Well, the photos are good. When a magazine is called News Photographer (and when that title doubles as its target reader demographic), they’d better be. The images that anchor News Photographer—of Barack Obama on the stump; of a bed-ridden mother in Malawi; of children crowded in a Philippine jail; of a California wildfire—are the point of the publication. And they’re peppered throughout News Photographer’s sixty-one pages, in full-page spreads and smaller versions, glossy and varied, occasionally jarring, almost always riveting.
Most magazines treat their art as an afterthought to their text—and given News Photographer’s (forgive the pun, but) focus, it could be excused for committing the reverse transgression: subverting its words to its images. It doesn’t, though. Here’s Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times Union, writing a thoughtful essay about the paper’s dilemma about whether to publish a photo of the corpse of a dog that had been hit by a car. Here’s an exploration of the convergence of video and still photography. Here’s an analysis of the rewards and perils of photo freelancing for NGOs.
They’re compelling stories. They may not be written in lyrical prose, but what the articles here may lack in style, they make up for in substance.
Like most magazines, News Photographer features valleys along with its peaks. An editorial celebrating Pete Souza, Obama’s newly appointed White House photographer, offers no perspective from Souza himself, and thus ends up feeling cold and detached (and that’s even considering that it’s written for an audience whose profession often demands remaining detached from their subjects). Overall, though, elevation is the order of the day at News Photographer. Here’s another image-driven magazine that you really can, you know, read for the articles.
News Photographer is, for better or worse, a trade magazine, and, though it generally avoids both the jargon-happiness and the hyper-professional perspective that so often afflict members of that genre, it occasionally falls victim to another trade-mag tendency: a self-centeredness so tenacious that, were it not so clearly rooted in insecurity, would seem to border on narcissism. As Alyssa Quart noted in a CJR essay last year, photojournalism is as imperiled as its print counterpart, and, perhaps as a result, preemptive self-defensiveness—look at the work we do! amateurs could never do this!—permeates News Photographer’s articles and even its images. (“DOING QUALITY WORK,” reads the caption underlining a photo of AP photographer Evan Vucci, unsubtly.)
The assumption about media-based trade magazines implicit in that posture—that the trade in question is, overall, in such turbulent flux as to render the publications that would document and defend it increasingly irrelevant—is both understandable and all too justified by current events. But, still, good work should speak for itself. And in a magazine whose editorial content is generally so strong, it’s unfortunate that the line dividing self-promotion from self-preservation would be blurred. -Megan Garber