MARSHALL MCKINNEY, Art Director at GARDEN & GUN

- - Art Director

I met Marshall in 2001, when he landed his very first job with the Outside Magazine Art Department and I’ve enjoyed watching him climb the ladder moving from magazine to magazine over the last few years. I was especially pleased when I heard he was going to run the Art Department at Garden and Gun because it seems like the kind of magazine where someone can really leave their mark. Not only do they have an awesome name, they appear to have the backing and foresight to produce a magazine that’s more of a luxury item. This is something that will serve them well as the media landscape evolves in the coming years, because I believe magazines that are printed well on nice paper stock, with big glossy photos, will be rewarded with a loyal audience and advertisers.

So, tell me about Garden and Gun, what does it stand for?

Garden & Gun, our no-nonsense name, represents the soul of the Southern lifestyle ––the land and the conservation of it, the sporting life, arts, culture, travel and food. It also says dual audience, a magazine that appeals to both men and women. The name Garden & Gun captures the spirit of the discerning Southerner’s sense of heritage and pride while conjuring thoughts of high craftsmanship, elegance and subtle detail. In fact, G&G has come to be part of the Southern lexicon. In blogs, I sometimes see people refer to something as being “G&G.” It seems the name was just born out of a strong sense of tradition. I personally like the name very much because whether it is received favorably or not it forces one to contemplate.

Obviously the magazine is very well funded but I’m wondering if you think there’s a future (beyond generous investors) for regional magazines that want to have a national reputation?

Garden & Gun does have a national reputation, no doubt about it. I attribute that as much to the novelty of our name / brand and tasty editorial content as our financial wherewithal. However, it is important to remember that G & G is a national magazine about a regional lifestyle—not a regional magazine. So, do I think there’s a future for regional magazines with a national reputation beyond generous investors? The answer is YES! I think there is a future for regional magazines and I think that future is (sorry for the forthcoming exclamation point) bright! I mean, look at Denver’s 5280, Virginia Living or the Texas Monthly franchise, which all appear to be fat and happy. Then there are new launches like Forbes Mountain Time, which hopes to bottle the lifestyle of an affluent regional audience.

I believe in the power of print. It’s here to stay. No other medium in the world translates the awesome authority, emotion and intensity of images better than paper. The reader is not staring into a light source but rather enjoying reflective light bouncing off (in our case) quality stock and tantalizing photography. Add that to editorial fare that conjures a healthy, connected—albeit “unique”–– lifestyle with a strong sense of place and voila! another successful magazine is born. (Ahem, if only it were that easy.)

Tell me about the photography. Are you hiring a lot of regional photographers? Are you paying national rates?

We hire a blend of national and regional photographers depending on the assignment and its location. However, we are very fortunate at Garden & Gun to have access to several brilliant shooters right here in our backyard of Charleston, SC. Those shooters being Squire Fox and Peter Frank Edwards. As to whether or not we pay national rates I’ll just say we are competitive and ALWAYS pay on time.

Your website (here) is amazing. 99.9% of magazine publishers are afraid of giving the content away online or they’re afraid of making the online content as enjoyable to read and look at as the printed content. Why do you think you can prove them all wrong?

We arrived at our website philosophy like this: We asked ourselves, what is everybody else in magazine publishing doing? Once we deduced that, we then made a decision to do the exact opposite. In our case, lead with the bold use of photography and use as much as possible or as much as the content will allow. In my mind the thinking is this. We serve an affluent audience. One that expects quality content at a high presented tastefully or at a high taste-level—particularly when it comes to the packaging. Again, the stock we print on speaks to the fact that G&G recognizes the magazine as a luxury item. Therefore, we aren’t afraid of giving content away on the Internet because we feel like our audience wants G&G prominently displayed on their coffee tables.

All that said, though, look for a tweak to the website in the coming months as we are morphing the site to better take advantage of e-newsletter technologies. However, I don’t anticipate our newly developed web strategy conflicting with our philosophy to give all our images the star treatment online.

How do you like to be reached and what types of photography and photographers are you looking for?

I’m looking for down-to-earth, easy-to-work-with photographers who are committed as much to their craft as developing personal, lasting relationships with their clients. I look for shooters who own their style and know exactly how to get the goods in the can. I also look for shooters who specialize in a certain kind of photography whether it be portraiture, travel reportage, product, etc. I also liked to be reached in creative ways via the internet and snail mail. I like seeing photography printed on paper but I like the convenience of the Internet.

I like to find young hungry talent as much as the next AD but the realities of the business are such that many of the editors at this level want the peace of mind that comes with hiring a known quantity. Editors at national magazines are quite savvy and familiar with the photography talent that revolves around the publishing world. As much as I’d like to bring along eager, talented young shooters, sometimes it can be very difficult. With looming deadlines hovering over everyone’s head, it can be tough to fight battles where bringing on an unknown is concerned. There’s just not enough time in the day—not to mention the fiscal concerns and scheduling nightmares that would ensue if, they didn’t come back with the right images.

