The California Sunday Magazine
Editor-in-Chief: Douglas McGray
Creative Director: Leo Jung
Photography Director: Jacqueline Bates
While it’s called “The California Sunday Magazine,” you’re also bringing geopolitics into the fold, and you have a different unique editorial architecture as well as distribution. Tell us about it.
We are a general interest magazine focusing on stories, mostly about people, that take place in California, the West, Latin America and Asia. We are on all digital platforms and a printed edition, with a launch circulation of more than 400,000, delivered on the first Sunday of each month with the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee. (And for a limited time, in the Bay Area, with home delivered copies of the New York Times.) We’re comprised of two sections: shorts and features. We are not a service based magazine–we won’t tell you where to eat and where to shop. There are plenty of magazines who do that really well already!
The west coast deserves a good Sunday magazine, how did this emerge?
We emerged from the popular live events series, that our editor-in-chief, Doug McGray started, called Pop-Up Magazine, which is a live magazine which writers, documentary filmmakers, radio producers, photographers, and illustrators perform original stories to sell-out crowds at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. They’ve had great photographers showing new work on stage — Larry Sultan, Jim Goldberg, Autumn de Wilde, Richard Misrach, Cheryl Dunn, Ron Haviv, Todd Hido, Lucas Foglia. After doing the show for a few years, Doug realized it was strange that California wasn’t home to a big-audience general interest magazine. He loved the sense of community he and the Pop-Up team were building. Fast forward to 2014..and here we are! Doug hired Leo Jung as creative director (formerly Design Director at Wired, deputy art director at The New York Times Magazine) and then I was hired soon after. I moved to San Francisco after working in magazines in NYC for a number of years (W Magazine, ELLE Magazine, and Interview). It’s such an incredible challenge and so unique for a photo editor to help shape what the magazine looks like, from scratch. It’s so inspiring and challenging. When Doug and I first met he said the magazine wasn’t going to have any cover lines. I thought he was crazy. And I knew I had to work with him immediately.
What type of visual stories is the magazine seeking?
We’re always looking for pitches from photographers. It’s not just about beautiful photos — they need to have a sense of story. Photo essays can be big and sweeping and urgent, or they can be small, local curiosities. As you’ll see in our first issue, we will have a mix of established and young artists. I love having that balance. Photographers can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get our contributor guidelines.
Describe your photographic direction for the magazine.
The magazine is made in California. So when it comes to photography, whenever possible we use artists who have a deep, authentic connection to this place, creatively and personally. And that authenticity can be seen in their photographs. We always want to surprise readers. California Sunday imagery will feel cinematic, thought-provoking, not overly stylized or retouched. A sense of place is really important to the magazine, so there won’t be a lot of studio photography. Imagery will feel bright, smart but not pretentious. Subjects will be represented in an authentic, real way. Always accessible, but never dumbed down.
You have a section called “visual short”, is this an opportunity for photographers to pitch you ideas?
Absolutely. Photographers can email us their pitches and links to their unpublished bodies of work.
In each issue we’d like to try and include a visual short. For the first issue we commissioned Will Adler, who is a fantastic fine art photographer. I saw his brilliant series of surf photography at Danziger Gallery in NY–he has such a deep connection to surf and art (his uncle, Tom Adler, is an art director of seminal early surf photography books.) I love his dreamy color palette and he really embodies the feel of the magazine we’re trying to achieve…cinematic and surprising. Will sent us so many striking images it so hard to choose. We chose a different image for the TOC image where the surfer’s body felt quite still, but when you turn to the story its a nice contrast –turbulent and wonderfully disorienting.
Holly Andres shot your cover/feature, virtual reality is a challenging topic to visually cover I’d imagine. Some of her work has a wonderfully unsettling narrative. Why did you gravitate towards her work for this?
I met Holly in Portland in 2011 at the PhotoLucida photo previews when I was at W. She was still focusing primarily on fine art photography. I love how she creates imagery that invites you in and takes you to another world, from an era you can’t quite place…which was perfect for the setting we were trying to create for our cover story, called “The Last Medium,” about virtual reality in Hollywood.
We’re hoping to do something really unique with our covers–immediately after you turn the page we have an inside cover, which is an opportunity to continue the cover on to a spread. We think it sets the tone up front in the way we sequence images, very cinematically. The cover is a young girl at home–wearing a virtual reality headset, then you turn the page and you’re in that alternate world with her. We continued that in the story as well, domestic scenes of the family together, then you turn to the last image and the family is in a bright otherworldly setting…
Often news journalism is about heart break. Omar Lucas photographed Ruth Thalia’s family. Undoubtedly this was important to select the right photographer. It takes a certain type of photographer to gracefully come into a family’s life and capture their sorrow. Why Omar Lucas?
Omar is a Lima-based photographer, and this was his first time working with a foreign publication. It was important for me that whoever was going in to the home where Ruth Thalia once lived, that they understand the sensitivity of the situation. Omar was familiar with Ruth Thalia’s story–it was on the news frequently there–so he made sure to go to their home and speak with them at length before he even picked up his camera.
Tell me about Daniel Shea‘s piece.
We teamed LA Times arts writer Carolina Miranda with the fantastic Daniel Shea, who was spending a lot of time out west and inspired by the contemporary arts scene. We decided on a unique approach, featuring artists who were directly inspired by the landscape around them. We used architectural historian Reyner Banham’s four ecologies as a guide.