The Brooks Jensen Effect
I’ve had a subscription to LensWork Magazine for quite a while. (It’s the only magazine where I’ve saved issues, and I have the original issues from way back when it didn’t have photos in it, just articles, and it was 8.5″x11″).
I admit that when my subscription runs out, I’ll let it lapse. The issues don’t seem to hold my attention much any more. That’s not necessarily the fault of the magazine – my tastes have changed, and no magazine can appeal to everyone.
But one of the things I note is that because LensWork is a venue where a lot of photographers would like to see their work appear, there’s this subtle bending effect, where because LensWork publishes a certain kind of photography (e.g. black and white, fine art, project based, with a certain kind of ‘look’) this means that photographers seems to tailor their work to match that aesthetic.
Maybe that’s because it’s a good aesthetic, and thus makes a good target for aspiring photographers. Or maybe it’s just what Jensen likes, and because Jensen likes it, that’s what goes in the magazine, and thus that’s what aspiring photographers aim at so that their work has a shot at getting in. I know I’ve seen bodies of work I thought were stronger than the usual LensWork stuff which were submitted to LensWork and weren’t selected. It’s hard to generalize, but I’d observe that the work I know about didn’t quite match the usual LensWork fare.
I just wish that the reproduction qualities of the www, or of devices like the Amazon Kindle, were as high as the quality of LenWork magazine. Websites would be a lot more fun, and I think we’d see a more diverse crop of magazines if you could really view photos easily on the Kindle (and if it was easy to publish a magazine for the Kindle).
There are no final, distilled thoughts here. I am just observing that just as the popular trends in photography affect what sort of magazines flourish, the trends set by the popular magazines also tend to affect what sort of photography flourishes. It’s a two way street. That might be good, and it might be bad. But either way, I’d rather see more diversity than less.