Discover and Cultivate Talent

- - Magazines

The winners of the Hearst 8×10 Photography Biennial were recently announced (here). I was struck by how novel it seemed for a company like Hearst who publishes magazines like; Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, Marie Claire, O, Popular Mechanics and Town & Country to hold a contest that “is an international competition to identify and promote new and emerging photographers” where they think the winners are “rising stars who will play an important role in the future of magazines, media, the Web and the worlds of design and photography.”

It used to be an open secret that one of the most profitable names in the television industry, HBO, went to great lengths to discover, develop and take chances on unknown talent. Many of their biggest hits came from unknown writers they took chances on (here) or discovered through one of their contests.

So, why don’t magazines do the same? Besides the obvious lack of vision at the top of most publication it’s likely because they don’t realize their future depends on finding talented people and attracting them to magazines over other mediums. The history of magazines is littered with ultra talented writers, photographers, designers and editors and somehow I think in the last 10 or more years many of these people may have gone into advertising instead and now with all the potential on the web who knows if they will find their way into the magazine industry.

I once worked at a magazine that built their reputation with a handful of extremely talented writers who all eventually moved on. I often wondered how they planned to find the next group of talented writers who would define the next phase of the magazine. Now that I think about it, talent scouting might have done the job. This Hearst Biennial seems like a good step in that direction for photography.

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The winning photographers are:
Andy Freeberg
Louie Palu
Benedikt Partenheimer
Brad Carlile
Edith Maybin
Nicholas Prior
Mark Kessell

There Are 44 Comments On This Article.

  1. They publish Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, Marie Claire.. but yet don’t pick one fashion photographer. Nice one.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        I understand that, I just don’t understand labeling the contest as fashion related, then not picking anyone.

        • @Charlie,
          I’m guessing that the judges, Peter Lindbergh perhaps, didn’t find any they thought should win.

          Esquire does a fiction contest and one year nobody won.

  2. And even better, all the images on the website they showcase for the contest are all Lillian Bassman, Peter Lindbergh.

  3. I could not agree more, I think magazines are pretty horrible at discovering new photography talents. Especially the Travel magazines, who are very reluctant to take risks.

    In regards to the Hearst 8×10 competition for “new and emerging” talent, where do you draw the line between “emerging” and “established”. Would Christoph Bangert who has multiple books published and Rachel Dunville who has been widely exhibited, really be considered “emerging”?

    I can’t help but feel it’s just more rehashing and going with safe bets, unless the talent pool is just really poor.

    A Fan,

      • I have to disagree, then one can be considered “emerging” for every magazine that has not published them i.e. the rest of your career. I thought this was about discovering new talent.

        Put some firmer rules in place to avoid sandbagging, no published books, no representation, no major solo shows, etc.

        • @A Fan,
          Seriously? You want THAT group of judges to pick people just out of school? I think that’s ridiculous.

          They should define it to fit their needs. It’s about them discovering new talent. Not you.

          • So did they discover new talent here in Christoph Bangert and Rachel Dunville? I don’t think so. That’s my point! And I’m neutral here as I did not enter this contest.

      • @A Photo Editor, I’m with ‘A Fan’ here. There are some well-known names on this list. That they don’t know them, consider them ’emerging,’ and think that they have ‘discovered’ some of these artists that have been quite well known for a while speaks volumes of the insular little word they live in. I’m sorry, but “we’ve never published this photographer” does not make that photographer a discovery. There are plenty of magazines that have not published Irving Penn and it would be just as ridiculous for them to hold a competition and ‘discover’ his emerging talent. The point here is that they wouldn’t need a competition to find some of these names if they had any idea what was going on around them. It’s not just their lack of vision, it’s their lack of any real interest.

        • @Mark M,
          I think you’re being ultra bitchy about it. The judges include 4 big name photographers, the editor of Esquire, a couple curators and a couple communications people at Hearst.

          The fact that they don’t know a couple photographers (who’s work I’m vaguely familiar with so we’re not talking about household names here like your ridiculous Penn example) who you claim are well-known has nothing to do with “insular little worlds” people live in but rather how little time people have to discover new talent and how cool it is they’ve taken the time to try and do so.

          Believe me I know exactly where you are headed with this and the industry doesn’t work the way you think it does.

