Why I Love Magazine

Not that you were asking but I’m going to share my magazine thoughts with you…again. Why? First, I’m amazed at how many people don’t know we make a magazine. Second, this format is SO unique in how it looks, how it can be designed and what it means to those who receive it. And third, there are SO MANY people who have the drive and talent to be publishing their own. How do I know? Because I did it. On a small scale mind you. I shot, edited, sequenced and designed a short run magazine, back in like 2009, and sold my allotted number.(100) And I’m pretty sure I could have sold a lot more.

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Now, am I going to support myself on magazine sales? Probably not, but I will tell you within a week of “announcing” I was going to do this I was getting calls from people who wanted to advertise. I ended up not doing any advertising, didn’t really need it, but had I chosen to go down that route I think I could have managed it. The magazine has ALWAYS been one of the Holy Grails to documentary style photographers, going back to the days of Look and Life. HOWEVER, all of this died back in the mid 1990’s, and yet many of us are still pretending like these magazines are the keys to “getting work out.” Please. They aren’t, and they haven’t been for a long, long while, but the magazine is still very alluring because of what it means.
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First, it’s designed to be discarded, in most cases that is. We all have friends who have every copy of National Geographic or Rolling Stone or Off-Road Buckshot Mudder….come on people I grew up country. To some the magazine is SACRED ground. Most people get a magazine, read it, leave it around until they look at it and ask “Why am I keeping these?” then toss them out. But why? BECAUSE THEY KNOW ANOTHER ISSUE IS ON THE WAY. People this is so fantastic. Ever thought about a subscription list? A simple email database of those who want in? How easy is that to compile? Wait for it….I’m doing this precise thing. Stay tuned for a subsequent post.

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Also, magazines are informal in comparison to books. They are treated differently, taken poolside, used to mop up the puke of sick kids and probably still read, but I would need independent verification from you parents out there. Magazines travel. They are given away. My wife gives her’s away on airplanes. “Hey, wanna read this?” she asks and they are ALWAYS taken. Try giving a book away on a plane. It might work but people might think you are creepy too. And for all I know you ARE creepy. You’re here aren’t you?
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These last two spreads are from a new project, Whistleblower, which is a look at the modern surveillance culture and the changing terminology of modern warfare. The images were made in various places around the world.

In a way this was a trial run. Just another test in a long, long line of tests. I made mistakes, even after proofing so many times I almost threw up. It happens. To everyone. Don’t sweat it. Correct and move on. Live and learn. Enjoy. When I see this magazine I think to myself, “What are the limits here, the possibilities?” and what comes back at me is…..there aren’t any. What are we waiting for? Permission? An editor to assign something then embargo the work after running ONE image? If you are a wedding photographer why not run a quarterly run of your best images which then goes out to your top vendors, planners and former clients, via print or “E?” If you are a editorial photographer why not run an issue on what didn’t run via mainstream channels? If you are an amateur who shoots for fun why not do a run for your family to keep them up on what is turning you on in the visual world?

We all need to get hip and get hip NOW. This isn’t 1975, or 1985 or 1995 or even 2005. This is a blank slate. A playing field where everyone gets in the game.

Book Subscription Newsletter

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Dear Smogranch Reader:

Testing something here…..and I’m hoping you will play along. I’m thinking of starting a quarterly publication, a magazine I’m guessing, and am attempting to figure out not only how many people are interested but also the best way to communicate with those people. The idea is when I hit “Publish” you will all be notified of the arrival of said publication. Not that you have to actually buy the damn thing, although that would be nice, but at least you will know about the happening. In the future I will offer one-hundred print copies, but there will be an opened ended number of digital copies available. So, if you are so inclined, sign up and take the ride. Like I said, this is an ongoing test. I was hesitant to do this, but I think this ability is critical for anyone seriously wanting to independently publish, something I find myself wanting to encourage. Also working on a way to “spiff” one of the hundred people, randomly of course, but I’ve got some ideas.
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Here is your mission if you choose to accept it. The test magazine is here. I never intended to go public with this, which is ironic considering the title and content. Shot with Leica, and Hasselblad, and shot on location in Utah, California, New York and the United Kingdom, “Whistleblower” is a look at the terminology of modern warfare hidden in the language of everyday life. This is a mere twenty-pages and is only a first taste of the project. Subsequent magazines will be a higher page count with more content.

