A revolution is in the air…well, on the aether anyway.
The future is here and it is called the Photographers-i magazine. To put it bluntly, most photo-magazines are going to have to get their rear ends into gear. They are way behind (as it were…). It is cheaper (no print and material costs) and contains material that should prove timeless. features from pros who have served their dues…you can see their work, read their words and hear their commentaries… The Photographers i content is unashamedly about quality both of imagery and information, and that is its strength.
So, first the hands up – I must admit to a tiny bit of self interest but, more than that, pride … for I was honoured to be one of the team of writer/photographers asked to provide material. Just think of it: grumpy, Welsh hermit on Italian hillside appears to be ‘cutting edge’….and its all on video! So, if you care to see my simplified way of doing close-ups against a white background then take a look…for the relevant iPad or Android machines.
It all began last August – a blisteringly hot month when Michael and Nayla Freeman happened to drop by… and here is the tale.
The capabilities of tablet devices for information access and display are legion and yet, until now, most photographic magazines that appear on-line are little more than pdf versions of the often-lamentable hard copy clogging the news stands. Such a sad waste of trees … unless, of course, you are a committed dendrophobe.
And what do you get for those mags in return for your hard-earned shekels /pounds /dollars and euros? Well, with some notable exceptions (eg a couple of titles – UK and US with Outdoor in the title) the photography is often mind-numbingly poor, writing execrable and the text error-filled text. Pick it up, buy it and “Wham bang and thank you Mam!” you exhaust anything of interest in 15 minutes maximum. So, then in disbelief you start again – scanning pages, reading the adverts. And then there is the re-pet-it-ive nature of many articles…. “Hey, it’s June – must be macro time again” – and out comes the same tired stuff recycled, plagiarised (but we won’t go into that here) . You might have an ‘expert’ co-opted for the occasion but, more often than not, copy is generated in-house. Well, its cheaper that way and boy, does it show. Want to reduce costs even more then use readers’ images…no fee just the honour, such seems to be the editorial contempt for the readership that they guess no-one will note the difference!
In that ebb and flow, up and down, hither, thither …and even yon of the epicycle of events that comprises life (and, in particular, the daily round in Italy) I am grateful for the variety of projects with which I have been fortunate to get involved, both directly and indirectly. In spite of endemic national chaos, there is an aspect of life I love here: I never know, when I get up in the morning, what a day might bring. Try to plan in Italy and you might get 30% of your objectives achieved on a short list that is! However, there is often a variety and spontaneity at those joyous surprises that outweigh frustrations – well, some of the time!
When you peep behind the stage curtains for The Photographer’s i the quality and innovation will come as no surprise because of the personnel involved in getting this venture up and running. First there is Graham Davis the ingenious and gifted designer at Ilex who has put this together using some extraordinary bells and whistles to show what a tablet-based magazine might do. Ilex, under Alastair Campbell, is the most innovative of UK photographic publishers and this is their viosnary venture: Michael Freeman their top selling author is ‘Editor-in-chief’ and the ‘Executive Editor’ is Marti Salzman who has been a legendary driving and creative force in photographic publishing for some time.
Whereas you would be unlikely to go through year-old magazines (unless for an equipment review) with this tablet magazine content is all (no adverst!) and if you look at the list of contributors you will find giants of the medium such as Michael Freeman, Bob Krist , Roman Cagnoni and Jack Reznicki as well as those much lower down the dining order in the pantheon of photo-luminaries. (eg – moi ). Hells bleedin’ bells, I am excited and honoured just to be involved and I have learned a great deal in a very short time – I am not sure I will ever do a conventional book again having envisaged what can be opened up.
My involvement came pretty much ‘out of the blue yonder’ and I thought it might be informative as a post to show how serendipity plays a central part in the life of a photographer-cum-writer.
So, let’s step back a few years to where I began to work with Marti Salzman then supremo at Lark the arts and crafts publishing division of Sterling. That was for the book Digital Photography Q&A and most recently for Digital Close-up Photography Q&A . I have made no secret of the fact that, at that stage, I had become utterly jaded with the UK publishers I had been working with…lack of vision, competence endemic shamateurism and they just did not see to want to sell books. Complacency was the order of the day with organisations controlled by accountants who could (one assumes) count beans but never read books…not without a distnct movement detectable in the lip region
Marti had originally set up Silver Pixel which later became part of Lark and the arts and crafts division of Sterling based in Asheville NC in the foothills of the Appalachians. Here, at long last, I was dealing with pros – people who knew their trade and accepted that I might even know mine…you get fed up with dealing with a coterie of jumped-up office juniors who cannot spell, cannot punctuate and yet have an over-weaning confidence. A three-week editorial course and they can ‘correct’ your careful crafted technical arguments to produce gibberish. My Lark editor on two books has been Kevin Kopp – human and exceptional. I am more grateful than I can say.
Marti Salzmann has an unrivalled record for backing photographers and bringing their work to press – a large proportion of the Photographers i magazine contributors (and the originals at Pixiq) will have worked directly with Marti and feel as I do. There is no pussy-footing, with Ms Salzman you get it as it is and she knows photography! In fact, after my experience with books at Lark I was invited to contribute to Pixiq which was very much the brainchild of Marti as she and her team struggled against the odds to get it live and running. The fact that she is not now there is noticeable so let’s just leave it at that. But on the basis that you cannot keep talent down (however much jealous bastards will try) she has used her considerable energies and vision where it is appreciated.
Through Pixiq I have met some kindred spirits amongst the contributors – maybe just the same cynical hard-bitten buggers who have ‘paid their dues’ One of them is Michael Freeman – everyone reading this will have at least one of his books. Michael is prolific, articulate and literate and certainly no BS merchant – a welcome beacon in a sea of mediocrity when it comes to information ‘out there’ where bloggers are often just bloggers and not the photographers they might pretend to be. He is, moreover a superb photographer and has incredible energy…he walks everywhere at a trot.
After a behind-the-scenes exchange of emails (with unpublishable comments!) I happened to mentioned that, should Michael be in our neck of the woods some time than he might like to call in…some three weeks later a journey to Pisa and its environs was lengthened and that is how, in a hot August, we came to be sharing copious quantities of local vino and our home-made liqueurs…fennel at that stage: the secret weapon. Good food, local wine and great company with Michael and Nayla Freeman at Nutter’s Hill farm… conversation ranged over everything and more and it was then that Michael revealed more of the Photographers i project and showed me some pilot material on Nayla’s iPad. I was amazed and lay awake thinking of the possibilities suddenly opening up because of the ‘interactivity’
Michael saw what I had been doing as a series of experiments here – taking my MYN involvement a stage further by getting to grips with stacking and trying to create a foolproof mode for working in the field. He used a tiny Leica camera with HD capability and filmed me at work…I later provide a voice-over using Garageband. Images were dispatched with text and Graham Davis did the rest…
You never know how all sorts of things link up in the end. It was Lois who said “amazing, you are cutting edge you old bugger” or something affection rich like that. Vanity is not an option around here!