In just one scene The bridges of Madison (1995) condenses the conflict between being carried away by passion and the unknown against love for family. It happens when Meryl Streep, in the van with her husband, sees Clint Eastwood — the actor who plays the photographer who has restored her illusion. Streep’s shaking hand clutching the car door handle reflects his doubt at the decision that could change his life (abandon the vehicle and stay with Eastwood), along with his content gesture of anguish biting his lip. Now, the Eastwood-directed film is back in the news for far less poetic events. The veteran photographer who inspired her, David Alan Harvey, 76, an associate of the famous Magnum agency, has voluntarily resigned from his position before the official dismissal from the company he worked for due to an alleged case of sexual abuse. The agency’s board was about to vote on his final expulsion and the myth of photography in the United States preferred to anticipate the humiliation.
Magnum has published a statement in which he affirms that, before Harvey made this decision, the agency had already decided to permanently expel him in the absence of a final vote. It is the first time the company has taken this measure in its 76-year history. The note says: “Magnum would like to reiterate its apologies to the victims and survivors.”
The agency had already suspended Harvey in December 2020 for allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior made public by the magazine. Columbia Journalism Review on the 21st of that same month. Eleven women reported sexual harassment by the photographer. These are young women, also photographers, whom the photojournalist offered to be his assistants and to accompany him on his travels.
I have resigned from Magnum Photos. For the Magnum photographers I have nothing but admiration. I thank my friends who have waited to see and hear the full story. Your trust was not misplaced.
– David Alan Harvey (@davidalanharvey) March 17, 2021
Among the victims is Alicia Vera, a photographer who publishes in headlines such as the magazine Time or The New York Times. Vera explains that her meeting with Harvey occurred in 2009, when she was 23 years old and was beginning to make her way into the world of photography. It was then that she received the invitation to be the assistant to the reputed professional. According to her account, during a work call on Skype, “at some point he turned off the light and it became clear to me that he was masturbating.” In other statements made to The Art Newspaper, Vera regrets that Harvey is threatening legal action against the 11 women who accuse him. Harvey’s statements that we lie are extremely hurtful and traumatic, but they don’t surprise me either. I know in my heart that we have spoken the truth and it is something that I have personally suffered for ten years. It has done more damage than he or Magnum could imagine. “
The report that has uncovered the facts also specifies that in 2009 Magnum was informed of the behavior of his photographer and associate, and that for a decade the agency did not take action. In January 2021, the agency hired attorney Susie al Qassab, who specializes in labor disputes, to investigate the veracity of the claims in the report by Columbia Journalism Review.
The well-known San Francisco-born photojournalist began working with Magnum in 1973 and was a full partner in 1997. But he became a legend for his work for the prestigious magazine National Geographic for 25 years, the same task that the protagonist of The bridges of Madison, who disembarks in the film in a quiet town in the interior of the United States to take photographs for a report on the covered bridges of Madison County. The official version affirms that the photographer who falls in love with Meryl Streep in the film was a pure invention, but there has always been an unofficial version that relates the character to David Alan Harvey.
The film and the Robert James Waller novel on which it was based, which sold more than 60 million copies, caused many of its readers to inquire into National Geographic about the identity of its protagonist, inquiries that multiplied when its film version hit theaters.