This is an article I wrote for Photocomment.net. and I thaught Id share with my readers.
Call on editors to think ‘visual’
This is my challenge to all publication managers and editors to break away from the pack with a photographic revamp.
The state of photography in the commercial world, namely magazines, is at its lowest. That’s not to say that the photographers have lost their skill, but the requirements and briefs have suppressed the art form. It’s all about formula these days and it’s pretty basic. Celeb plus over processing equals sales. This formula may have been hugely successful in the mid-1990s, but not anymore.
Sales figures are all the proof I need to back up my previous statement. The internet is by far one of the strongest factors contributing to this drop in sales. Access to information and direct updates from our much loved celebrities is free and readily accessible. Readers are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities online and on television. Would it not make sense then to rethink the most important page image strategy?
Let me make a quick example. How many Kim Kardashian magazine covers have you seen? Which one stood out for you? Your answer is more than likely that none stood out as they all look the same. So what does it do for the brands if they are not stepping away from the flock and capturing our imagination at that key moment? I am talking about the moment when we are at the shelves, making a decision about which magazine to purchase. It is understandable that some magazines’ core focus is celebrities – this in itself is a perfect opportunity for visual restructuring.
In the 1970s, Rolling Stone magazine had a strong celeb-centric focus (and still has). Under the fine eye of the young Annie Leibovitz, celebrities were portrayed in a conceptualised manner. Ideas backed every element of the cover shoot. Iconic covers like those featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bette Midler on a bed of Roses and Whoopi Goldberg in a tub of milk jumped off the shelf and stuck in the mind – and they still do. Today, there is no such a thing as an iconic cover. Let it be noted that it was at this stage that Rolling Stone magazine was able to relocate to New York due to its growing popularity. Leibovitz fed the youth culture’s hunger, while also using creativity to sell.
So what now?
As photographers, it is almost impossible to change company structures that have been embedded for years. A collective effort with the rest of the creative team and a mock up presentation may open some eyes. Or it may shut them, but at least you tried.
I also call on editors to allow the photographers to do what they do best without constraints, even if the work never gets published. It’s a good way to see a way forward. For editors, it is understandable why they stick to a particular formula as they have to follow certain quotas but it’s also about being innovative.
My prediction and conclusion
Digital publications will be much more edgy than their print counterparts due to cost differences. Online magazines are substantially cheaper and so risks are less but if you’re like me and believe print will never die, you’ll agree that innovation belongs in our hands.
Originally published on Photocomment.net