MagnumTime Interview with Elliot Erwitt


Introducing bi-monthly posts from MagnumTime. MagnumTime is an interactive timeline, drawing together a collective oral history of the community, within and around Magnum Photos. Photographers, ex-members, former staff and other pioneers of the field will share their memories through stories from over 60 years, captured in audio and video clips as well as historical documents. MagnumTime will be a global resource for researchers and the public with interest in the changing world of photography.


MagnumTime, interview with Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt

“One of the fundamental reasons for Magnum is the ownership of the work that we do: the copyright. That is to say that we only license what we do to people but we retain the rights to exploit our work in whichever way we see fit. This is fundamental to the organization. Unfortunately, other assigners of work who also like to profit from secondary rights to our work and consequently we’ve had some serious problems, notably with our main consumer; this, I’m talking about the 50’s: Time, Life. They decided that they should like to have all rights to any of the work that is done for them and of course this was in conflict with our basic premise. Consequently, we blackballed for a period of time. Myself in particular, I was president at the time of Magnum and…all of a sudden the work that was coming from them stopped. I do believe that we held our principles and eventually we did grant our rights to be returned to us. I think not so much because we were so wonderful but because a big company like Time Inc. was just too inefficient to profit by our work so it was in a sense a victory but a victory that was not so extraordinary.”

- Elliott Erwitt, MagnumTime Interview in New York, USA 2011

Simone Salvo