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February 29, 2004

Two Good Photography Magazines: Offline vs Online

I've been playing up a lot of magazines on this blog...I guess just as there is a bookslut, given my long-standing vice of accumulating magazines of all types, I could be considered a magazine whore...oops, there's already one of those (on the same site).

A print magazine whore, anyway. I have a more grudging relationship with magazines of the online sort, beyond the most obvious models (Slate, Salon, etc which are modeled heavily on offline news and culture publications) or the obvious transplants from offline newspapers and magazines. Some of this is my already documented fetish for the printed page and the quality of photography and design reprinted on such. But some of this is also a reflection of the reality that print magazines are a much, much more mature medium than their online counterparts, especially when it comes to layout and presentation of visual content -- yes, hyperlinks and shockwave and flash have already been used to present multimedia content in fresh ways, but just as often it's a disorganized, distracting mess.

I do expect it will continue to get better. There are a number of magazines that are online-only or that derive most of their audience and revenue from the Web, and the number continues to grow as sites find ways to gain paying subscribers and/or advertisers, and provide content that leverages the strengths of the online medium.

I've come across two specialized magazines that epitomize the difficulty and near-schizophrenia involved in combining quality print publishing with an online presence. Both publications have excellent photography and design, and a wide range of cultural content, with interesting offline and online components.

In Magazine, a CD sized (5 inches by 5 inches) publication that goes for $4 on newstands, is a model of outstanding design in print, and (sadly) much more compromised design online. As one of (seemingly) thousands of publications covering contemporary culture, it features a particularly thoughtful variety of bite-sized glimpses into the work of various artists, known and not so well-known. I love the form factor, and I can't emphasize enough how beautiful the color printing is.

The print version has interviews with two world-class cinematographers from past and present, Raoul Coutard and Christopher Doyle, who produce images in their films that make you reach for the freeze frame over and over again. Additionally, there are small photo-essays of 4 to 6 images apiece from Beth Block, Uta Barth, Colby Katz and Tammy Schoenfeld...I'd never even heard of Block or Schoenfeld, but I liked the limited sampling of their work a lot.

Also, there's an interview with artist Sebastiaan Bremer, a Dutch postmodernist who combines photographs with drawings (drawing directly on fuzzy C-prints in most cases) in a style I like:

bremer_graciosa.jpg

Graciosa, 2000, by Sebastiaan Bremer

Bremer is quite cool, as he cites one of his primary influences being comic books. Unfortunately, a lot of Bremer's stuff doesn't look very good online (the texture of his drawings on dreamily blurred photographs is mostly lost on the Web), and the work I've seen is mostly from a few years ago... the newer work in the magazine looks really nice, so check out the print pub, which is available at Tower Records and a number of other independent bookstores.

The online version of In Magazine features a selection of articles and a few photographs here and there, but it feels too much like a truncated version of the print magazine. Not only that, but links to a couple of the back issues are broken, a real no-no. Still worth checking out among the back issues online is "Incognito", which has an interview with Lee Friedlander, and there's a sprinkling of other interesting visual artists among the back issues. Shame that such a hip and intelligent cultural magazine can't create a better web presence.

Then there's Colors Magazine, which is the photojournalistic product of Benetton. The contrast between the online and offline versions of Colors is reversed from In Magazine -- the print version is conservatively laid out and features lovely saturated color photography as well as some black and white, with a number of thoughtful articles around a central theme (the February theme is Energy). Meanwhile, the online version uses Flash so heavily and in so many clever (and at times, maddeningly cutesy ways) that it feels like a different magazine.

The print magazine is the superior way to view some good photography (though the photo credits are almost impossible to track down, given the non-existent page numbers)...there's much excellent work from names I didn't recognize, but there's also quality work from Lucinda Devlin and especially Edward Burtynsky, who has his amazing industrial landscapes scattered throughout the magazine (including a stunningly detailed and depressing shot of thousands of discarded oil filters accompanying a blurb on the impact of oil leaked from cars and aircraft).

But the online version of Colors has its own unique ways of presenting its big themes, which include violence, slums, slavery and prisons. Colors' web site has a very comprehensive archive section and the recent issues are especially worth going through -- whatever the site loses in terms of the individual impact of the images is more than made up for by the combination of text and images in all sorts of innovative ways. I enjoyed the issues profiling the City of Birmingham and the "Photo Studio" issue, which focuses on portraiture studios around the globe.

colors_screengrab2_small.jpg

Layout from "Slums" feature in online version of Colors Magazine.

So check out the online versions of Colors Magazine and In Magazine, and pick up an issue of In if you see it in a bookstore, and if you like good design and contemporary photography (and visual arts generally). And speaking of good online stuff, if you haven't seen the images of Edward Burtynsky or Lucinda Devlin, there's a good selection on the web beyond what they're most well known for -- Devlin's work on capital punishment (the Omega series) has earned well-deserved praise and is required viewing, but her series "The Pleasure Ground" featuring various recreational interiors (casinos, spas, bookstores, etc) is also worth seeing. Both photographers use color in striking ways to address real issues, and whether viewed on the web, on the printed page, or in a gallery, the best images, with their emptiness, subtle color, and damning detail, have quite an impact.

pg28.jpg

"Jules Under Sea Lodge" by Lucinda Devlin.

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Comments

hey - i saw a back post of yours on doing bird, i was wondering if you knew if there was a story by John Minh Nyugen or spelling very close to that. I did a story with him and haven't been able to get my hands on the issue. is it out in the us? or not out yet? i dont know? so you probably dont either? but either way, itd be very helpful!! e-mail me if ya got anything....thanks kelly

Posted by: HELPmodel at Nov 30, 2004 8:51:15 PM