Posts Tagged ‘UN of Photography’

Photo Magazines – the Future

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

I grew up reading Amateur Photographer, though I didn’t buy it, but as soon as I was old enough to graduated from the Junior Library into the Adult section, probably when I was eleven, used to take it down from the magazine rack and sit at a table reading it from cover to cover. I don’t think I made much of any of the more technical articles and it was the photographs that attracted me most. Apart from anything else it was the nearest thing to an Adult magazine in the public library, featuring rather more attractive young ladies in swimsuits (and occasionally strategically posed without them) than was really necessary. But I also got to see pictures by some of the leading photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Brandt and others that appeared at times in its pages.

I’d actually started my photographic education at an early age with Picture Post, which had exposed me to the likes of Bert Hardy, Kurt Hutton, Thurston Hopkins and the rest – even Bill Brandt – though of course at that age the names had meant nothing to me. My family couldn’t actually afford to buy the magazine, but we did get copies passed on to us after wealthier friends or neighbours had finished with them. Another gift, from an ageing relative who worked for the Post Office in some relatively high up capacity, was a large pile of old issues of the National Geographic magazine,. It was then only illustrated with black and white photographs, some featuring natives from hot countries; when we leafed through these on the days it was too wet to play outside, the interests of me and my friends was certainly more pornographic than ethnographic.

It was only in the 1970s that I began to buy photographic magazines. Amateur Photographer largely for the advertising, but by then I was also interested in the technical articles in that and magazines such as SLR Camera. Photography Magazine published some rather better photography (and was the first to publish a small portfolio of my work) and they and the others had regular competitions, some of which I entered and won the occasional prize, including the latest Praktica camera which I promptly sold. After all I already had a camera, so it seemed a rather silly prize.

Early in the 1970s I came across Creative Camera, and soon took out a subscription. At first I found it rather strange, but it soon grew on me and changed my photographic life. I stopped buying most other UK magazines (except AP when I needed cheap film and paper or new gear), but later discovered Modern Photography and Popular Photography, both US magazines that published serious articles about photographers and also actually reviewed cameras and lenses in depth, testing them scientifically rather than just photographing the ships across the river out of the office window. They made their UK equivalents seem little more than an illustrated press release.

In later years I found other magazines worth buying. Until very recently I had a subscription to Aperture, as well as European Photography, Camera Austria and others from outside the UK. When I became more heavily involved with teaching photography and as a part-time professional I looked forward to the weekly news magazine, the British Journal of Photography, which came through my door, keeping me updated on the UK scene, with lists of exhibitions, reviews and news. When it changed to a monthly and altered its focus I saw no point in renewing my subscription.

As well as having the odd picture published in magazines, I also wrote a few articles for some of them – back then they paid a reasonable rate for both pictures and text. In the 1990s I also wrote for and edited unpaid a newsletter for London Independent Photography, one of a number of small essentially amateur publications.

Magazines then have played an important role in my photographic life, so I was interested to read Grant Scott’s article ‘Is There A Future For The Photographic Magazine‘ on his ‘The United Nations of Photography‘ web site. It’s very much written from the standpoint of someone previously professionally involved in a number of commercial photography magazines since he began in 1985. His conclusion? “Sadly, I don’t think so.”

If by photography magazines you mean commercial print titles that will sell on the magazine shelves of W H Smith and others, it is hard to disagree with Scott’s conclusion. But during COVID-19 we have seen something of a resurgence of on-line photo magazines and I have no doubt that this will continue – with some of those now free moving to a subscription basis, but other new, free publications taking their place. And of course there are a number of web sites which are essentially photography magazines.

We will also see some specialist print magazines continue, particularly those representing different aspects of the academic and art sectors. Some will probably soon move to solely on-line versions, but others, often highly subsidised will continue to attract high-end advertising and stay in print. As too will some of the amateur publications such as that I once edited.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr