Carnival Films, which produces the Emmy-award winning Downton Abbey, will develop the as-yet untitled series. “Carnival has been talking to Magnum about this project for quite a long time,” Magnum’s Executive Director David Kogan says. “We get approached on a regular basis by people who want to do films, drama, historical documentaries, or fly-on-the-wall documentaries. When I came in as Executive Director and with my background in television [as global managing director of Reuters Television], I was very interested in [Carnival's idea].”
Earlier this year, Kogan negotiated a proposal that “was fair to all parties,” before presenting it to the photo agency’s members at the annual general meeting in July. “Our photographers and the estates of our four founders [Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David ‘Chim’ Seymour] were very happy to work with Carnival because it has a very good reputation,” Kogan tells TIME.
The drama series, which won’t air until 2017, will follow the founders’ early days at the helm of the Paris-based agency. “Courageous, passionate, idealistic, inquisitive, these men set out to capture the world that survived [World War II],” says Carnival Films in a press release. “With cameras in hand and private lives often in turmoil, Magnum’s photographers sacrificed everything to capture history through the lens.”
Magnum’s staff will help the producers remain faithful to the events that shaped the lives of some of the world’s greatest photographers. But, adds Kogan, “this is a television drama series,” and viewers should expect changes in how these events will be depicted on screen. “[Still], we are confident that it will be handled in a way that is respectful and that it will reflect our values and our stories.”
The series comes as Magnum has been working to enhance its profile and reassert its relevance at a time when billion of digital pictures are made around the world by amateurs and professionals, alike. “We hope it will remind people of what Magnum stands for,” says Kogan. “Anybody who works in the news business knows that Magnum has this great news history. Magnum is still very active today and it’s still doing good work, so in this digital age people should be reminded that Magnum stands for something important.”