I’ve known Heidi for quite awhile now, we worked on and off together at Outside Magazine over a few years and still talk frequently about photography and the industry on the phone. She has an impressive resume of magazines where she’s worked that includes: Philadelphia Magazine, Men’s Health, GQ, TimeOut NY, Outside, Outside Traveler, Men’s Health 18, Muscle and Fitness and finally the L.A. Times Magazine. I think the makeover she’s given the LA Times Magazine is nothing short of brilliant. Sure, I’m biased towards full bleed images and minimal design fuss but her 18 Society of News Design awards last year proves the design community is behind that aesthetic as well. What’s even more remarkable is that a place as troubled as the LA Times would allow Heidi to continue to do such brilliant work. I think it’s more a testament to the power of a strong willed Art Director than it is any genius on the part of the management.
It must be impossible to work without a photo editor I mean honestly, how any magazine survives without the sage advice of a photo editor is beyond comprehension. Ok, seriously there’s a fairly large group of publications out there that don’t employ a photo editor and my theory is that it changes the photography choices because the person making them is concerned with how they will work with the design. Do you think not having a photo editor on staff effects a publications approach to photography?
I don’t think it affects the approach at all. I think it can be a great benefit. When I worked with Dan Winters and Christian Witkin they saw it as a great opportunity to have ultimate creative control and that’s how I see it. I’m smart enough to know superior photography is everything. I heard David Carson speak a long time ago about design, he said the answer is always in the picture and that stuck with me. At a previous job I even got myself ejected for my taste in photography. I told the editor it wasn’t his fault he couldn’t recognize good photography because he’d only been exposed to a certain genre of imagery his entire career, which, I had no interest in working with. We had a battle over images John Huet shot for us which eventually led to an early departure.
There’s not much magazine publishing going on in LA or really, anywhere west of the George Washington bridge for that matter. Does that put more pressure on you to represent magazines that aren’t located on an island in NY? Why aren’t there more great publications in LA?
Sure, I really wanted our book to be creative outlet for LA photographers. People gripe that there are no good photographers in LA, I strongly disagree and wanted to prove it and along the way support the photo community out here.
There are a few reasons for this, Life magazine (1936), Esquire (1933), New Yorker (1925), all started in New York City and they in turn spawned many more magazines. They also raised an entire generation of editors, art directors, writers and photographers who went on to create and work at other magazines. Plus, now with the high cost of publishing you need corporate support to get started and all the publishers are in New York.
When it comes to awards and use of photography, newsstand magazines have always felt that newspaper inserts have an unfair advantage. You’re not subjected to the crazy newsstand, advertising and even some of the audience demands because your publication rides along inside the newspaper and is more of an added value then something that needs to pull it’s own weight. Would you agree with that?
Insert? Gawd, I hate that word. No, we compete with ourselves actually. We have to be something the paper isn’t and that can be hard sometimes because the Los Angeles Times itself has award winning photography. The LA Times Photo Director, Colin Crawford is amazing (examples, here and here).
Our struggles are different, it’s a content war to see who gets there first, we can’t cannibalize the newspaper’s feature sections so we always have to make sure whatever we are reporting is fresh and that can be difficult. Most magazines traditionally use newspapers to locate stories to further report in depth. We can’t do that. We do however have fewer coverlines on the image which is nice and no upc but we have advertising in every issue so it’s no different than a newsstand magazine. We need to pull our own weight especially now with many, many cut backs in this industry.
What are your main sources for finding photographers and how do you like to be reached?
I talk to a lot of photographers, go to openings, visit Art Center, look at magazines and look a lot online. Art Streiber is also a great resource and ambassador for the photo community out here (on top of being a great photographer).
So, you don’t really use promo cards or book drops?
No, I still rely on promos and book drops but word of mouth is my favorite method for finding photographers. I love talking to photographers about other photographers they’re into.
With your focus on all things LA will you hire photographers from other cities? Do you ever shoot anything outside of LA County?
We just shot a feature story in Paris. Is that far enough out of LA for ya?
If you have any questions for Heidi leave them in the comments.