LINK TO THE NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

LINK TO THE EBOOK

As for now, I’m only going to offer this as Ebook. When it’s done, sometime in 2055, I’ll offer the print version. Thanks people.

Blurb Advice

Make the right publication.

It sounds simple, but Blurb has become a truly diverse offering, so the options are exponentially what they were a few short months ago. With new additions like offset printing, Blurb to Amazon and Blurb Global Retail Network the user has many choices to make.

But I don’t want to talk about these things just yet because LONG before these decisions are made you have to have a serious conversation with yourself in regard to who you are, what work you actually have and what your audience will truly consume. You have to make the right publication.

I say this after several years of working for the company, and after meeting with thousands of people across several continents. I’m going to narrow this advice to the photographer world for several reasons. First, most of those reading this blog are from that world, and also because I’ve met with more photographers than any other genre of the creative world. Today is another story, but historically this has been true.
Philip Vigil, artist, in his studio in the Jemez.
(I need new bio pic so bad I’m reduced to this. A selfie from a bathroom near the Jemez Reservation.)

I still see a fair number of photographers making publications that feel historical, expected or in other words publications that look like something they think they are supposed to make. Look, making any publication has the potential to teach you copious amounts in regard to your work, your design skills, your typography skills and your ability to move this book if moving it was part of the original plan, and remember, not all publications are made equal or even to be sold for that matter. I’m currently making a magazine for someone else, and they don’t even know I’m making it. (Yes, I’ve lost it.)

I ALWAYS start with a goal. Experimentation? Portfolio? Catalog? Sell it? Don’t sell it? Sell it to those I already know? Sell it to those I don’t know? What is the work? What book does the work demand? (Not the other way around!). What about a magazine? What about a series of magazines? Do I have audio for an Ebook? Do I need an Ebook? Do I even understand how an Ebook works? Folks, these are just a FEW of the things that go through my head upon making the decision to put more publications into the world.

I don’t know you personally, and I don’t know your work necessarily, but I can almost GUARANTEE that NOBODY you know wants to look at 400 photographs. Or 300. Or 200. Or even 100. Not unless you did a book of nude celebrities, and if this is the case then ignore this entire post. But for the rest of you, myself included, we need to realize the world is a very different place in 2014, and the one thing that is unequivocally in short supply is attention. I simply can’t take in that many images. I’d rather see ten great images in a clean and powerful pub than a 250 image opus on your trip to India.

The first question I get from a lot of photographers is “What is the biggest book I can make?”

Not a good place to start actually. Good for Blurb? Yes. Quite. But we want you to have success, to be happy, and certain books demand the largest size, the highest page count and the top-of-the-line materials, but many do not. Most deserve a very specific set of ingredients, all of which start with the work.

Ask yourself what the work feels like. What size compliments that feeling? What materials? Uncoated stock? Coated? Landscape format? Portrait? Or does a magazine better suite your story? What price point does the publication need to stay under for it to be viable to the audience you are searching for? Would the work be better as multiple books? A set perhaps? Chapters? Or maybe the EPub will open your work up to an entirely new, global audience who may or may not be able to purchase a print copy?

Resting on my handmade bookshelves at home are over 350 monograph style publications, most of which were published traditionally. The truth is I rarely spend much time with these publications. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with them, I do, but life gets in the way. I spend more time with the odd balls, the one-offs the publishing orphans. They FEEL different. They feel wildly personal, almost as if the photographer or artist did ONLY what they wanted to do, and consequently these publications have a resonance.

So you have some choices ahead of you. Make the most of them, and enjoy the process. These questions, this exploration is what makes all of this so much fun. And don’t worry about hitting home runs. They will happen if you just focus on plot and swing easy.

I’d like to continue this Blurb advice theme over the coming months, but more specific to certain topics. Also, you people interested in podcasts? Hit me back and let me know. I’ll continue the other content as well, but these two things are interesting to me.

For your listening pleasure I’ve included a link to the interview I did in regard to magazines.