          • @A Photo Editor
            I agree (strongly) that it’s cool that people are looking for good work, especially people who are in a position to promote the work. My point is simply that if you are going to have a competition to discover emerging talent, then discover emerging talent. Otherwise just dispense with this trendy ’emerging photographers’ business.

            My Penn example is only as ridiculous as the idea that new is equivalent to “we’ve never published it.”

            • @A Photo Editor

              I’m with Mark and A Fan on this one. There are some recognizable names here. Hiroshi Watanabe won Photolucida a couple years ago, had a book published and is on the roster of several fine art galleries. I own his book. This contest is a crock. If the contest was designed to search out emerging talent, the winners should be new to the industry, not to the magazine. Period. This is just another case of a promotional handjob by a publisher trying to improve its image and wanting to work with certain talent under the guise of a contest.

              • @Steven Rood,
                Too much whining about a contest that Hearst created to give some exposure to photographers they think are hot and who they’ve never heard of. Simply pathetic.

                • phototktk

                  @A Photo Editor,
                  The premise behind the creation of the contest is noble/admirable and the roster of judges is impressive, but the selection choices fall short of achieving the goal. As I didn’t enter this contest, I don’t know if there was additional eligibility criteria beyond what is now available on the site: “Hearst 8 X 10 Photography Biennial will be open to photographers who have at least two years of professional experience, both in the United States and abroad.” That could be about 90% of the photo community. Generally, contests to find valid “emerging” photographers set and enforce more strict rules about *who* is considered “emerging” (i.e. you can’t have a rep, you can’t be with a gallery, you can’t have been published before, etc.). “A Fan” and “Mark” are quite correct: I wouldn’t consider many of these people emerging.

                  (But, as a side note: even if I did, the list doesn’t thrill me.)

                • phototktk

                  @A Photo Editor,
                  That being said, they may have done the best with what they got. Who is to say, without having been one of the judges? It’s all behind closed doors anyway.

                  But, maybe the publicity of the contest just wasn’t in the right places to reach more emerging people.

              • Arty Farty

                @Steven Rood, Exactly. Doesn’t this just go to show that in the great majority of this industry its who you’re connected with and not what you can do that get’s you a leg up.

                What a load of old tosh!

                AF

                • Donnar Party

                  @Arty Farty, you are right about lots of the industry and the whole “emerging photographer” BS, but not the 8×10. The judges and the judging are straight-up.

                • @Arty Farty, and others,

                  Hi,

                  I was lucky to be selected as a winner for this contest. A warm relationship ensued and I felt involved in a larger discussion, understood and honored.

                  I’m a fine art photographer, I’ve just started showing work in galleries in 2006 after completing a masters program in photography. I’m not a photojournalist, or a fashion photographer. My subject matter isn’t particularly politically correct, I didn’t personally know anyone on the judges’ panel.

                  It’s disappointing to read some of the comments; that there wasn’t much of a talent pool, or that I (or any of the winners) was a safe bet, it’s who you know, etc. Thanks for the high five.

                  But my experience with this show has been positive. Hearst could have done 101 other things with their communications budgets, they could have shown known and worthy photography from their archives which I’d imagine would have been easier. But that they decided on the concept of highlighting photographers who are not widely known should be a beacon: for other companies, institutions and galleries like themselves who encourage the infusion of fresh blood into their own and other’s attention spans, and for all the photographers out there like me who are working very hard at making a photograph and hoping that someone is listening.

                  Yes, a show like this benefits Hearst: in drawing attention to their ability to spot and nurture talent. It’s a cool thing to be known for.

  4. The competition said that they were looking for the next “fashion” photographer, but I don’t see any in their selections.

  5. Let me clarify, the ad that I saw in a magazine said that they were looking for the next “fashion” photographer.

  6. I found it interesting that the rules required that you strip all identifying metadata. As if they can’t trust their judges to be unbiased?

    I not surprised by the winners. Fashion images aren’t often winners of photo contests… for whatever reason.

  7. Darrell Eager

    Went to Andy Greenberg’s site and really enjoyed it. Did we all forget that Alec Soth was hired to shoot fashion. Fashion has many interpretations.

  8. I find it rather interesting that the winning photographers don’t seem all that appropriate for the magazines Hearst publishes.

