Magnum Photos Says Alleged Child Abuse Images Were Result of Tagging Error
Magnum Photos is continuing its investigation into David Alan Harvey’s body of work, “THAILAND. Bangkok Prostitutes,” but has stated that the subjects featured in the photographs were adult dancers and bar workers.
The photographs taken by Harvey were part of an album published in Magnum’s archive entitled “THAILAND. Bangkok Prostitutes.” Several images in this series were tagged with “Prostitute,” “Prostitution,” and “Teenage girl – 13 to 18 years.”
Magnum’s spokesperson explained:
Mr. Harvey contends that he did not tag the images with the P-word and that, to his knowledge, none of the people pictured were under the age of 18. Indeed, even in 1989, the authorities in the Patpong area of Bangkok were strict with license conditions to prevent underage people in the bars. As a final point, he maintains that the people in the photos were bar workers and dancers – he at no time witnessed any of them selling sex.
One of the explicit images tagged “Teenage girl – 13 to 18” features what appears to be a topless girl smiling and standing over the photographer in a dimly lit room. Behind her, a woman looks around the door, also smiling.
Another image shows two people bathing together. Other images in the series are not explicit and feature young female subjects, also tagged with “Teenage girl – 13 to 18 years.”
Magnum has not issued a response to questions posed in this article, which ask how these photographs came to be taken and how they came to be included in the agency’s archive.
The spokesperson explained that “mis-tagging” these images has led to the “mistaken conclusion that they represent something they do not.” The name of the album — “THAILAND. Bangkok Prostitutes” — was not mentioned.
Magnum has not yet completed its investigation into Harvey’s photographs. The agency’s president stated last week that its investigation will be conducted “with outside guidance.” Oversight from law enforcement has not been mentioned.
Since concerns over Magnum’s archive were raised by Fstoppers on August 6, questions have been asked on social media regarding the work of Magnum photographer Antoine D’Agata, an artist known for his disturbing imagery featuring sex workers and drug users.
In a separate issue, Harvey was suspended from Magnum a few days ago as a result of allegations relating to sexual harassment. The Guardian reports that the harassment was of a female colleague, but Magnum’s spokesperson later explained that the complaint came from “a female relating to an issue in a work environment.”