Something To Prove Again

- - Magazines

At some point we will arrive at the place where magazines have something to prove again. Maybe they will be owned again by brash men and women who want to electrify their readers or maybe the owners will need to pad their ego before their pocketbook or maybe they will need to prove the power of type, pictures and design on the printed page.

When I saw these old Rolling Stone pages (here) I thought how exciting it must have felt to ship that issue to the printer; a cover with one coverline, pages with no text and a photographer in his prime.

UPDATE: I just heard from Elizabeth Avedon who was working for Richard at the time as the resident Designer, Art Director, Photo Editor and she designed that issue of Rolling Stone including the cover. She says, “It was designed in-house at Richard Avedon Studio, as was everything of Richard Avedon’s as he always retained control of what went out. ”

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Magazine pages via, Things To Look At

There Are 32 Comments On This Article.

  1. Jealousy does not look good on me.

    But the spirit is still there – as long as small publishers (well, OK, big ones, too) remember that they need to make sure what they do simply can’t be replaced by a website…

  2. Ah YES! I remember looking at these Rollingstones and Avedon when I was a kid looking through my dad’s photo mags/books. I am still drawn to the great simple design back in the day with art directors like Marvin Israel. In many ways it informed what I thought working for a magazine would be like-

    NOTHING PERSONAL , Avedon and James Baldwin 1964’s essay is hard to find.It was printed as a large simple coffee table book and a small little soft cover. If you can afford the $300 price tag and can find it you’ll have a treasure….
    I wish every person in America could read and see…I wish I could send one to the President : ) It offers the best in a photographer’s vision, and a writer’s strong words offering reflection on what it means to be AMERICAN from the perspective of two ol’ high school buddies back in their day. I wonder what they would say now in the current state of affairs?

    http://www.modernism101.com/avedon_nothing_personal.php

    Thanks for the flashback!

      • thanks Kate-gleaned through it and it’s interesting for the American Dream for the Jones-but I think what’s missing is this DREAM that is what Rosa Parks and farmer workers from Mexico, a relationship to land and cultures like the HOPI….the more aware I am there’s a “white bread” dream that has missed all of these amazing stories and history from the roots of America….which is not just our country but the AMeRICAS…maybe we need to dream a new dream of the AMERICA(S)….

        I saw the NYT Obama’s People and agree post 16Roman.
        Great photos but where’s the LOvE, the HOPE and the Connection with the people? everyone looked like the were looking away and disinterested…like so much in Fashion images I see…. I think the play of BLaCK/WhITE would have been a stronger metaphor; if one is inspired to step into a vision/design emulating AVEDON then why not RUn with it all the way? Plus it would emphasis this weird mentality of calling Obama our first BLACK President when actually he is MIXED RACE…a box that so many AMERICANS are but can’t define themselves. I also think the the FEELING of connection to the whole world is one of the inspiring aspects of this change….more inclusivity and helping redefine this definition of what is AMERICA-N…
        and that IS our job as artists/photogs/writers…..to help others SEE : ) I think this is what also was so strong in AVEDON’s work-he saw beyond because of something inside him that reflected it back to us through his eye…
        and heart for humanity/life.

        I always learn so much here. Thank you for engaging me in the dialogue.here’s an essay I think about often and wonder how that would be in pictures…

        http://ingalagringa.com/america/index.html

  3. I don’t think the publishing world is the only place where we all wish this were true. I think society would be much better if we all pursued our passions (like we had something to prove) instead of money and status.

  4. “Something to Prove Again”, such a great way to say it.

    It’s so obvious that everyone is just getting by, week to week. All of the excitement and enthusiasm that once kept everything going, not to mention fun, has been lost.

    Was Karen Mullarkey the photo editor at Rolling Stone at this time? That’s the type of fun and enthusiasm that I’m talking about.

    • Karen Mullarkey

      @Kenneth Jarecke, Yes, Ken, I was the photo editor at the time we did this issue. It was a magical time to watch the new photographs arrive and watch the album grow. I remember one day when I took Avedon out to the West Marin coast so I could show him Christo’s Fence installation. It was around 4pm so the light was getting better and better. Christo’s Fence came right up out of the sea and then proceeded eastward to Hwy 101. Avedon flipped — wanted to do a fashion shoot there and THEN. Later we came upon two women who wanted someone to take their photo in front of the fence. Avedon obliged them even when he wasn’t sure how a point and shoot worked. He took a number of photos of them. He directed how he wanted them to pose. Finished, he then returned the camera to them and wished them well. They never knew that they had been photographed by the great Richard Avedon.