Gig Magazine

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Welcome to Gig Magazine. I dig the Hell out of this. One guy, a desire and boom….a magazine. I keep waiting to see more of these efforts so get off your butts and make one. I’ve done two in the past month, but am working on my next “official” version which might be for sale….

From the “about” tab.

“gig MAGAZINE is unique because each issue features only one band at one gig.

The goal of gig MAGAZINE is to bring attention to the band, the venue, as well as the people in the background that work to make the gig happen and connect them with the fans. Our magazine is not filled with ads, each issue is 12 pages, has about 10 photographs and an interview with the band. The issues will also include contact information for the band, venue, and promoters involved to make the gig happen.”
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This beast is the brainchild of one Justin Thor Simenson of Nuevo Mexico. I thought it would be a stellar idea to drop him a few questions and pick his brain about life, love and the merger of music and magazine.
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1. Who are you? What are you?

My name is Justin Thor Simenson. I am a photographer based in Albuquerque. I photograph long term projects as well as live performances.

2. Why Gig? What is the story behind the music?

After shooting quite a few shows and reviewing my photos I realized that the story of just a single show was well worth telling. gig MAGAZINE is about a single artist at a single show. That brings a certain weight and meaning behind that show and all the effort involved in it. I also do my interviews at the show. That makes them relevant. they are open conversations that I record. I do try to talk about the artists’ creative drive or something relative to the show they played. Their words combined with about 10 to 12 photos make up the magazine.

3. Why Blurb?

I had some experience with MagCloud before gig. I had used them to make a catalog for a friend and some digest sized books for myself. I knew that the magazine size was perfect for gig because it is such a traditional size to hold. MagCloud, now Blurb, also offers an easy to use marketplace for me to sell them in both digitally and in print. Plus the price is amazing.

4. What’s the short term and long term goal?

Short term I plan to cover Albuquerque’s local music scene and New Mexico’s venues. I am still working through tweaks in the layout and different ways to distribute the printed versions locally. Albuquerque has some great talent and I feel gig MAGAZINE can help them with exposure.

Long term I would love to collaborate with other photographers around the country. I know there are other towns and cities that have great musicians and great venues just waiting to be shared with the world. I would also love to collaborate with local venues to create unique issues of the magazine.
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5. What would you like to see improved, changed or added?

It would be great to have the option of different paper selections for the cover. gig MAGAZINE is only 12 pages and because of that having a slightly heavier stock on the cover or a matte finish would be awesome.

Also, I look forward to working in Blurb’s Bookwright software. I have been creating my issues in an older version of Apple’s Pages because the new one has some ridiculous limitations for magazine layout. I am not a designer by any means and I want something that is straight forward, I hear Bookwright will be a step in that direction for me. And after further consideration and after downloading Bookwright….Justin added this thought. Actually there is one thing I would like Blurb to add. After I downloaded and installed Bookwright I realized that Blurb magazines doesn’t allow 12 page magazines. MagCloud has a stapled edge option that allows me to do my 12 page magazine and is a bit cheaper than the perfect edge.

I would also like to see a thicker cover or a matte finish cover option added. That would make the magazine stand out a bit more.

6. Influences? Who are the folks turning you on creatively?

My biggest music photography influence has to be Douglas Kent Hall hands down. His photographs from the 60’s and 70’s are amazing. There are quite a few current music photographers I follow, Peter Pabon, Erez Avissar , and Jesse Littlebird Because of the other work I photograph I also pull a lot from the fine art world and Fraction Magazine.

New Nicaragua “EMag”

Best ten bucks I ever spent. Okay,I have probably spent ten bucks on something even better say…a twelve-pack (Milwaukee’s Best) while I was in college or a dinner of for a girlfriend I was hoping to dazzle with my smoothness. (Sorry honey, we are talking YEARS ago.) But I have to say this electronic, digital, Nica thingy is a pretty good use of my time and money.

