Iglesias hardly knew Harvey at the time: she had met him one night in Madrid when he was there to teach a workshop, and once again during a return trip to Madrid, when she showed him her portfolio. That such a famous photographer would take the time to meet with her made her feel like “royalty,” she says, even though she could hardly afford the three-euro coffee at the café where they met. Looking back now, she says, she understands her portfolio at the time was “really, really bad.” Still, though they had met only twice, Harvey asked her to be his assistant at a workshop in Florence that summer. He never discussed payment or specifics, she says, but she was thrilled at what seemed a good opportunity for her career. Several months later, at the Photoespaña Festival, she briefly spoke with the Magnum photographer René Burri. When she mentioned that she would be assisting Harvey at a workshop that summer, she says, Burri “had an expression of concern that alarmed me, and he said that I should be careful.” The other photographers around agreed. When she asked what he meant, Burri told her, “He likes young women too much.” (Burri died in 2014.) Bravo Iglesias says she was unsure whether to risk the opportunity by making clear to Harvey that she was not interested in romance. She decided to write Harvey an email, telling him that she wanted the job but needed to make sure that their relationship would stay professional. He wrote back immediately, she says, telling her she wasn’t prepared for the work and withdrawing the offer. “I felt guilt that lasted for years,” she says. “Because I thought that was an opportunity that I had missed because I didn’t know how to handle it.” She did not report her experience to Magnum at the time.
MAGNUM’S INVESTIGATION OF HARVEY was conducted by London employment lawyer Susie Al-Qassab, from the firm Hodge Jones & Allen. Hughes, Magnum’s CEO, described the investigation’s structure as intended to make it independent: “We wanted to provide a space in which people could come forward and speak to us safely, confidentially, and without any fear for any impact on their careers.”
The August statement announcing the investigation into Harvey did not invite women with complaints to contact Magnum, nor did it detail how the investigation would take place or who would conduct it. None of the women CJR spoke with participated in the investigation. Bravo Iglesias tried to report her experience to Magnum after Harvey’s yearlong suspension was announced. She sent a message to Magnum’s account on Instagram saying she wanted to report abuse by Harvey. She received an impersonal response inviting her to report to Safecall, an organization that describes itself as a “whistleblowing service provider” helping companies establish confidential reporting systems. The message, she says, made her feel as if “they don’t want to know. I thought, That is so irresponsible—you’re clearly supporting this kind of behavior.” When she expressed disbelief, the agency’s account sent another message inviting her to report directly to Magnum or to Hughes, and providing email addresses.
Harvey’s former assistant was contacted by the investigator but declined to speak with her, citing a lack of confidence in the process and in Magnum itself. “This is stuff that happened in the past that’s very traumatizing and upsetting,” the former assistant says. “I don’t want some cold call from someone I don’t know saying this is my duty to do and I should trust them. No—why would I trust them? They’ve been so secretive, they wouldn’t even release their code of conduct. That’s insane to me.”
After Mustard wrote the Twitter thread about her experience with Harvey, in which she mentioned knowing other women who had experienced abuse, she received an email from Arthur inviting her to inform other women of Magnum’s complaints procedure. “I promise you that we would take it very seriously and that it would be in confidentiality,” Arthur wrote, adding that the women could email her directly or send a message to a Magnum email address. The investigator hired by Magnum later contacted Mustard as well, and Mustard spoke with her to ask how the investigation would be conducted. She decided not to participate in the probe, she says, because she was not satisfied it was being executed in good faith. “Magnum has done very little publicly or in that email to prove that they’re committed to anything more than strategic corporate crisis management,” she says. “So much more needs to be done to regain our trust and rebuild integrity, when they’ve had such a huge hand in creating this toxic culture.”
In the interview with CJR, Hughes expressed frustration and concern that some women were unwilling to speak with Magnum. “Clearly, there have been issues in the past. If people are still afraid to come forward and report those, there remain significant issues,” she says. “But I can simply tell you, from what I’ve seen, that Magnum as an organization is in no way complicit with that behavior, and in fact, it looks to address it, when it’s given the opportunity. The challenge we have is, we haven’t had the opportunity to address it fully…we require for this work the cooperation of the photographic industry, of people coming forward to report things to us. And it’s our responsibility to make sure that we provide safe spaces for people to come forward and address the perception of Magnum that we would not take those things seriously.” In her statement, Arthur wrote that she believes “we have some learning and growing to do in terms of understanding power dynamics in our industry and trying to help change them. I have been giving this a lot of thought during the past months and I am really motivated to find ways to get people on board.” Noting that she is the first female president of Magnum, and younger than most members, she wrote that “my challenge now is to bring everyone together and to get people behind ideas that we believe in and that can help us move forwards. I believe that we have grown a lot as an organisation in the past few years and I think and believe that we can grow more.”
The former assistant, Laula, and Vera all said they were disappointed at the outcome of the investigation and criticized the statement’s lack of transparency. Laula says she is surprised by the leniency of a one-year suspension. “I don’t think it’s an appropriate amount of time for the things he’s been doing for decades,” she says. Vera, who recently sold the Magnum books she acquired as a young photographer, says she was upset but not surprised. “It’s just clear to me that they care more about their image and about their profits than doing a proper investigation, and actually caring about our feelings,” she says. “It’s very disappointing to think that I once looked up to them and once hoped that I would be as good as Magnum photographers. It’s just a slap in the face.” It was retraumatizing, she says, to feel that “nobody cares. Nobody cares in the organization, nobody cares about how I feel, nobody cares about all the women that he victimized or even the children that he photographed. Nobody gives a shit, and it’s painful. It’s really, really painful.”
Laula says she would not feel comfortable reporting her experience to Magnum. “This hotline is not going to make sure that the victims of sexual abuse will come [forward], because you have to also make sure that you create a safe space for them to report it in the first place”—something she says Magnum has failed to do. “I think it’s time for Magnum to prove if they’re serious about this. This is the time. If you want to be trusted, you have to prove it now.”
TOP IMAGE: Image: Darrel Frost.