WARNING: since I wrote this post, Photographer’s i Issue 4 has been published, and it is quite different Issue 1 to 3. My conclusions on this publication here do not apply any more. See my (updated) rant on the matter for further details.
I’m an avid reader of photography magazines. These days I’ve got over the repetitive, shallow print titles that seem to be little more than dressed up advertising wrapped in either ghastly overblown epic landscapes or the perennial soft porn. I’m also increasingly getting bored with gear, and more and more realising how meaningless in real terms the vast majority of gear review sites are. But what I do still enjoy is reading about photography and photographers.
The publishing world has been turned on its head first by the internet, and then by the iPad and its copycats. A direct-to-consumer business model has emerged which allows viable publications to be run free, or almost free, of advertising or the more insidious product placement. Two particularly nice examples of this are “Photographer’s i”, edited by Michael Freeman, and “Photograph”, edited by David duChemin. I’ve subscribed to both.
Photographer’s i, which has reached Issue 3, is perhaps the most ambitious. Edited by the renowned author-photographer Michael Freeman, it uses a fully interactive format and is distributed as an iPad Bookshelf app through Apple’s App Store. The format allows for embedded video, for interactive tutorials, and for variable formatting. It is quite similar in approach to National Geographic’s electronic edition. It features an eclectic and impressive range of contributors, and each issue is pretty weighty. Production standards are immaculate. It does cover some technical topics, but completely avoids gear reviews. But mostly it’s about photography, in all shapes and sizes. It’s available by subscription, at £2.99 for 2 months, or by issue at £3.99. There are also free samplers. Issue 4, however, seems to be rather overdue, and I’m pretty sure my subscription auto-renewed already. There are several complaints about this on the App Store. I suspect it is due at least in part to Apple’s restrictive pricing models. Another downside, for some, is that so far it’s iPad only. But if you’ve got an iPad, and you’re into intelligent writing on photography, then it’s a no-brainer.
Photograph is brand new, with Issue 1 just out. Published through Canadian world & humanitarin photographer David duChemin’s Craft & Vision, this is a straightforward PDF title, so it’s more universally accessible. Going by Issue 1, and by the general quality of Craft & Vision titles, Photograph has little to envy Photographer’s i for. The list of authors is equally impressive - Photographer’s i may have Steve McCurry, but Photograph has Art Wolfe. Photograph also gives more space to, well, photographs, with generous portfolios from a series of photographers, ending with an interview. A classic, but effective, format. And although they’re at different points in their careers, duChemin is just as eloquent and readable as Freeman. Photograph also covers a wide range of styles and downplays gear - although, again, there is some technical content. Based on Issue 1, the balance is fine. Photograph Issue 1 costs $8. A subscription to 4 issues will cost $24 - and you can try Issue 1, then pay an extra $16 to subscribe if you like it. A pretty fair deal.
Both titles are well worth your money and your time. Of course, if you haven’t got an iPad, then Photographers i is out of bounds, which is a shame. Hopefully they will find a way to reach a broader market (although I’m sure the iPad market alone is perfectly viable). Long term, I do wonder if the less overhead-intensive production approach of Photograph might give it more staying power. I’m afraid that Photographer’s i may have bitten off more than it can chew. But the key, in both cases, will be maintaining the quality of content, and avoid repetitiveness. Time will tell, but so far they’re both doing a great job.