The Trouble With Photography Magazines…
I was thumbing through a few of the photo magazines that I picked up from Focus On Imaging and I made a rather alarming discovery.
One of the magazines, which I won’t name but is apparently aimed at the professional end of the photography market, listed it’s production team and even provided a short profile of each. Quite a nice idea you might think, and you’d be right… But this is (with the actual names changed) what the profiles said about the people putting together this monthly magazine:
Person 1: Five years experience in magazine design and has been with team since 2010.
Person 2: Freelanced as a travel writer and edited and online magazine for two years.
Person 3: Just graduated with a journalism degree and is making her first steps in the magazine industry.
Can you spot anything missing?
How about the word “photography”? Or “photographer”?
It seems to me that none of these people has any experience of photography whatsoever. Does that worry you? Should it? Just because you know your photographing onions doesn’t necessarily make you the ideal candidate for putting together an entertaining and informative magazine – far from it.
This is a slick magazine, stylish to look at and clearly with high production values that are designed to impress as it stares at you from the newsagents’ shelf. But personally, I prefer to read magazines that are “passion-led”, even if this means they are a bit rough around the edges in other areas.
I know that I’m guilty if banging on about Silvershotz magazine rather a lot but it has to be said that its editor, Clive, is clearly passionate about photography and scours the globe for cutting-edge innovative photography. Silvershotz has more than the odd typo, arrives too late for some of the events it advertises, has the world’s weirdest editioning system, and doesn’t (sorry, Clive) always look as glossy as some of the monthlys. But I love it.
What worries me about many of the monthly photographic mags is this:
The cover of the magazine I’m discussing has an image of a smokey, long exposure seascape, of exactly the sort that appeared in the same magazine twenty years or so ago when I knew no better than to hang on their every word/suggestion/tip.
The growing reliance on images submitted to the mag’s website. After all, why go looking for edgy contemporary images from artists who might charge for use of their images when hundreds merrily upload their passable efforts for you to publish free of charge?
The tendency towards tutorial articles which are, in effect, actually “advertorials” for a sponsor’s product.
In short, one sees the same cliched images and recycled tips year in, year out. Even when a “real” photographer is brought in to provide some credibility to a page or three, there is a bias towards the photographers who make the most noise – rather than those who take the best photographs. But most of all, what are we to learn from people who are producing images no better than our own? Would it not be better to be exposed to those who operate on a totally different level – that we can aspire to be like – that will open our eyes to new and unexplored opportunities?
When I was just starting out in photography, I must admit that there are some things that I learned from magazines, but once past that basic level I wonder if this “visual nepotism”, this reliance on the safe and easy rather than the challenging and inspirational doesn’t actually hinder a photographer’s creative development.