In 2007 Matt Mendelsohn heard from a friend about a recently graduated fashion student who had all 4 limbs amputated. At the time she was near death but soon turned the corner and a year later was teaching fashion at her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University. Matt, a longtime journalist, decided he needed to go document her story on his own, he knew the story needed to be told but didn’t want to waste time lining up an assignment. He ended up photographing and writing a compelling 10,000 word piece about Lindsay that was recently published… on sportsshooter.com (here). He shopped it around to several publishers but they all turned him down. At one big national newspaper the publisher said “advertisers wanted happier stories, not ‘depressing’ ones.”
Of course none of this is news to photographers who now regularly see important stories get trounced by the celebrity/fad of the week. In my own brief magazine career I would often get important stories handed to me with an edict to make the images “happy” so the advertisers don’t get upset. I have a little “lesson” of my own for publishers that I’d like to impart. No matter how much ass kissing you do, your advertisers are still leaving. In fact they may be leaving more quickly now because your readers no longer consider you a “must read” after you’ve taken the edge off everything (due to all that ass kissing, natch).
After the EIC of Self magazine defends their body image distorting cover retouching policy by saying “Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best.” The proper response is for a competing magazine to run Matt Mendelshon’s “the Lessons of Lindsay” and tell Danziger to go stuff it. Why won’t anyone do that anymore?