PDN just announced their annual 30 photographers list (here) which always proves to be a valuable resource for photo editors looking for new talent or to validate someone they’re interested in working with. Unlike the other juried competitions this one is unique because PDN seems to make a real effort to introduce (drive) new talent into the system. I’ve personally used it to cherry pick photographers when the list comes out or to go back over several years worth when seeking some inspiration after getting bored with my own list.

It’s interesting to note in the editors letter that all the selections were made online this year which makes me wonder if printed portfolios are finally starting to fall out of favor.

They have a free event in conjunction with the publication of the list March 10th from 6:30-9 at Parsons with a panel discussion featuring 4 of the 30 photographers, Amy Lundeen, Photo Editor at Budget Travel and Fiona McDonagh, Photo Director at Entertainment Weekly (details here).


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  1. Portfolios falling out of favor for editorials? Possibly. As for advertising that’s not happening anytime soon. For any big ad job they call in portfolios nearly all of the time.

  2. Portfolios are definitely still being called in.

    All of the PDN 30 of the past that I’ve come to know, after having been named, do very well for themselves because of it. It’s one of those things you really should strive for because unlike other things, being selected there seems to really matter. (Not that they pick those with questionable talent)

  3. Interesting note: 2 of Platon’s assistants are in this year’s PDN30. (Not sure if they are his current assistants or not, but they both were, simultaneously, at one time.)

  4. I printed 20 11×14’s yesterday for a magazine and let me tell you they were magic compared to sending digital files and proofs. Real prints have something inherit in them and colors that digital just can’t match. It would be the worst thing the industry could do to have real portfolios fall out of favor..

  5. tying this post to another one, APE would you, as an editor use a site like Issuu (which you’ve posted about) to look at portfolios, or is it a passing phase?

  6. Well, I’m not saying I don’t like looking at prints better but PDN did just pick 30 photographers they consider to be the strongest new talent and based it solely on viewing their website. Sure, they didn’t drop a million dollar advertising campaign in their laps but now that advertising is starting to move online it makes sense to base decisions on how a photographers work looks online.

    I would use Issuu to buy a photo book because it helps me imagine the end result. The same way that printed portfolios would help you imagine getting the prints in after the shoot is done.

  7. I think these days an experienced editor who knows photography can tell from a digital portfolio if the photog would also be capable of good prints. In general, that is. Quality is quality. This is assuming relatively decent sized files, not thumbnails.

    There’s some killer work in that PDN line up. And oddly enough, when I cruise through their sites, I think most of their work actually looks a lot better in print than on the web.

  8. @APE. Thanks. I’m debating with a fellow old-school photog about sending out comp cards and other printed matter. also, when will yung’uns get Alec Soth out of their systems? It seems that his bearded shadow was looming over most of the work on the list.

  9. With the very common lack of calibrated monitors of potential clients, the differences in browsers and gamma, and monitor size just to name a couple, the advantages of a printed book are huge. Sure, they see your website first, but seeing 11 x 14 prints and 22 x 14 spreads is certainly where it’s at. Any monkey can make a jpg look good, but does it look good (is it even printable?) when on paper (in a store, on a billboard, in a mag, etc)?

  10. A question about #3’s question.
    Is this whole PDN 30 thing based on who you know?
    I mean 2 of Platon’s assitants? And a few Jen Bekman shooters on the list? It just seems that reg, good photogs don’t have a chance really unless they’re associated with someone in the NY photo world.

  11. @8, kinda agree on the Soth comment, but it’s not so much Soth except the entire trend of the fine art market for the last 20 odd years finally getting trite. But there’s lots of work in there that’s not of that style: the photojournalists and the two fashion people aren’t of that vain at all. imo.

    @10, no, I know people who’ve been in it and one currently in it, and it has nothing to do with who you know – at least not like you’re implying. Many are from NYC, and this goes back to something that’s been discussed on this site before, b/c people living and working in NYC simply tend to be doing more dialed work and are also more exposed. But there’s no drinks with the editors sort of shit going on.

