(This is an edited and reprinted article I wrote a few months back and published on my other blog.)
It’s dangerous to romanticize the past too much because it alienates us from the newer generation, but I’ll start by saying that Rolling Stone Magazine was always a HUGE influence on me and my work. It was extremely important in crafting the way I shoot portraits and it will forever remain that for me…a driving force in art, music and rebellion. In a waterproof box in storage is the Kurt Cobain Death issue, among others, that I couldn’t bear to toss out. It was back when RS was fat, thick, and lush, full of eye catching photographs and gorgeous, saturated tones.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a subscription to RS although I buy one for plane rides and the occasional political story. Over the last six years in LA I’ve reached out to them 20 or so times to try to shoot for them. (They politely ignored my requests) But the magazine industry has melted into a strange amalgamation of pay walls, websites and throw away content at this point. Culturally, we are less aware of what “good” media is, good writing, good photos, good research, etc. and we are way more concerned with how fast we can consume it. The rate at which we consume doesn’t warrant all the effort we used to put into it.
And here’s the chicken or the egg: Magazines lost money to the internet so they paid less for content so the quality went down and now the magazines are low quality that no one wants to pay for. I don’t pretend I know how to fix it, but I don’t think we are any closer than we were five years ago. And I don’t think the iPhone 7 Plus helps us either.
I picked this up the doctor’s office a couple weeks back. The first thing I noticed about this RS cover was how yellow it was. That’s easy enough to fix. The second thing I noticed was that her hands were cut off. This is such a rookie composition mistake, but I understand maybe they cropped them for the cover. Thirdly…other than the fact that Lourde is famous…who cares? I mean, if you saw this and you weren’t a die hard Lourde fan, would you look twice? What about this photo would make you want to purchase or even open this magazine? And that’s kind of the crux of it.
Yea, great, the iPhone makes a good technical photo that you can reproduce. But if the photo doesn’t push me or pull me, then who cares? And what’s crazy is, Lourde is cool! Lourde is someone who is so full of personality and opinions, not to mention, talent! There would be a million ways to make this cover better which I won’t bore you with. But here it is:
Anyone can make a photo. Anyone can make a decent or even GREAT photo. This photo on the cover of Rolling Stone is neither.
I appreciate that RS needs ad money to survive and I appreciate that Apple thought this was a good marketing move, but are we so enamoured with the tech that we lost the art? I think the answer is yes. Portrait mode is slick, and I use the hell out of the slow motion feature on my Galaxy, but I know that making art is bigger than the tools that help you make them. And art, photography, music, movies, magazines, are ALL suffering now because the the tools are so readily available but the motive, the message, the feeling, the blood, sweat, effort, love, hate desire…it’s just not there like it used to be. (Not to mention the money…)
Full disclosure, Rolling Stone never hired me which I didn’t get too butthurt about. Photographers who take above average photos with lots of opinions about things, shit, man, we are EVERYWHERE. Personally, though, I hope we can pull out of this “content-for-contents’-sake” thing and get back to making art that has teeth.