Editorial work: an overview

Where do I look for good editorial photography? When I can get to see them, I’m always inspired by The New York Times Sunday Magazine and its style magazine, T. Editorial photography comes in lots of forms – classic reportage, portraiture, fashion, still life and conceptual. The New York Times supplements, under creative director Janet Froelich and picture editor Kathy Ryan, cover the whole range in an intelligent and committed way. Budgets help, but it is really about art direction; the best ideas coupled with the right photographers. You can see the pictures and hear photographer Simon Norfolk talk about his commissions for The New York Times magazine at www.nytimes.com.

Some 1950s copies of American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, art directed by Alexey Brodovitch, appeared in the studio recently, and I was reminded of the long tradition of the glossy magazine publisher as commissioner of photography. In the UK, the Condé Nast magazines still work that way – creative director Robin Derrick’s enthusiasm for fashion photography and portraiture shines out of every edition of Vogue, while Condé Nast Traveller, under picture editor Caroline Metcalfe, has location photography by people like Martin Morrell and Ken Griffiths, which goes beyond the bland brochure style of most travel magazines.

My favourite daily photographic hit comes from The Guardian Eyewitness centrespread. It is an inspired idea and works best when – as most days – it is just a single, horizontal double-spread image. In the age of big photo agencies and cut-backs on in-house staff, newspaper photography has been through a thin patch recently, but The Guardian has got Dan Chung and close relationships with people like Eamonn McCabe, Tom Jenkins and Murdo McLeod.

Of the newspaper magazines, The Sunday Times still keeps up its reputation for reportage photography with stories like David Gillanders’ piece about knife violence in Glasgow, while the Saturday Telegraph magazine commissions some beautiful portraiture. But, my favourite is Observer Food Monthly (under picture editor Greg Whitmore), with its roster of regular photographers: John Reardon has a special talent for photographing chefs. I’ll never forget his picture of St John founder Fergus Henderson hanging like a pig on a meat hook. Jonathan Lovekin makes food photography look so easy and Romas Foord can make a picture of anything.

Among the design magazines, Icon (under the art direction of Alexander Boxhill) has always gone beyond just pictures of buildings and products, with boldly used portraiture by Guy Drayton, Steve Double and David Levene. Tony Chambers’ appointment as editor-in-chief of Wallpaper was a significant moment for those of us who believe art directors can be editors, too, and it shows in the magazine – full of visual ideas and a strong structure. My Wallpaper favourites are the multi-page commissioned shoots of furniture and fashion using photographers like Guido Mocafico.

Wallpaper was Tyler Brûlé’s invention, and his latest publication, Monocle, is the home of European objective-style editorial photography. It is an amazingly single-minded publication, from its page size and paper stock to the Japanese manga magazine at the end, but it has got a personality to it that big publishing houses struggle to match. A strong personality is also what makes Jop van Bennekom’s fashion magazine Fantastic Man work so well.

The Drawbridge looks like a broadsheet newspaper, but it is a quarterly compilation of writing, drawing and photography, designed by Stephen Coates and photo-edited by Millie Simpson. Its format allows really big reproductions and it showcases photographers and new photography books.

Jon Levy’s Ei8ht is a magazine about photography, so pictures are central to it. It uses a mixture of photo essays and single double-page images. It’s beautifully designed, and also includes reviews in the field. The latest issue, Dirty, features Justin Jin’s images of jeans manufacturing in China and Guillaume Herbaut’s photographs of murder scenes in Mexico.

Simon Esterson is director at Esterson Associates, and art director of Eye magazine

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