The obvious answer is; “They are online.” Sadly this is more often than I care to think, not the case. They are gone. Simply gone.
This week saw the demise of Photo District New aka PDN at the hands of its owner, Emerald Expositions. The closing of an influential publication that served the professional photographic community is a loss that is hard to imagine. It’s like a favorite friend who has left us. No longer will we learn about the “30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch.” No longer will we read about “Objects of Desire” or look “Behind the Lens.”
R.I.P. many more
In the 20-teens photography lost stalwart publications — American Photo and Popular Photography stopped altogether. As I write this, Emerald also announced that the venerable “Rangefinder” magazine will no longer be printed but will appear only online and as a blog not in the magazine format.
While back issues can be found for sale or online, there are no more new issues coming. No more articles about photography. No more great, well-curated photography. None of a lot of the things that were found in magazines.
I understand that content online is much easier to distribute than printed magazines. If the magazines were published as magazines online that would be great. Blogs are more random. The depth and detail that magazine feature articles offer are missing in small plate tapas-style posts. Blogs often leave out important information that makes an article work because the writers believe that the basics are already understood by readers.
When I was writing my “Dummies” book, my editor made me explain everything that pertained to the point of each chapter. I protested until she explained that the reader views a chapter in a “Dummies” series book complete in itself. This structure is important for blogs as well.
I learned photography from magazines
As a young photographer struggling to learn the craft, I poured over all of the photo magazines every month. “Popular Photography,” “Modern Photography,” “Petersen’s PHOTOgraphic” and “American Photo” were staples of my education. A favorite was “Camera 35.” It featured a column by professional photographer Jim Elder who wrote about jobs he was shooting. The stories inspired me. I wanted to be like Jim. I desperately wanted to be a professional photographer. I wanted to write a column in a photo magazine.
My dreams have been realized. I have made my living with my camera my entire adult life. I also wrote the “Digital Photographer’s Notebook” that ran in every issue of “Photoshop User” for 11-1/2 years and four books.
I counted on the info I got in those magazines to be accurate. I taught myself photography from them. I would study articles then go on a self-assignment to understand the technique.
Can photography be learned online?
I am concerned about the accuracy of the content in photography blogs and videos on the Internet and the effect they have on beginning photographers. This brings up a whole lot of questions …
Is the information accurate? Is it complete with all the info needed? Does it teach the underlying principles of photography and not just show a technique? Are camera methods (yes that was a magazine title) explained so a photo can be complete as it comes from the camera?
Or is the camera just a capture device used to feed Lightroom or/and Photoshop (or Luminar or Capture One or On One or PhotoLab?) Are we photographers that finish our work digitally to express our vision as we did chemically in the days of film and printing? Or do we count on software to make up for lack of skill behind the camera?
Lead photo illustration by Kevin Ames