  12. re: “But there’s no drinks with the editors sort of shit going on.”

    but it definitely helps. i had my name tossed in the bucket for consideration(though i didn’t make the final cut and, rightfully so I think.) after running into a couple of ppl at a small opening i was having. And I would say it helps very much to have done assignments for the people who are listed as helping find this years 30. you have to have the work to back it up but, I would think it definitely helps to know people and have someone else in the decision making group speaking for the value of your work versus just submitting it to a group who has no personal connection to you.

    also, ditto on the comment about their work looking better in print. wasn’t too impressed w/ Krause’s work on his site but in print it’s much better. though i still am not that impressed by his stuff.

    I really liked McGregor’s work though. And Munem Wasif’s pj work is pretty amazing I thought.

  13. Yeah, Wasif’s work is sick. Young too. But one of my favs on the list. None of the portraits knocked my socks off. Though I did like Graeme Mitchell’s stuff. Also young. Damn. Kind of depressing.

  14. fashion wise I don’t really see the attraction to MCGARITY &MCGARITY. based on their website.
    and a lot on the list have shot for most big NY (Esquire, NYT Mag, NAt Geo GQ etc…) mags anyway. I don’t get why they’re “ones to watch” I mean they’re already shooting for major clients right? Shouldn’t ones to watch be like newbies?

  15. yeah. MItchell’s stuff tears it up! I hope to see a lot more from him.

  16. before i even read the above comments i looked at one of the images and thought ‘platon assistant’.


    i saw one image in the selection there that bordered on plagiarism – however without knowing the photographer i guess you have to give the benefit of the doubt…

    overall though, i enjoyed looking at the work and there is some really great stuff.

  17. Recently arrived is more like it. I think it would be too difficult to feature real up and comers.

    A NY magazine staffed by NY’ers that caters to a NY based photo industry, national magazines and advertising agencies all based in NY all staffed by people living in NY and you’re surprised by a favoritism to NY’ers?

  18. Gee, let’s guess who the Platon assistants are… hmmm.
    Call me a curmudgeon, but I think PDN is grasping at straws here. I can spot one of them pretty easily (and it’s not just because of the Platon pic of the winner).

    I mean, you have some “personal/documentary” type photographers who, while good technicians within the “spare, graphic color reportage” category, IMHO lack any sort of innovation or individuality in their work (and it’s not just Soth-y but also Tunbjork-y, Parr-esque, Shore-y, etc.).

    And no offense to the fashion people on the list – they are fine photographers and I am sure outstanding, nice people – but when you’re flagging the hottest, best new talent in the industry and you go with people who are shooting for Surface, Zink, Gotham, Portland Monthly and so on instead of fashion magazines that are taken seriously within the fashion world, it damages their editors’ credibility. To me it says they had a better eye and a better sense of the industry a few years ago when they picked David Slijper (a no brainer, since he was already shooting for all the top european mags). I wish the 30 all the best, but I think the editors need to do something a bit more unexpected or at least be a bit more plugged into what’s new, interesting and relevant.

  19. btw Domingo Milella doesn’t have a website, he’s an old friend I have been meaning to ask him about it.

    Mind you I didnt have a website when I was a 30 but that was back in the stone age 2003.

  20. I agree with the Jackanory. Domingo’s work is off the charts and I would imagine buzz alone got him into the room.

  21. @21: Thank you Ben.

    As I was saying about their selections lacking innovation or originality…

    Of course, I’m not knocking Jennifer Rocholl, since Jan von Hollenben may be the one lacking originality or maybe they could have had the same idea independently of each other.

  22. “Domingo’s work is off the charts” I just had a look at this guys work. Without the colour this work was perfected in the 19th Century, revived by The New Topographic’s photographers – Baltz, Deal and co in the 1970’s, yes it looks technically wonderful but most people who know how to use a 10×8 proficiently can do it.

  23. Re: #10
    I was chosen last year and had no NY connections.
    It has been a great year but let me tell you my expectations were a lot higher.
    Everything takes time and patience.

