Shooting for the NY Times Magazine

A reader sent me a link to a NY Times Magazine piece where photographer Simon Norfolk talks about several of the shoots he’s done (here). There’s good insight to his approach on each story but I love to read between the lines as he tells us about shooting this Sunday’s Perfect Drought story. He describes the photos as “Illustrative of the facts,” for a conventional story where “the pictures sit closely to the text.”

Sure, it’s a job, but handing someone a story and telling them to go shoot all the plot points seems so two dimensional to me. That story should have gone in the newspaper not the magazine.

There Are 13 Comments On This Article.

  1. PE — You’re playing devil’s advocate, right? Because certainly you don’t think that a long piece about a very real crisis doesn’t deserve coverage in the Magazine? Showing these non-gimicky images, as straightforward (but well shot and beautiful) as they are, tells it like it is. Maybe you could respond, telling us, your faithful readers, what you think would have made killer images for this story. A glass half full by Dan Winters? Parched earth lit with a softbox by Mark Seliger?
    I don’t agree with you here — I feel your viewpoint is symptomatic of the hip glossy lightweight essence of many of the big mags out there — but I dig your blog. Keep going.

  2. The story IS great I just feel like they decorated it with photography and didn’t dedicate the same time and effort to making pictures of the same depth.

    I fully understand what happened because these stories come in that are timely and need to be photographed immediately and there’s not much choice for the DOP but still I think the photography needs to do more work than it’s doing in this piece.

    I’d need a couple days to come up with a photographer. None are coming to mind at the moment.

  3. oops – just saw Mr Broening’s comment. How about William Christenberry then? or the more obvious choices Mitch Epstein or Mark Klett…..

  4. I know this sounds cynical, but everywhere you look lately, there seems to be this rush to go crazy over the environment. I wonder if any of it is AlGore-motivated, coming down from the top. Generate enough foaming-at-the-mouth articles, and maybe it generates energy to get him to run. The odd thing about the Interactive Feature at the NYTimes, on the web, was that it was so general. Here’s some stuff from Africa; here’s some stuff from out west; it’s almost like they had a need to run the story, and they looked to a guy that already had a sizable body of work, ready to publish. It just seemed VERY general; like a shotgun blast. Maybe that was the point.

    Misrach, yes, but also Burtynsky, or Klett, yes, or even David Maisel.

    Loved the Seliger comment — bring in the motor home, the posing coach, the DJ, and build a one mile long SoftBox, and wait til The Magic Hour to hit the shutter release.

    And then bring in the Retouchers…

  5. l'enfant sauvage

    Mr. Norfolk went to Arizona and this is what he found. What is he suppose to do, hire a prop stylist? Should he apologize that there are no people in the photos? PE you sit behind your desk in NYC, it’s not ALL glamour out there.

  6. Just because it’s in the story doesn’t mean it’s worthy of a photo.

    I don’t really have a solution other than giving the photographer more time and creative freedom to discover images that have more impact.

  7. The NYT is a news magazine, and they need to cover these kinds of pieces.
    The drought is real, just turn on the news.
    Southern California is incinerating as we blog–we need rain.
    While I totally agree that the images could have been more compelling it still can live within the pages of that publication, T, Play and Key all cover lifestyle and lux, the magazine needs to have some news identity.
    It absolutely needs to separate itself from the long form narrative in the paper and be more of a pictorial narrative–but there still needs to be news.
    I think those images are predictable. A new perspective would have been much more interesting, so yeah he needed more time or they needed a different photographer.

    What a ridiculous comment, l’emfant darling, you didn’t even make a good pt about prop styling or people, The pt is the images weren’t compelling–not that they they needed to be glammed up or stocked with props . the pt is to show a VERY INTERESTING and arresting image to and AGE OLD environmental issue …..and where else is PE supposed to sit? NYC is the publishing capital of the world.

  8. l'enfant sauvage

    hey lewis,
    if you’re so full of good points why don’t you make one. P.S. don’t be such a hater.

  9. The photos Simon Norfolk did were what they needed to be. He shot it quite well. What may appear simple, is actually right to the point and quite impactful. It doesn’t need to be fancy. I immediately understood the severity of the subject from looking at just one of his photos. I’m not sure what the problem is.