Foto8 – The Dirty Magazine

I’ve just been looking at the latest issue of foto8, the so-called ‘Dirty’ issue, although there will be some very disappointed customers if they buy it on the basis of this title. Rather than being a ‘dirty magazine’ its an issue that concentrates on issues related to the environment – and a few other things.

You can see a preview including an index of the issue on the foto8 web site, although the thumbnail pages are considerably too small to give much idea of the features – I’d certainly suggest some re-design in this area, perhaps linking each to a page with a rather larger image, and, at least in the case of the longer features, some explanatory text. I can’t imagine many would feel impelled to buy from what is on show here.

If, like me, you have an interest in documentary photography and photojournalism, then I think it is ones of the best magazines around. I’m happy to be a subscriber, although I’ve yet to take advantage of their special offers on books.
It would be very difficult to guess from the thumb that Andrea Dapueto‘s ‘A Room of Their Own‘ is about the work areas of prostitutes in the bushes by the Italian roadside, and while the title ‘Cry for Me‘ might indicate that Alberto Giuliani’s images are from Argentina, there is almost nothing that can be inferred from the minute image about what is in some ways the most interesting portfolio in the issue.

Justin Jin‘s image in ‘Rags to Riches‘ is simply some blue blotches. It’s actually probably not a good editorial decision as the opening image for the story in any case, atypical and possibly the weakest image in the piece, which is an interesting look at the manufacture of fashionable jeans in China – with pictures showing the workers who at considerable risk to their health produce and distress these items for near slave rates.

I’ve written previously about Jacob Holdt‘s American Pictures. In 1969 Holdt ran from his native Denmark to avoid trial for political activities and spent around ten years hitching around America, staying with anyone who would put him up, as it says on his web site, “from the poorest migrant workers to America’s wealthiest families such as the Rockefellers. They not only gave him a hospitality and warmth, but their continuing friendship to this day.”

He gave blood twice a week to buy film to photograph mainly the 400 families he stayed with. You can see some of the work from this trip on his American Pictures site, and in particular in the presentation Roots of Oppression, which uses his pictures alongside historical images of the slave trade and of segregation in America.

Holdt in many respects isn’t much of a photographer, but in some ways the images gain from being mainly simple snapshots. I don’t think I’ve seen him mentioned in a print photo magazine before and although it is useful as a pointer to his work, viewing on-line has many advantages. The careful selection of his work for inclusion in the magazine perhaps makes it look rather different with its concentration on the dramatic. Incident rather than normality.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of foto8 is in the writing; the three ‘columns’, whose connection with photography is rather tenuous; the reviews too seem generally superfluous and sometimes ill-considered, and I’m sure the magazine would be stronger without them. Of course there are exceptions – such as the article on the documentary film ‘Black Gold’, and the end page item ‘On My Shelf’, where someone talks about the books that have influenced them is often interesting.

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