Sneak Peek: Commissioning Talent

by Unseen January 22 2018

© Daniel Shea/The Fader

Each with their own distinctive visual styles, three editors from a broad spectrum of contemporary magazines discuss what they look out for in the work of emerging artists, and the stories behind some of their favourite recent commissions.

Emily Keegin (Photo Director, The Fader)

Q. When you became photo editor at The Fader, how did you put your own stamp on it?

A. From lo-fi selfies to highly composed studio portraits, I love it all. When I was applying for the job, my pitch to the editor-in-chief was `MORE BAD PHOTOGRAPHS´. If I remember correctly, I spoke about Justin Bieber’s mugshot, claiming it was the greatest portrait ever taken and should be a FADER cover. With this love of high and lo- the resulting aesthetic is a broader, more textured, slightly manic, photographic voice.

fader_0.jpg© Daniel Shea/The Fader

Q. Why do you like to work with up-and-coming photographers?

A. The fear of failure destroys everything. Safe photography feels good in the short term but often ends up being really boring. New photographers keep my eyes fresh and my brain inspired. Also, working with different photographers for each issue allows for a hint of danger, which I (usually) enjoy. OK, sometimes it ends in disaster, but more often than not things work out really well. My favourite images tend to be the ones where something is a bit off – where the photographer tried something a bit wonky, or where all the lights broke and so the shoot happened in darkness. Photography’s greatest asset is its alchemy. A photographer’s greatest tool is improvisation. As a director I fight to preserve this.

David Lane (Editor-in-chief, The Gourmand)

Q. Where do you go for inspiration?

A. I try and go to as many exhibitions as I can; seeing work in the flesh, curated into a logical presentation is always so much more inspiring and memorable. We see so much online now we lose touch of its size, context and physicality. I have quite a big library at the studio, which I dip into as much as possible – it’s mostly art and photography books, but there is a lot of other reference material too. Again it’s nice to look away from the screen for a while and think about why something really exists, rather than simply what it looks like.

Q. What are some of your favourite commissions to date?

A. In the next issue we featured an exceptional cover story I’m especially proud of, shot by Roe Ethridge. It took a lot of diplomatic organisation and creative discussion but it turned out exactly as we wanted it to. Roe is an incredible photographer – someone who has inspired so many people and so much of what has come since. His work is the perfect example of how to walk the line between commerce and fine art without compromising either, and, in a very different way there is a completely transparent crossover with the recycling of work integral to his practice. There was also a wonderful location shoot at Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in New Mexico by Ryan Lowry, which is breathtaking. He captures the colours of her paintings and makes you feel like you are actually there walking around her house.

east-33950-q80-w1400-h1000-rz3-b75.jpg© Ryan Lowry/The Gourmand

Clinton Cargill (Director of Photography, Bloomberg Businessweek)

Q. How would you describe the visual style of Bloomberg Businessweek?

A. When I came to Businessweek in 2014, the magazine was already well known for brash, highly irreverent style. We shot CEOs with on-camera flash, and let the seams creep into the edges of the frame. The whole aesthetic was slightly off balance. That unconventional approach made the magazine distinct in the marketplace at a very specific time. In 2017, for better or worse, business is a compelling topic without those embellishments. So, in the new format, the design gestures recede a bit, and photography really comes forward. That creates a great opportunity to expand both the style and the voices we bring into the magazine. We try to make the imagery sharp without leaning too much on artifice, and that’s directly connected to our journalistic mission. When we photograph a CEO or political figure, we try to present them on a very human level. It is still important that we approach our subject matter with a note of scepticism, and that we don’t hew to convention for convention’s sake. I think the current design has the same raucous spirit, but maybe with a shave and a haircut.

jack dorsey in bloomberg.jpg© Christopher Gregory/Bloomberg Businessweek

Q. Do you think it’s important to give chances to new talent?

A. It’s the most fun part of the job. I’m lucky to work at a weekly magazine that affords lots of opportunities to assign photographers. Because Bloomberg is a news magazine, shoots often come up with short notice and quick turnaround times for publication. If I had to wait on the schedules of a small number of established photographers, the magazine would go to press without photos. This creates a great incentive to learn to take chances on new people, and once you do, it’s addictive.

The above is an abridged version of Commissioning Talent, published in the recent edition of Unseen Magazine. For the article in full – and for more great stories – pick up a copy of Unseen Magazine #4 while stocks last!