Magnum Photos is a prestigious international photographic cooperative founded by Robert Capa, Chim, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert and George Rodger in Paris in 1947. It is wholly owned and controlled by its members. They select its staff, establish its business practices, and share in its profits.
Inge Bondi writes that Magnum was the first photographers' cooperative and it had a spirit of unusual independence and tolerance.
Magnum's members have established an unparallelled standard of photographic excellence and quality to become a vital force in contemporary photojournalism. A New York office was opened in 1947, and the agency also has offices in London and Tokyo, with approximately 50 members.
Magnum was founded when Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Seymour, who had been friends before World War II, were reunited unexpectedly in liberated Paris at the war's end. Capa conceived the organization as a fraternal forum for professional photographers as well as a training ground for young talented persons, and as an association that would combine the support of a group with much individual freedom for each photographer. The three men decided to name the cooperative "Magnum" --after the two-quart bottle of champagne. Capa is credited with doing much to energize, market, and promote the agency once it was incorporated in the spring of 1947, with initial capital of less than $2000.
Magnum was, from its inception, an international enterprise and has been called "a miniature United Nations". Each of its charter members assumed responsibility for the coverage of a different geographic area. Capa was the only roving photographer; Chim was to cover Europe; Cartier-Bresson: India and the Far East, Vandivert: the United States, and Rodger: Africa. Magnum continues as a successful photographic cooperative with offices in New York and Paris.