A few months ago, woman who is starting a magazine (a courageous woman, given the state of the print publishing industry) asked me if she could run some pictures from This Green Growing Land, my series on farm workers. I asked her about context. She said that the publication, Edible Monterey Bay, was a regional magazine about food with a locavore perspective, and the farm workers series played right in to that. She planned to run the photos over several pages, with a little explanatory text.
That sounded good to me. I pointed her at my web site, she picked out the pictures she liked, asked me if any of my favorites got left out, and gave me the specs for the print-ready files. I prepared them and sent them off. After a while, she sent me a draft of the text. It wasn’t the spin I would have put on it, but I was fine with it.
The first issue of the magazine came out two weeks ago. The good news: a print run of 20,000, nice color reproduction. The bad: only two-and-a-half pages of photos (didn’t sell enough ads). The really bad: they cropped the photos to make the graphic design pretty.
I have only myself to blame. I never asked whether they’d crop the work. I never told them they couldn’t. It had been so long – maybe thirty years – since someone had cropped my work for publication that I never thought about it. I knew that there was a graphic artist who was doing the layout for the magazine. If I’d have thought about it, I would have realized that the graphic artist might care more about a clean, neat layout than the compositional qualities of the photos, and that the editor/publisher might not appreciate art photographers’ aversions to having anyone else crop their work. But the big clue should have been that this publication wasn’t, at its heart, about art. Whatever the signs, I missed them all.
It was a surprise, but I’m not hugely upset about it. Maybe it will draw traffic to my web site, where people can see the work as I intended. There’s a launch party, and I’ve been invited to display the real photographs there. The editor was very nice about it.
It’s been an eye opener for me, and I’ll ask about cropping next time.