While David Alan Harvey’s photographs ring true, his personal life is one of legend. Some believe that he was the inspiration for the fictional character Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer in The Bridges of Madison County. Whether he’s the role model, Harvey’s latest photo book (based on a true story), set in Rio de Janeiro, only deepens the mystery.
Born in San Francisco in 1944 and raised in Virginia, Harvey has never been one to rest on his laurels. After years of success shooting for National Geographic, he thought he needed a good kick in the derrière, so he applied for and was accepted into the prestigious Magnum photo agency in 1996. As he has said in the past, "Evolution and revolution are my keywords for living the photographic life." The latest application of his seemingly boundless energy and his desire to support his fellow photojournalists is the online and in-print journal BURN.
DPP: What’s the idea behind BURN Magazine?
David Alan Harvey: BURN is actually three things. It started as an online magazine featuring emerging photographers. We’ve built up a very loyal audience, so we now also have an in-print magazine printed in Italy. Eighty percent is emerging photographers and 20 percent of the content is from established photographers like James Nachtwey and Roger Ballen. BURN features a wide variety of photography, from Paolo Pellegrin’s Arab Spring series to Irina Werning’s series where she re-creates photographs by taking grownups and copying an image of them when they were kids, then displaying the two side by side. We realized that when we were putting the magazine issues together, which retails at $45, that we were really making collectible books. So this led to part two of BURN. We’re going full-scale into custom and special-edition book publishing. We published Anton Kusters’ Yakuza collector’s edition and that sold out. I just got back from the photo festival in Arles, and all the Magnum photographers wanted to jump on this. It’s cool, and they have complete control. There’s no page limit. When you’re done with the story, you’re done. So there’s BURN Magazine, BURN Books, and then the third part, BURN University, our workshop program.
DPP: Teaching has always been an integral part of your career. What’s the setup for this newest effort?
Harvey: BURN University will have a selection process for the students to be able to attend the workshops. You have to have something already going on to get in. We want to make it like a university in that sense. We’ll have one at Art Basel in Miami. All the BURN projects are interconnected.