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The Making of a Magazine

April 28th, 2006

Tuesday, April 25 – New York City. At National Geographic Adventure it’s on the wall, every page for the next issue. It’s in the conference room, pictures, text, advertisements. I hadn’t seen Sabine for over a year; the last time I was in I was soaked, smelling like a wet dog in my drenched down jacket after being caught in a mid-February downpour. Today, Sabine brings in her staff and very quickly we’re looking at pictures.

(Sarah, who handles business mags) I had spent the previous day at World Picture News, meeting with new editors, learning who works with which client. I also met the new editorial director, Blake Sell, who asked challenging questions about every idea I had, forcing me to try and pre-visualize the marketable images. At one time Blake lived in Seattle, on Queen Anne, when he was working for UPI. He also froze and cracked a lens on Denali in the ’80’s during a ‘friendship’ climb with the Soviets. Canon couldn’t repair it but they did buy it for their corporate museum.

(Todd, left, Blake, right) Blake invited me to the morning meeting, a review of the news and what clients were asking for. Three photographers in Nepal, protesters likely to call for the King’s head; do they keep their assets in Katmandu or try and get some imagery from outside the city? What were the Maoists doing? Were the WpN protest pictures strong enough against the competition’s? Editors still seemed to be calling for pictures of baton-weilding police so they decided to keep the photographers in Katmandu. Next item, the Tribeca film festival and how to cover it. Tom Cruise was supposed to come in on a helicopter for the premiere of Mission Impossible III. How should that be covered? And on it went.

(WpN editor Rachel, in a moment of frustration) After lunch I worked with one of the new editors, building a leave-behind CD for the meetings I had arranged. This is what we start with at Geographic Adventure and, to be honest, I had just stopped by the WpN office that morning to pick up the CD’s so I hadn’t even seen them.

I pressed play, we watched, and in less than a minute it was over. Crestfallen, Sabine said, “That’s it?”

I forgot that, like me, she really likes pictures. She wants a loose edit. Unprepared, I begin to search my hard drive for more images. I showed my loose edit and we moved onto the story ideas.

She suggested some writers I should woo, some who’ve got established relationships with the magazine and with whom the ideas would fit well. The magazine is small, her department even smaller and they usually find themselves scrambling to put together the current issue which, as soon as it’s done, they jump into the next. Rarely is there time to work on other projects. So, she says, having a story come through the writing side is often much more successful than the photo side.

And then she asks me again, do I have any hiking pictures for their next cover? It’s for August and has to look summer-like, vertical is better, an open, uncluttered top for the masthead, and with the subject in the lower right to leave space to the left for text about the stories inside. Why text on the left? Because that’s what shows at the magazine stand.

I doubt I have what they want, since I haven’t shot hiking or backpacking much, and definitely not in any commercial style. The Patitucci’s work fits her needs quite well. And it’s quite different than mine. But I’ll look through the archives. For the future, I know I can’t be all things to everyone, but I can definitely take a moment or two to shoot a wider variety of images.

Speaking of the Patitucci’s, I saw them a few time in Chamonix; once while having Colin pose-down at the train station. Who should get off but Dan, Janine, and their model-friend Amy. Dan laughed and said “Funny, didn’t we do this just last year?”

(One last poser-shot, of Colin’s posterior. A stylist, some wardrobe, and a less bored friend would have been useful). I had a couple other visits too, but I won’t bore you with the particulars except to say I saw some awesome pictures that weren’t mine. Being an editor and seeing all those pictures must be pretty cool.

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