Magnum Photos has a long history with some of the world’s most famous photographers, but it’s looking to a new focus on brand partnerships to keep it going well into the future.
The 72-year old photographic collective cofounded by Henri Cartier-Bresson has brought on Christopher Peregrin as its first global director of brand partnerships, a role that will see the group expanding its purview to working more with luxury brands and companies. He was most recently a senior producer at creative agency Laird + Partners, but before that was photography director for Harper’s Bazaar and started out his career as an assistant in Annie Leibovitz’s studio.
Naturally, the new role lends itself to expanding business opportunities for Magnum as a whole and the renowned photographers that form the group, but part of this is getting the name of the collective out there and making it more familiar to a modern, younger audience.
“I’ve had this conversation with so many people — young people in media and culture, they don’t know what Magnum is,” Peregrin, about a week into the job, said. “You’d, of course, be familiar with the iconic photos, but as a synthesized brand, it’s basically been this beautiful organized chaos.”
Peregrin has no intention of rubbing such edges off of the group, which he says still operates very much as a professional collective and one with many famous photographers working on independent projects. His role is more about “crafting a roadmap” for Magnum talent of any age to “develop and be supported in whatever they want to do.”
Fiona Rogers, Magnum’s chief operating officer, cited Peregrin’s experience in both the art and advertising sides of photography as key to his hire, a process that started about a year ago.
“As someone who straddles both the editorial and commercial worlds…Christopher’s background marks an important evolution for Magnum and its membership, as we continue to modernize and diversify,” Rogers wrote in a note.
Diversification is on Peregrin’s mind already. He wants Magnum to work more with brands of all stripes, not just fashion and media. If there’s a financial institution that wants to promote its government-mandated sustainability investing, Peregrin wants Magnum to bring the talent and maybe have a campaign deal that will have content live on Magnum’s channels, as well as the institution’s. And he wants to be more thoughtful and bring more of a process to photographers in the Magnum collective being paired with brands across the luxury spectrum, to ensure deals make the best sense.
“Someone like Bruce Gilden who does these incredible up-close portraits of real people, how interesting would it be to take him to MAC or [makeup artist] Peter Philips and say, ‘Let’s do a pairing,’” Peregrin said. “And there are bigger conversations to be had about leveraging the Magnum brand more broadly on more projects.”
Peregrin even mentioned NASA as a brand that he could see Magnum working with, maybe to revamp its online look and better utilize all of the amazing current and archival photos the government agency has.
And then there’s, of course, video, something that is surprisingly not really any part of Magnum’s output right now, despite advertisers increasingly demanding it. Video seems to represent a sort of line between age groups of Magnum’s roughly 80 photographer members.
“The new guard are all playing with it and working with moving image. I’ve started to underscore how important it is [and the photographers] are very receptive,” Peregrin said.
Despite a heightened need for video and image content in general for brands, which Peregrin sees as having moved from a seasonal calendar to a rolling editorial calendar, he does want Magnum to always represent the best of whatever form images come in.
“More than ever, we are being challenged to think more deeply about what succeeds as a messaging strategy,” Peregrin said. “We are inundated with ‘content’ and there’s increased recognition that unless there is some sort of meaningful, socially impactful articulation of your brand’s identity folded into your visual story-telling, that content simply won’t resonate. To be a ‘Magnum photographer’ is considered the highest accolade in photography, and so there’s obviously a long and successful history committed to this sort of thinking, and making exactly this kind of work.”