Writing about 10 great photography magazines online makes me a hostage to fortune i know but, inspired by a thread entitled Show of hands: How many of you regularly read photography blogs and/or websites? on Andy Adam’s excellent Flak Photo group on Facebook I thought I’d tidy up the magazine section in my bookmarks. A five minute job I thought. How terribly wrong!
I started compiling the bookmarks around ten years ago and the list grew when I started a curated online photography magazine in Flipboard, Electrical Image. I’d got out of the habit of using the bookmarks to be honest and had settled on a few excellent sites – Aesthetica, Huck, American Suburb X, supplemented by subscriptions to Black + White Photography and the British Journal of Photography.
Disturbingly, of twenty or so titles I’d bookmarked ten years ago, five had gone out of business. Slightly more diverting were the domains that had expired and fallen into new ownership – “The Great Leap Sideways”, once an interesting photography magazine is now a site dedicated to washing machine maintenance in Australia. Perhaps they need a little help with their SEO.
Andy’s thread helped me see what other people look for and made think about what I looked for in a photography magazine. Historically, dedicated photography magazines specialised in three main areas – instructional, kit, and documentary. Magazines such as Vogue were already doing a great job with fashion photography so the likes of Picture Post and Creative Camera had to find a niche that wasn’t already covered. The British Journal of Photography itself has evolved, driven by a dedication to fine art photography and commercial ventures.
My own idea of a perfect photography magazine would combine reviews of kit that I can reasonably afford, new work from other photographers, interviews with practising photographers and news of festivals such as Arles, though with Covid-19 being the new reality, those festivals may become virtual. I find fine art photography writing dull to be honest, preferring to be convinced by the quality of the actual photography, but there are people who write well about fine art photography and there are excellent magazines that specialise in the field.
A sub text that ran right through Andy’s thread was that online magazines had been overwhelmed by instagram and social media. As long ago as 2014, people were uploading 1.8 billion digital images a day to the internet. The figure shows no sign of abating, its quite probably double that in 2020. That’s a staggering amount of images, if you spent a single second looking at each photograph it would take nearly 60 years to view a single day’s uploads. Just think about that for a minute. Then think about this – by the end of 2017 there were 4.7 trillion photos stored on the internet.
I’m not a huge fan of instagram I have to admit. I have a couple of accounts, one for commercial work, one for Andalucia and one for my own projects and I get way more meaningful feedback on other social media channels – Twitter and Facebook. My instagram presence seems like a necessity, but I’m not quite sure why. The key to building a following seems to be frequency of posting and I prefer to let a photograph lie before I post it to social media. After looking at the stats though, I now feel extraordinarily fortunate to have even one person look at my photography, never mind follow me!
When I look at these figures it seems to me that the only way a magazine could get noticed these days is via establishing a niche. This in all probability is why Black + White Photography has been so successful. It is not a fine art journal. Although it does feature fine art photography, it makes an effort to be accessible, featuring articles written by a handful of practising photographers that aim to educate, amuse and stimulate in fairly equal measure. It has equipment reviews and news of book releases and festivals. Its pretty much my ideal magazine!
Fine Art Photography
Magazines featuring fine art photography are legion and some are terribly dull. Artistic statements are a minefield, especially for younger photographers who lack the life experience to back up some of the more outlandish claims. However, for all its sometimes comical pretention, fine art photography is where the cutting edge is to be found. Students should be encouraged to break the rules and in so doing, occasionally come up with ideas that seep into the mainstream of commercial photography.
The elements of an image, Composition, Texture, Colour are all there to be experimented with and where this experimentation is tempered by excellent technique the possibility of producing something groundbreaking and influential is heightened. Some of my more interesting commercial work has been directly influenced by Fine Art Photographers.
So I’m looking for inspiration, stimulation, news, technology and cultural relevance. Surely that’s not too much to ask?
So who makes the list of 10 great photography magazines?
My first thought when planning this post was “Are there even 10 great photography magazines?” I’m now convinced that there are in fact at least fifteen. Today, I’d say that in no particular order my favourites are
- Feature Shoot
- Black + White Photography
- American Suburb X
- British Journal of Photography
- A Photo Editor
Tomorrow I might easily include:
- Lens Culture
- The Eye of Photography
This selection does lean towards the Fine Art, and the reason for that is some photography in the genre stimulates my own creativity and encourages me to try new things in my commercial work and in my own projects. For example the notion of doing a project shooting Andalucia in infrared would probably not have occurred to me as a set of photographs with one unifying style had I not been convinced by the connections between photographs I’d seen in other people\s work.
What are your favourite magazines? And why?