  24. I see some familiar names on there, even some familiar bloggers. A few new names as well.

  25. Yeah, there definitely was one in the list that I would call plagiarism, although I guess with Richard Prince out there nothing can possibly be called plagiarism in photography. But when you see it and say “Oh, I know that work, of course that photog deserves to be on the list, that was the most innovative thing I saw this year!” … but then it’s not the work of the actual innovator. Hm.

  26. Dude, The kid that prints Alec Soth’s stuff was on the list last year. The PdN 30 is so NYcentric. It is sick.

  27. @ #23
    Seeing the work online is one thing. Seeing the 30×40 print is a whole other story.

  28. @18, no offense, dude, but if they were shooting for top fashion mags they wouldn’t be entering this competition. They wouldn’t need to. If you’ve any grasp on the fashion editorial market you’ll know it’s not as simple as do good work = shoot for good mags. Far from it. Zink and Surface are decent mags to shoot for if your stateside.

  29. @17 APE: “Recently arrived is more like it” — definitely NOT Donald W, he arrived years ago.

  30. Wait – I did? My mom will be glad to hear that. I left college in 2001 and received my first paycheque in 2002, so, 6 years.

    As for the NYC bias, I don’t know, I’m from Toronto and live in Moscow and go to NYC maybe once a year, I like the Rangers.

  31. “Seeing the work online is one thing. Seeing the 30×40 print is a whole other story.”

    Thats to state the obvious. If its about print quality for you, again 19th Century photography (daguerreotypes, contact glass plate printing and other process) more or less perfected image quality over any enlargement process – take a look at quality large plate prints, 14×19 plus from the period. Much of the photography we see today is just not challenging, yes I like to see great print quality but I want to see a visual progression ! I’m bored and its not because I need to be visually “educated” its because Ive seen the stuff, visually and technically so many times before for so many years. There are the odd occasions when I look on flickr and see someone who has, in my view, outstanding talent, I mean they are doing stuff which cant be taught and yes I know flickr is full of terrible stuff as well.

  32. @18: No offense taken and none intended. They are fine photographers with good work, but in just last year’s picks the credits represented included Italian Vogue, Dazed, i-D, W, and Wonderland… so next to those, Zink and Surface pale considerably.

    I have nothing against those mags – they’re fine if you want to become a successful commercial photographer, but the last time a Surface “graduate” really blew up, it was Clang and that was 7 years ago. Seen his work in Surface lately? I think he fired that client a while ago.

    Fact is, they’re not taken as seriously in Fashion (with a big “F”) as the stateside letter mags like V, T, W or even some of the newer indies with heaps more cred.

  33. There seems to be a pharmaceutical effect I’m getting from this list. Not quite trippy, but sorta subdued and restraining. Global prozac kind of feel.

  34. @34 – I thought it was only me. So much of the fine art portraiture looks to be of people on some type of downer. I personally feel disconnected to so much of it because I am a pretty happy person and I come from a culture where laughter and joy and optimism are celebrated. So it really doesn’t work for me. But I still appreciate on certain levels, but I get tired of it pretty quickly.

    “You’re pale and look like you popped a Xanax (or need to) – can I take your picture?” .

  35. the work seems pretty gentle this year around
    I think it’s reflective of a general new york fine art trend (natural moody static mysterious)

  36. […] For more interesting discussion on this year’s winners, including reaction to the fact that all of the photographers were judged on electronic submissions rather than printed portfolios (what does this mean for the future of your book?), be sure to go here. […]

  37. yawner terrain – weakest in years….

  38. It would seem Mike McGregor has been a good understudy of Platon…. His quote on the bottom of his PDN page is almost a direct quote from an interview with Platon on his site.

    “There is room for just one ego during a shoot and only the subject can be that ego.”


    the quote is close to the end of the video.

    Mike’s got really good work.

  39. @38 – holy sh*t i just watched that – thats amazing – i cant believe this guy…maybe it’s platon’s evil twin!!