  5. An even bigger issue is how the portraits of Obama’s Cabinet looks eerily similar to this work. I guess if it was a good idea then, it’s a good idea now.

  6. Awesome find!

    Avedon made a portrait of George H.W. Bush (great photo btw) when he was the Director of the CIA. I wonder if he shot that as part of this collection?

  7. Green shoots of recovery? Dare we dream of this?

    My own hope is that we are at the turning point of a cycle that started in the late 90’s where the publishing industry started to love “a draw.”

    Formats started to merge, magazines became increasingly interchangeable and everyone looked like they just wanted to be as good as one another.

    That is not to say that there were no revolutionary ideas, just that they quickly became assimilated and homogenous.

    The best work in the best magazines became the exclusive province of a small, barely penetrable group of platinum names and their occasionally anointed successors.

    “No alarms and no surprises please!”

    But the market has rejected homogeny and not just because the internet is convenient but because buying a magazine became less and less an act of consumer choice.

    People like to feel that their purchases reflect some kind of individuality and if all magazines in a certain market are too similar the only individualist choice is not to buy at all.

    This is the lesson that is not yet proven to have been learnt.

    But maybe the penny is dropping even now. Maybe there is “Something to prove again” and we can look forward to diverse, challenging, thought provoking work for which we have to make an actual choice.

    That would be good!

  8. yeah the old one looks great, unfortunatly the New York times remake of Obamas team – although interesting – doesn’t quite cut it. Which might just be due to Nadav Kanders style of aestheticized strangeness plus flashy advertising style lightning. I have seen countless great photos of Obama and his team but not in the NYT issue.

  9. Those were better days. There were still quite a few giants around, behind cameras and in editorial offices. I think there are still a lot of people, even more, probably, doing, or capable of doing, great work like this if given the opportunity. But the chairs once occupied by so many giants in the offices of publishers have increasingly become occupied by dwarfs.

    • Did you not learn anything from hearing your (grand)father talk about the golden days when everyone was so wonderful and everything was built superior and whatnot.

      Guess what? It really wasn’t but proves that accepting change is tough. The cycle never ends.

  10. “Used to be is the lowest form of communication.” – Tony Soprano.

    The more time spent yearning for how it was, the more time wasted not making it what it could be. Phoenix is burning. When it rises from the ashes, it’s going to be a totally new city. Things will never be like they were. I can either spend my days trying to reclaim yesterday, or I can make a genuine effort to help build a new city, (industry).

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    • @Tomorrow,

      As I look forward to new media and forms of delivery, nothing I see on the computer screen compares to the excitement of that Rolling Stone design, or a new album cover with a 12 page insert.

      The computer has transformed art (of all forms) into disposable 15 second eye/soundbites and we are losing the value of purchasing something that we can hold into our hands and cherish.

      Something of importance that we couldn’t wait to have arrive in our mailboxes or the news stand is now something we expect, just by typing in 3 keywords of google.

      I agree with Rob, it’s time for publishers to stop mimicking each other with the same white covers, the same masthead and the same over retouched photographs of the celebrity of the week.

      With print publishing going the same direction as GM, it’s time to swing for the bleachers.

      After all, at this point, publishing has little to lose.

      Today is the time to aspire to greatness and let the managers manage with a soft touch, let the creatives create.

      So to paraphrase yes it’s time to build a new city, but to do that takes courage and commitment.

      It’s time to drop the fear.

      JRR

      • I 2nd that statement.

        ’15 second eye/soundbites’ … and thumbnailed art, or 500px max :-)

        ‘over retouched photographs of the celebrity of the week’ … same (stupid) thingo here in Europe. Any airbrusher could do a better job and even a Vargas Girl looks more real :-)

        Some weeks ago I was standing by a newstand, looking at all those unreal women faces smiling (although most aren’t allowed to smile) down from the covers of lifestyle and female mags. But one cover immediately drawed my attention. It featured a (good old) ‘snapshot’ of Romy Schneider* at one of her movie sets. Besides it was black n’ white, it was really a portrait (showing her personality, not her face only).

