OpEd: Monthly Shows Out, Quarterly Online Magazine In

©Todd Fisher from September, 2007 Show

In September, 2007 we launched our first themed group show.  The objective at the time was to produce one show a month and an archive of the admirable work we were discovering on Flickr.  We brought in a variety of photographers to edit each month, each creating their own theme and interpretation.  We sailed along and developed a niche following.  Near the end of 2009 a few questions started to emerge about the similarities between the monthly shows.  Essentially, we seemed to be following a certain pattern.  It was at this time that I started to question the format.

Plenty has changed in the three years since we’ve launched.  The emergence of stellar online magazines like Fraction, Ahorn, 1000 Words, Unless You Will, Deep Sleep, as well as my discovery of Seesaw and F-Stop, has opened my eyes to what’s possible in the online space.  These magazines are doing it right.

A few months ago, I decided it was time for a change.  We’ve had our best monthly shows in 2010 in my opinion which pretty much convinced me that we could move on.  The August, 2010 show will be our last monthly show.  We’ll have a full three years of shows, 36 in total.  It’ll be an archive I hope people re-visit often when they’re looking for inspiration. So, what’s next?

We’ll be moving to a quarterly online magazine format.  In January, we’ll launch Issue #1.  Each issue will be themed and include a print version of Photographs on the Brain. I think there’s room to experiment, and I’m excited to try something different while staying true to our sensibility.  That’s my goal.  However, I’m also somewhat apprehensive, and here’s why.

©Andrew Wiese from March, 2008 Show

What Makes Your Magazine Unique?

Last Sunday Fraction Magazine released Issue #17. It was stellar as usual. On the same day F-Stop Magazine released their latest issue.  It was also stellar. But my critical mind had some questions. If the design and branding were stripped away, could I tell them apart?  What differentiates these various magazines?

For the most part, the fine art photography magazines are sensibility driven. An ambitious, intelligent editor/curator/publisher has a certain perspective on contemporary photography and they produce issues based on their sensibility.  Often times the issue will have a theme but for the most part, what you’ll get is a selection for photographs from 3-4 photographers, and perhaps an interview with one of them.  Of course, there are some variations, but for the most part this what you get.  I admire those that are starting to create a synergy between the web and real world.

The stock answer will be that the sensibility of the editor will shine through because it’s unique and refined. This is true to some degree (debates about taste will always be with us), but I also think that many editors are dipping into a relatively similar pool of photographers.  But then again, with the photography surplus, this pool maybe expanding quicker than we can imagine, so maybe the shades of difference will stand out.

What are the alternatives to sensibility driven magazines? The most obvious wold be genre.  These are out there.  I haven’t seen too many regionally focussed magazines.  Perhaps I’m not looking deep enough, but if there was a magazine that produced contemporary photography about Minnesota, I’d be all over it.  I’ve always thought Urbanautica had a unique, and specific vision for their publication. Magazines based on demographics can be tricky. I was a fan of Nymphoto (more of a collective but..) until they closed shop.  Maybe magazines that focus on certain socio-economic issues? A photography magazine the examines the decay of suburbia and the middle class?

I suppose, to sum up, at times I get a bit jaded about the cult of connoisseurship in fine art photography.  A refined sensibility is necessary, but how you implement that sensibility is important as well, and I think there’s room to innovate.

I believe in the adage that “a rising tide lifts all boats” so the more the merrier, but at the same time, I think there needs to be more innovation and creativity in publishing photography on the web.

©Erik Borst via January, 2010 Show

What Will Make The LPV Magazine Unique?

That is the question on my mind, and right now the answer is unknown.  LPV is certainly based on sensibility, and there are plenty of blogs/sites/zines that dive into the depths of Flickr to find photographs and photographers.  It’ll be a challenge for us to create a magazine that stands out, but I’m looking forward to it.

The blog will stay active with features and OpEd’s, so for some, the change likely won’t be noticeable.