  40. @38 @39: Nothing new. There are droves of mini-Avedons out there, a few mini-Terrys, a few mini-Burbridges, several mini-Goldins, one or two mini-Clangs, an army of mini-LaChapelles, one particular mini-Sims I can think of and I can’t even count the number of mini-Shores, Parrs, Dijkstras, and so on. And don’t even get me started about all the high-contrast-B&W-stockinged mini-Newtons and mini-von Unwerths. It’s gotten so bad these days that 95% of the photographers out there are a mini-someone. Just hang out at any art school these days and you will be astounded by the lack of original thought.

    It’s natural that Mike should be influenced by his boss. It’s obvious that he has a lot of admiration for the guy (I hear Platon is one of the nicest, most down to earth people on the planet) so he is AHEM “paraphrasing without citation” to put it politely but when the mini-ness comes from having worked for someone, I always hope to eventually see their work evolve beyond mini- status and come into it’s own. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I can think of a few careers built on knocking off an ex-boss.

    Ultimately, I don’t think it’s ever a good thing to be viewed as a “mini” though. After all, why get a fake when you can have the real thing?

  41. If there’s one for sure thing in this biz, it’s that there are no rules on how to build a career. Everyone’s got a different story. Way different.

    I feel that point right when you begin to build momentum – late 20s early 30s – is hard as hell, b/c it’s the point where you find out if you’re a mini or if you have something in you. And everyone starts as a mini in some way, so I’d personally never hold it against any young photographer who’s at that point.

    It’s a hard biz, especially in the editorial/fashion market now, which is stagnant (not the photography, but the actual mags) and rarely risking younger talent or new ideas. Not like that wave of rags out in the 90s. So this rubs off on the younger shooters. They end up shooting it like a commercial job (i.e. not original), just to not screw it up and to get tears. Nobody in the systems promoting anything with any nuts.

    I’ve kind of been there and done this though, so maybe I’m just nice b/c I sympathize and know it’s not as easy as being born a creative genius and knocking on W door.

  42. Yeah, It’s not Mike’s fault. He’s doing what photographers have always done to build their careers. It’s PDN’s list. It just goes to show you how working for a named photographer can advance your career quickly.

  43. I agree with post #27. News Flash………….New York City is NOT the center of the universe!!

  44. @#9 Thank you! This is exactly the problem with a lot of new comers. The work looks good online because you can hide all the mistakes with a small 500X750 pixel image but does it look good in print?

    A photo is not finished until it’s printed.

  45. Meha Matei shot my wedding 2 years ago… now shes in the PDN top 30..

  46. #38 & #39 – If it matters I did directly contribute the quote to Platon in my interview. PDN even got it right in the print version. My interviewer asked me what I learned from him – it was a major lesson. Sucks that they did not get it right online. I actually apologized to Platon before I realized it was not my mistake…

  47. #46 Mike
    It’s good to hear from you on this forum.
    I didn’t want to take anything away from your work. I couldn’t help but bring it up. It was really weird to see that quote.

  48. @38 – the video link.

    Anyone that sucks up to and helps re-enforce the celeb culture makes me wanna vomit all over them,this guy even does it with the intonation and accent of his voice although you may need to have a British ear to fully “get it” – puke inducing and about as challenging as a gnats cock.

  49. “this guy even does it with the intonation and accent of his voice although you may need to have a British ear to fully “get it” – puke inducing and about as challenging as a gnats cock.”

    sorry but I have a british ear and I really did miss that. It would be nice to get a link from your name though.


  50. Sorry I have no website, why would it be nice to have a link to my name Robert?

  51. I think the best compliment to the list is I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the images and listening to: BOXER, from The National. Try it…..

  52. “makes me wonder if printed portfolios are finally starting to fall out of favor”


    For someone seemingly tuned in to the future of things, I was amazed to see you write this. Anyone who’s ever printed photos for real (larger than A3 and really, I’m talking a minimum of 100cm wide) knows that those printed portfolios are a joke at the size they are at and especially considering that when printed for magazine format, its a piece of cake to get it right comparatively.

    Bottom line, if I can give you a nice jpeg at 1024 pixels then it will look nice on your small magazine page.

    A physical portfolio print at that size MIGHT give you an idea of whether I can turn in a nice 100cm print.

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