        I don’t think that mag-publishers should fear the internet,imho. The www is just a bubble – just another ‘extraordinary popular delusion’ and a ‘madness of the crowds’ (-> credits: charles mackay, 1840 *smile). More an entertainment thingo …

        *I’m not sure if Romy is very popular outside Europe. As far as I know she never did hollywood. However, in Europe she is cult :-)

        Cheers, Reini

  11. scott Rex Ely

    The ubiquitous digital availability of everything related to the magazine has killed the idea of a printed piece for mass consumption.
    Everything is fragmented in it’s delivery these days. Data for images, articles and the supporting vehicle for information scatters comprehensive ideas into little mental snacks.
    The flip side of the coin is the cost of anything printed and delivered has become an extravagant money loosing proposition.
    Tie that in with the sheer shift in demographics related to the consumption of media, the younger kids are all on line and the older folks, the ones soon to be, if not already, the dominate numbers of our society, can’t see the extra expense for printed media for something they have had years already to enjoy and of course can find it on line too..
    I just don’t see how anything Other than small boutique publications that will be just shy of the cost of a coffee table book, and limited in copies to make them valuable and unique to own or collect,will be available in the very near future.
    There are too many counter forces at play to support its survival in the form we all now and love and remember so well. Later days, web press.

  12. I don’t think anyone is longing for a return to the “good old days” and/or overly concerned with saving the paper based delivery system.

    I think what this post is about is the excitement that was once at places like ROLLING STONE, and the kind of work that was fueled by that attitude.

    It seems to be missing these days. Not that just having a better attitude will be enough, but it is essential in creating amazing work. Regardless how that work is passed around.

    • @Kenneth Jarecke,

      Agreed.

      Here are two quotes. Everyone can choose his own perspective.

      “Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times”. — Gustave Flaubert

      “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today”. — Henry Ford

      The older Rolling Stone was a younger Jann Wenner, (and Hunter S. Thompson), (and Annie Leibovitz), and seemed much more
      concerned with politics and having an impact on society. Today’s version seems much more guided by Hollywood, and celebs.

      Of course, you don’t want to live your life in the past, but at the same time, looking back like that is a good rudder for your life, to see if you’ve drifted off track.

      Imagine walking into a Borders bookstore today, and seeing that large newsprint version on the rack today; it would be an instant collectors item.

      The closest thing today, to that old Jann Wenner mentality, is Kathy Ryan of the NY Times Magazine. She still takes chances, and sticks her neck out there.

  13. @ R. Bowman,

    Yeah, Bush Sr. was photographed for “The Family” while he was the director of CIA.

    I believe the complete portfolio including the original layout is reproduced in the book “Portraits of Power”

    CCP in Tucson, AZ has a portfolio of 8×10 prints of “The Family” available for viewing. I had the pleasure of viewing that portfolio along with other Avedon prints while visiting CCP to see the 25th Anniv. show of “In the American West”. (It was interesting to see that Avedon had photographed Mark Felt [e.i. deep throat]) With such minimalistic aesthetic (single light, no props, no makeup or grooming, no styling, one lens/one camera/one film) Avedon created such powerful work that is the mark to which others are still compared to.

    I did get the NYT issue of “Obama’s People” (that I found out through this blog, thanks Rob) as I immediately saw similarity to “The Family”. As much as I respect Kander’s work, I feel that he missed the mark on this one. can’t bat a 1.000, I guess. (maybe 4-8 years from now, it’ll be lauded as prescient. let’s see what history has in store for Obama and his people)

    And as many have noted, magazines have indeed lost their mojo and guts and a taste for seriousness and have made a beeline for celebritywood. But haven’t we all, as a society? Magazines are simply reflecting that.

  14. Rob —
    Elizabeth Avedon’s relationship to Richard — what is it? Can’t seem to find that anywhere, please enlighten.
    I love that RS issue, and am fortunate enough to have 2 or 3 signed copies in a box here in my studio (time to open that box, i would guess).

    thx

    dh

  15. That is an excellent series of images. Avedon was such a talented photographer. When I look at magazines today I don’t see that same quality of image. Especially when you look at news paper images today. I

    • @Bumgardnern,
      Yeah, he set the bar pretty high. I don’t know if we just have a more throwaway attitude towards personalities today, Avedon’s portraits just seem to have more gravity to them than the recent NYT series of Obama’s folks.

  16. Andre Friedmann

    It’s a painful comparison, my new 2009 copy of the New York Times’ “Obama’s People” and my 33-year old 1976 copy Rolling Stone’s “The Family”. I haven’t yet identified why it’s so embarrassing, only that it reminds me of the pretense engaged in by the editors of Fortune Magazine back in the 1980s and 1990s. Using their then-current cheap production techniques of thin paper and thinner inks, they’d congratulate themselves for attempting to recreate an old-style issue of their magazine from the days of Walker Evans and letterpress and gravure and thick paper stocks.