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Am digging this new toy. Yes, the answer is yes. OF COURSE there is the print version, which I just paid my hard earned Cordobas for, and it’s on the way. It’s a small, 20-pager, less than six bucks. I used to think I would make extravagant Ebooks and mags, but then I remembered I don’t know how to design anything like that. Also, something else happened. I showed one of these babies to a friend, on my third iPad before it broke, and something funny happened. A FRIEND mind you. Let me say this again…A FRIEND. Someone who I THOUGHT would have spent copious time pouring over my BRILLIANT work, only to have them spend about 45 seconds, flip, flip, flipping through, listening to HALF of ONE audio file and then hand the iPad back to me AND THEN BEGAN TALKING TO ME ABOUT THEIR OWN WORK.
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So I did this Nicaragua Emagazine. The difficult part here is that I didn’t have much imagery to work with. I didn’t want to use anything that was workshop related. You see I have no real goal with this thing. Not trying to sell it or promote it etc., just doing it to enjoy it for myself, and to play with the stills/audio situation. I am still a novice here folks. What I design today are VERY simple Emags or Ebooks. The reality is most people have very little attention span. Sad but true. So, I design for the modern brain, not my ideal brain or the brain of 1985….a brain which had little more to do than wait for the next episode of Miami Vice! Now, this isn’t to say I don’t design more complicated or sophisticated work. I do, but I don’t necessarily put that work up front and center and ask people to consume it. The second version of this, and the print piece, are already in version two in terms of design, and I’m certain there will be at least a version three.
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This particular Emag is just single image per spread and single audio file, most which are thirty-seconds or less. Remember when a three-minute YouTube video was considered the “sweet spot?” Ya, try that now. Even Yoda can’t hang for three minutes….just TOO BUSY apparently because every single item of every single day now is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. Me, I spend hours watching gun videos and people 4x4ing across swamps in the southern part of America. What else do I have to do?
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Even in 2014 I’m still running into vast amounts of confusion when it comes to something as simple as a digital version of a print piece. Still. No joke. I run into the “Oh, I can’t do one of those because it will kill my print sales,” people. In short, I’ve NEVER ONCE seen this happen. Also, I’ve never heard this expression from someone who actually made anything “E.” Never. Not once. I also run into the “What am I going to do with that?” crowd. I can only do so much. Make one, think for 15 seconds. You can and will figure it out. And finally the “I would never use that,” crowd. Lots and lots of art schools students in this crowd who cling to their “I’m an artist and I’m a print person” call to arms. I know this because of my job, but also because I was one of those people. I even dropped the “I would never show my work on a phone,” lines. (My chest is puffed out even now.) Until I started showing work on my phone. Granted, not to anyone I was really trying to impress, but handy situations like being on a plane and my prints are in my checked bag kind of thing.
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Emags/Ebooks are fun, and they make me think about my work in a very different way. They also make me think about audience. For $10 I can acquire the first copy then distribute for free, globally, or sell if I so choose.(Read up on Ebooks in general and you will know what a hot topic this is at the moment.) I’m in a house right now, right this second, with three other people who are all on laptops with Mavericks. I can email them this little baby and boom it’s in their iBooks. However….they also have a stack of unread magazines on their kitchen counter…so Uncle Dan isn’t going to ignore that little reality either. But let me restate….UNREAD magazines. Undivided attention and time is what most of us are after, and it is at a premium people. I don’t have enough work to make a book from this trip, so it will live in magazine and Emag form only. Again, just for me. When I finish the mag, get it where I want, I’ll print a few, leave them around till my wife throws them out. Because that is what I do. This Emag, Estory, Ebook world is SO NEW and SO YOUNG that I feel it brims with excited. I don’t understand it all, don’t yet know what will work and what won’t, at least with any degree of certainty, but the game is very intriguing to me. I am purchasing a new book, “augmented.” A novel. Massive undertaking available in both print and “augmented” version. I’m diving in, and JUST reading the intro I’ve already figured out a new direction to take on my NEW Emag I’ll be starting in the new week. The world is a hybrid place now, where the straight and traditional still have a solid home but the “anything” is possible is always within reach. I say we go for it.

If you make one of these email it to me and I’ll load it on my phone/laptop and will show it to folks when I’m traveling the world. I get tired of looking at my own stuff.

Photography note: The cover image, the all black first image with streaks of white, is an image of embers from a fire drifting up into the night sky. The title page image is a reflection of me in a stainless steel outhouse door. The rest are self explanatory. PS: you can click on these files to make them slightly larger…