  9. I really like the idea of this competition, but why is it called 8×10 if they don’t even require the stuff to all be large format? Some sort of reference to the iconic “8×10 glossies”? Kind of lame either way….

    • Donnar Party

      @John Fulton, This is your complaint? The title of the competition? Really?

      • Yes, really. Not okay with you I guess? Why is that different then others saying it’s stupid they didn’t choose any fashion when it said that’s what they were looking for?

  10. Interesting that Louie Palu is a “new and emerging photographer”. The guy is one of Canada’s best shooters and he’s been around for nearly 20 years, working for all the major mags, newspapers and galleries all over North America. Seriously, if you’re going to have a contest like this, make it for photogs just graduating or something. Louie’s work is terrific – this is kinda beneath him, not to mention, frustrating for the next generation of untapped photogs I’d imagine.

  11. I think this contest is great. Ironic, yes. The photos of the winners look NOTHING like what is in Hearst magazines but the judges are not the photo editors of the magazines either. Maybe older great photographers should pair with our current photo editors and become the photo editors of tomorrow.

  12. Darrell Eager

    Your right, my bad. Andy Freeberg. But now I’m wondering who Andy Greenberg is.

  13. you forgot to put watanabe in your names list. anyway, loved the selection even if I have to say that is really hard to think at them as “emerging”, but again, interesting to see where the trend is going

  14. I agree Hearst deserves some credit for sponsoring the competition — at least it wasn’t one of those money grab things where you have to pay to enter. But the real proof of Hearst’s desire to uncover new talent will be if they choose some of the winning photographers to do real (i.e., paying market rates) shoots for Hearst magazines. Otherwise the contest is more of a Hearst promotional vehicle than a real talent search.

    I have to agree with what others have said — some of the winners aren’t all that unknown. So the Hearst winner selections seem kind of “safe.” But congratulations to the winners nonetheless. It’s good visibility.

  15. A few things:
    1. The show was called 8×10 because there were 8 photographers selected by 10 judges.
    2. I think the term “emerging” is getting thrown around a lot. The fact is, I don’t think Hearst intentionally excluded people who have already “emerged” (whatever that means). I think Hearst tried to create a show of the best of the work that was submitted. Without question, a lot of the artists on the list have extensive resumes and accomplishments (representation, publications, exhibitions, etc.) — Watanabe, Prior, Dunville — but who cares?
    3. I don’t think there was a conspiracy amongst the divergent group of judges (who probably all judged the work independently, anyway) to intentionally exclude fashion photographers (or any other segment or genre of photographers) unilaterally. Call me an optimist, but I believe that they all probably just wanted the best work in the show in general (after all, there names are at stake here, too).
    4. Personally I really like the selection. And even if I didn’t, I still would applaud Hearst for doing this. (I think these things are always controversial. Even the Whitney can’t do a Biennial without polarizing tons of people.)

      • @elizabeth avedon,
        I think the 10 honorable mentions was an afterthought — a way to acknowledge some of the other outstanding entries. If you read the original press release, it mentions 8 photographers selected by 10 jurors, as in “8 (selected) by 10”. It doesn’t mention anything about honorable mentions.

  16. Donnar Party

    To everyone bitching about the winners and honorable mentions, get over it. The images all have something in common: they are compelling. So all you “emerging photographers”, stop bitching, get off the interweb, be self critical and produce compelling work that doesn’t suck. You want to be successful? Get that compelling work in front of people who buy photos and stop entering contests. There is an industry of paid contests/consultants/products etc. that feeds on your fear and burning desire to be a “professional” photographer. 8×10 is NOT part of that industry. Don’t think about contests and fear. Stop bitching and start shooting, then shoot some more.

  17. To mark Watanabe as ’emerging’ is a real downgrade, he should sue ’em.
    Watanabe – rookie of the year, or what ?
    If he has luck he will be featured in PDN’s 30 as well ? :-)

    Maybe once the Time magazine will run a similar contest and ‘discovering’ Pulitzer price winner Antony Suau (e.g)as ‘photojournalist arising’ ???

  18. I am interested to hear more input on why the winners were chosen and what sets their work apart. I think there is a lot of useless complaining about the contest. I see that the winners are all “compelling” and the typical rules of photography that set in stone in other competitions like PPA are not a concern. What I don’t understand is what makes these so compelling to them. Input? I would like to enter but need more guidance about what works for them.