Every once and awhile a designer would come up to me with a layout filled with holes. What goes in those holes, you might ask? Stock pictures of course. My job (and those who worked with me) was to take the layout and find photos that fit in the holes. If there’s a vertical hole next to a headline that says “Volleyball in Kosovo” I need to find a vertical photo of Volleyball in Kosovo. What happens if I find a horizontal photo of Volleyball in Kosovo? Can it be cropped? No, then that’s a problem because turning a vertical hole into a horizontal hole will obviously change the flow of text and suddenly your horizontal hole has the headline “Field Hockey in Gabon,” (this being a package on obscure sports in strange places and all) and now you need to find a horizontal of Field Hockey in Gabon but then what happens if you find a vertical of field hockey in Gabon, can’t you simply flop the stories. No, dumbass they’re ranked. Duh. They have to appear in the order we have them in–until the writer uncovers new information that changes the ranking and throws the whole thing out of whack. And, so it goes, filling in the holes until the final urgent email, “we still need a square photo of Elephant Polo in Sri Lanka and the package ships tonight.”

This is not a rant against Designers who hand Photo Editors layouts filled with holes. I know all to well the source of this phenomenon. The package was assigned at the last minute and the layout deadline is fast approaching and all the text is in so we need to start a layout while the slack-ass Photo Editor finds all the photos and the Editor really likes the configuration we used last year and the production department really needs adjacencies for advertising and don’t forget about the quarter page consecutive ads that Honda bought that need to appear on pages 4,5,6 and 10 of the package (clever bastards hope they paid a premium). Also, we want to add cool icons to aid in navigation because everyone’s using cool icons these days and don’t forget about the 12 sidebars plus a running ticker and what about the maps, do you expect the readers to know where Gabon, Kosovo and Sri Lanka are on their own, we need maps. So, you see designers, I know where the layout with the holes comes from and it’s not about winning SPD Gold just trying to survive the shit storm.

So, I close the door to my office, crank Rage Against the Machine, glare at any intruders, grab my handy stock list (here) and find the horizontals and verticals of all the obscure sports in all the obscure places. Sometimes I even surprise myself and find a really cool photo or agency or photographer that I didn’t know about, sometimes I just weather the storm.

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  1. Well, if you need them, I have some nice shots of Ecuadorian locals playing soccer on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Archipelago. Horizontal only. FYI.

  2. Or worse… they make a square whole thus insuring a bad crop no matter what the orientation of the photograph they knew full well was assigned, and being delivered as a 35mm slide at the last minute.

  3. So, the designers are the culprits. Well, it seems in part. But filling holes definitely doesn’t create quality content. Content first, then design. Sounds like the cart before the horse. Hearing this just adds to my distain of the magazine industry and whats wrong with so many publications.

  4. Magazines with a 60 day lag time trying to remain relevant in the internet age. Rumor has it Graydon Carter loves digital because he can assign the celebrity cover as late as possible to try and capture the zeitgeist.

  5. What is up with today and yesterdays posts? We just closed and now you’re giving me ptsd flashbacks to last week. :D

  6. Retouchers must looooove Graydon for that. Composite Faster! Proofs need to be signed off by the photographer and at FedEx tonight! [cracking sound of whip]

    All that so he can “capture the zeitgeist” (lemme guess, Scalett Johansson, George Clooney, blah blah blah… when has VF ever done anything unexpected on the cover? Demi Moore naked and pregs was the last time as far as I can remember.)

    Wasn’t there a post a while ago about how the choice of celebrity on the cover generally doesn’t sell the magazine?

  7. Rage against the machine? Really?
    Your awful taste in music troubles me
    and leads me to wonder if your sense of
    visual aesthetics is in the same taste (Frankly
    I wouldn’t know since reading Men’s Health
    was about as likely for me as going to the moon).
    There is something unsettling about imagining
    you pumping your fist in the air and digging
    through pictures of people yachting or riding bicycles or whatnot…
    I wonder what Kathy Ryan listens to while she
    is editing.

  8. chimp, why even bother posting that message?
    Men’s Health? could be a simple mistake, or an indication that you aren’t really paying that much attention.
    oh and RATM rules…

  9. @4: no one party is the culprit, i’d say. putting out a magazine involves tons of people. if only one of them drops the ball, it gets passed down the line and everyone suffers; as the scheduled closing date looms, options in regards to art (how long we can wait for it, where it’s placed and how large it runs) can become really slim.
    that being said, i’ve never worked in an art dept where designers are so bad at trouble shooting that they can’t accommodate a different photo shape should the original plan not pan out…sad you had to go through that.

  10. Well, I have some nice shots of Ecuadorian locals playing Volleyball on Santa Cruz Island, in the Galapagos Archipelago. Vertical and Horizontal FYI. :)

  11. Christ that would drive me crazy. The only real problems I had as an architectural photographer were getting construction companies to pay up on time, the odd architect who would expect idiotic and dangerous view points, and the nutters, any 10×8 view camera set up in public is a nutter magnet.

  12. What you’ve just ranted about is something I have to deal with nearly every week on some of the publications I work on.

  13. Sometimes I swear designers purposely try to drive photographers insane by always choosing the opposite layout of a photograph that would work perfectly. And your stock list is fantastic, thanks for linking that!

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