I met Marshall in 2001, when he landed his very first job with the Outside Magazine Art Department and I’ve enjoyed watching him climb the ladder moving from magazine to magazine over the last few years. I was especially pleased when I heard he was going to run the Art Department at Garden and Gun because it seems like the kind of magazine where someone can really leave their mark. Not only do they have an awesome name, they appear to have the backing and foresight to produce a magazine that’s more of a luxury item. This is something that will serve them well as the media landscape evolves in the coming years, because I believe magazines that are printed well on nice paper stock, with big glossy photos, will be rewarded with a loyal audience and advertisers.
So, tell me about Garden and Gun, what does it stand for?
Garden & Gun, our no-nonsense name, represents the soul of the Southern lifestyle ––the land and the conservation of it, the sporting life, arts, culture, travel and food. It also says dual audience, a magazine that appeals to both men and women. The name Garden & Gun captures the spirit of the discerning Southerner’s sense of heritage and pride while conjuring thoughts of high craftsmanship, elegance and subtle detail. In fact, G&G has come to be part of the Southern lexicon. In blogs, I sometimes see people refer to something as being “G&G.” It seems the name was just born out of a strong sense of tradition. I personally like the name very much because whether it is received favorably or not it forces one to contemplate.
Obviously the magazine is very well funded but I’m wondering if you think there’s a future (beyond generous investors) for regional magazines that want to have a national reputation?
Garden & Gun does have a national reputation, no doubt about it. I attribute that as much to the novelty of our name / brand and tasty editorial content as our financial wherewithal. However, it is important to remember that G & G is a national magazine about a regional lifestyle—not a regional magazine. So, do I think there’s a future for regional magazines with a national reputation beyond generous investors? The answer is YES! I think there is a future for regional magazines and I think that future is (sorry for the forthcoming exclamation point) bright! I mean, look at Denver’s 5280, Virginia Living or the Texas Monthly franchise, which all appear to be fat and happy. Then there are new launches like Forbes Mountain Time, which hopes to bottle the lifestyle of an affluent regional audience.
I believe in the power of print. It’s here to stay. No other medium in the world translates the awesome authority, emotion and intensity of images better than paper. The reader is not staring into a light source but rather enjoying reflective light bouncing off (in our case) quality stock and tantalizing photography. Add that to editorial fare that conjures a healthy, connected—albeit “unique”–– lifestyle with a strong sense of place and voila! another successful magazine is born. (Ahem, if only it were that easy.)
Tell me about the photography. Are you hiring a lot of regional photographers? Are you paying national rates?
We hire a blend of national and regional photographers depending on the assignment and its location. However, we are very fortunate at Garden & Gun to have access to several brilliant shooters right here in our backyard of Charleston, SC. Those shooters being Squire Fox and Peter Frank Edwards. As to whether or not we pay national rates I’ll just say we are competitive and ALWAYS pay on time.
Your website (here) is amazing. 99.9% of magazine publishers are afraid of giving the content away online or they’re afraid of making the online content as enjoyable to read and look at as the printed content. Why do you think you can prove them all wrong?
We arrived at our website philosophy like this: We asked ourselves, what is everybody else in magazine publishing doing? Once we deduced that, we then made a decision to do the exact opposite. In our case, lead with the bold use of photography and use as much as possible or as much as the content will allow. In my mind the thinking is this. We serve an affluent audience. One that expects quality content at a high presented tastefully or at a high taste-level—particularly when it comes to the packaging. Again, the stock we print on speaks to the fact that G&G recognizes the magazine as a luxury item. Therefore, we aren’t afraid of giving content away on the Internet because we feel like our audience wants G&G prominently displayed on their coffee tables.
All that said, though, look for a tweak to the website in the coming months as we are morphing the site to better take advantage of e-newsletter technologies. However, I don’t anticipate our newly developed web strategy conflicting with our philosophy to give all our images the star treatment online.
How do you like to be reached and what types of photography and photographers are you looking for?
I’m looking for down-to-earth, easy-to-work-with photographers who are committed as much to their craft as developing personal, lasting relationships with their clients. I look for shooters who own their style and know exactly how to get the goods in the can. I also look for shooters who specialize in a certain kind of photography whether it be portraiture, travel reportage, product, etc. I also liked to be reached in creative ways via the internet and snail mail. I like seeing photography printed on paper but I like the convenience of the Internet.
I like to find young hungry talent as much as the next AD but the realities of the business are such that many of the editors at this level want the peace of mind that comes with hiring a known quantity. Editors at national magazines are quite savvy and familiar with the photography talent that revolves around the publishing world. As much as I’d like to bring along eager, talented young shooters, sometimes it can be very difficult. With looming deadlines hovering over everyone’s head, it can be tough to fight battles where bringing on an unknown is concerned. There’s just not enough time in the day—not to mention the fiscal concerns and scheduling nightmares that would ensue if, they didn’t come back with the right images.
All that said, editors and art directors alike know it when they see it. They know talent and original thinking. So for any young shooters out there, my best advice to you it is to hone your craft, dedicate yourself to it and don’t fear these sorts of obstacles but rather recognize that they exist for your enlightenment. It’s cliched but true that nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy. You have to want it, you have to earn it and you have to be resilient and open at the same time. But enough with the preaching already. BACK TO WORK!