Photographer David Alan Harvey resigns from Magnum after sexual abuse allegations

Agency “recognises the victims and survivors” of Harvey’s abusive behaviour but victim says "it has done more damage than he or Magnum could ever imagine”

David Alan Harvey

David Alan Harvey

The veteran photographer David Alan Harvey has announced his resignation from Magnum Photos after the agency’s board voted to permanently remove him—the first time the agency has agreed to remove a member in its 76 year history.

Harvey took the decision to resign before a general vote across the Magnum membership, scheduled this week.

In a statement, Magnum made clear the agency is willing to accept the testimony of the 11 women who broke cover to accuse Harvey of sexual harassment and abusive behaviour. Harvey denies their accusations, and insists on his innocence.

“Magnum would like to reiterate its apology to the victims and survivors,” the agency said.

In a tweet, Harvey said: “I have resigned from Magnum Photos. For the Magnum photographers I have nothing but admiration. I thank my friends who waited to see and hear the full story. Your trust was not misplaced.”

The board’s decision to remove Harvey came at the denouement of an independent investigation into the photographer’s behaviour, launched in January of this year after 11 women made claims against Harvey in a long-form Columbia Journalism Review article, published on 21 December 2020.

One of the women to go public with her experience of sexual harassment at the hands of Harvey was Alicia Vera, a respected photographer for publications including Time and The New York Times who, in 2009, when she was 23 years old and beginning a career in photojournalism, was invited to assist and be mentored by Harvey. During a Skype call set up to ostensibly talk about her work, Vera recalled Harvey “at some point stood up, turned off the light, and it became clear to me that he was masturbating,” she told the Columbia Journalism Review.

“Harvey's statements about us lying is extremely hurtful and traumatising but I'm also not surprised by his statement,” Vera told The Art Newspaper when asked for her reaction to the news of Harvey’s resignation and his threat to bring legal action against the women who came forward.

“White men in power have gotten away with bad behaviour since the beginning of time,” Vera says. “I know in my heart that what we have said is the truth and something that I personally have carried for ten years. It has done more damage than he or Magnum could ever imagine.”

The article details how Harvey’s behaviour was reported to staff at Magnum as early as 2009, but the agency did not take action for more than a decade.

In January of this year, Magnum appointed Susie Al-Qassab, a senior lawyer at Hodge Jones & Allen, to investigate the claims made in the article. Al-Qassab drew upon publicly available evidence and witness interviews before concluding Harvey’s behaviour had breached Magnum’s Code of Conduct.

On 5 January, Harvey posted a statement from his attorney stating Harvey welcomed the review and would “in due course, tell his account publicly through the appropriate courts of law. He will set the record straight.” On 22 December, Harvey’s attorney also stated: “There is another account to be told here. Mr. Harvey will be telling it through the courts rather than the media.”

There is no evidence that Harvey has brought any legal proceedings against any of the women in the article, or against Magnum. Harvey was contacted for comment.

Harvey, 76, is a celebrity in the photography world. He has photographed dozens of high profile assignments for National Geographic, a magazine he has worked for since 1973, amongst a host of other top-tier clients. He joined Magnum as a full member in 1997.

In addition to teaching Magnum workshops around the world, Harvey was known to conduct his own classes and virtual mentorship courses to young photographers, often from the developing world, for which he would charge up to $3,400. Harvey also ran Burn, an online and print magazine designed to spotlight emerging photographers.

In response to a request for further comment, a spokesperson for Magnum said: “As this is a real event that impacts upon people’s lives and a confidential investigation process, we can’t comment further on details. Magnum is grateful to those people who cooperated with the investigation and recognises the victims and survivors.”