I know that this comes just after I posted a glowing admiration of great editors but bear with me. I often look a publications and wonder who is running the place. When the publishing industry is supposedly trying so hard to be relevant and not only hold on to their businesses but maybe even grow a bit why do so few seem to be capable of independent or creative thought? Is everyone so scared that they err on the side of “tried and true” and through that inaction get passed by? I had a discussion with an editor who I have a great relationship with about the power and importance of the cover of a magazine. We were talking about the strength and weakness of having a cover design that is essentially a formula. It’s easy to recognize if it’s done well and if you are a subscriber or have positive feelings about the publication you can pick it out of a newsstand easily. But if it’s a boring cover design that has nothing going for it why would you pick up that rag if you didn’t know that the content was stellar?
As a photographer it is my job to make the images interesting and if I am to do a cover shot it needs to be interesting while being easy to read and leave space for type. Not an easy thing to do but it can be done well with some thought and work. Then you have situations where as the photographer your design criteria are so specific and limited that there isn’t much you can do with the shot other than shoot a vertical. I saw this a while ago and it so baffled me that I took a shot of it just so that I could complain:
What gives here? I mean it almost looks like a rack of the same magazine but there are three different titles and they all have almost the same pose! These are major publications, (in a Rodney Dangerfield voice “Huh. No offence!”) that is incase they should decide to hire me sometime, but come on – that’s the best you can do? Wow.
Now I understand that there is a lot to be said for simple and clean design but there is no reason for anyone that I can think of to be compelled by these covers to walk over and pick them up. Since I’m on a roll I’ll ad in a hearty Mr. T “I pity the fool!” who had to shoot those cover shots except for the fat check that came with it. Those could have been shot by the new assistant while the “real” photographer was on the phone in the other room. So a boring shot was asked for, shot, received, edited, laid out and approved. And anyone wonders why magazines as a whole are treading water?
Being bold doesn’t mean being stupid but it does mean that you don’t passively repeat yourself. I’ve spoken about my unwillingness to repeat my own work even if it was with a different client. If you do what you have always done you usually get the same results. What the industry needs is to get creative and make content king again.
Ok, end of rant. Move along.
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