All that said, editors and art directors alike know it when they see it. They know talent and original thinking. So for any young shooters out there, my best advice to you it is to hone your craft, dedicate yourself to it and don’t fear these sorts of obstacles but rather recognize that they exist for your enlightenment. It’s cliched but true that nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy. You have to want it, you have to earn it and you have to be resilient and open at the same time. But enough with the preaching already. BACK TO WORK!

There Are 32 Comments On This Article.

  1. i like the regional lifestyle idea, yet national readership. amazing how little niches of regionals spread out and adapt and i am sure there is a market as far as you can imagine. also really enjoyed seeing peter frank edwards web site, it feels like the south, well done!

  2. I am an avid reader of this site but this piece gives me the creeps. This appears to be a boutique magazine with a very sick message. Money can buy anything in America. I really don’t care how interactive their web site is, promoting gun culture is outrageous.

    Send my book over. Never. I honestly thought it was a joke when I first saw it.

  3. It’s not a joke. You are obviously not from the south or northwest or soutwest. People are a little less pc and use guns to hunt and shoot holes in shit.

  4. Are you kidding me, I just called them this morning to schedule an upcoming meeting. Oh well, those who wait.. anyway, they are a good magazine. I’ve been hearing more about them recently. I know some writers who have worked with them and they liked both the assignments and the pay.

    I enjoy the photos too as they are used predominately. They definitely have a lifestyle slant, which I think is at times a little too advertorial, but all in all its a good mag.

  5. NAME IRRELEVANT

    That cover is a disaster. Maybe they should grow a set and jump over the hurdle of not taking a chance on “young hungry talent.” Might be surprised by the quality increase from the current ‘old fogey’ they’re using to shoot crap like that. I bet it was taken with a Canon 5D too!

    Anyway, Marshall McKinney seems nice enough.

    @3: Gardens in America provide beauty and tranquility that rarely exists in our country anymore. I understand the obsession completely. We’ve become numb to our senses. Gardens remind us what it’s like to be in nature, even if it safe and controlled.

  6. Wait a minute — what about those other dive bars on the outskirts of Charleston that they overlooked — what about “Second Bedrooms and Switchblades”, and “Dungeons and Daggers”, and “Alcove and Anal Sex”? I guess I’m just a tad sensitive to this, being from the south. God knows the stigma is tough enough to break as it is, without some cutesy elitist magazine like this piling on.

    And let them be thankful that there are no big advertisers that are based in Columbine or Washington DC or central Florida, where the concept of the gun is not quite so warm and fuzzy.

    But it appears that they’re comfortable in the quaint little name that they’ve carved out. I guess if you’re going for that elite crowd, you’re talking about handcarved rifles instead of sawed-off shotguns, so that makes it OK, right? Maybe their next feature could be on Palin, McCain’s VP choice, who’s been a lifelong member of the NRA. What a great cover story — you’ve got guns, and five children, and even an ex-beauty pageant contestant. I smell circulation bonanza.

    I’m sure in their own backyard of SC, the name all seems like a cute little inside joke, but if you don’t know the source of the name, it just reinforces the stigma even further. I predict that after the Palin cover comes the Ned Beatty cover — squealing like a pig, but dressed in Ralph Lauren.

    But yes, this Marshall guy seems OK. It’s not his fault.

  7. Rob, ….. I shoot shit! : )
    I’m from South Carolina, … and having a buddy to throw dried cow pies in the air while you shoot them with a 20 gauge is cool.
    Really, ….. it is!

  8. Well, I still have trouble with the title of the magazine, but since they ran a six page spread of my WaterWomen photos in the July/August issue I had better get over it. I loved working working with their editors.

  9. America is a gun culture. With all this talk about people being against abortion during the presidential race, I am trying to understand those who are against the practice even in the case of rape or incest yet are pro guns. Guns by their very nature kill other people, especially innocent civilians in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=teachers%20carry%20books%20and%20guns&st=cse&oref=slogin

  10. For the record Rob, I spent most of the life as a southwesterner (some have been featured on this site) and now live in the northwest. I feel that I have hung with the best in these places and NEVER EVER would the folks I know be out shooting cow pies. This mag is a not so subtle nod to imaginary rich people living out stupid mythologies of aw shucks culture memes aka Dick Cheney shooting with his ‘friends”. In other words, not real people.

    Get richer off it if you will, but it doesn’t make it real, or true.

    I recalled after reading some of the comments about doing a story–my first that sold–for a big outdoor hunting magazine. As time went by I was so sorry I had been lured into it as a young eager journalist. No, I don’t think anything counts, or is ok. But maybe that perception comes with time.

  11. Why so harsh? It has a different demographic. What’s the big deal? If you don’t like guns or gardens. Don’t read it. They couldn’t be more helpful with the title. Some of you are way to wound up over this. I don’t want to debate politics here.

  12. I hear you PE…kinda reminds me of those guys who get those random shots in on someone who is tangled in a fight with someone else. Everybody wants to take a swing out of sheer frustration…and not really knowing WHY?

  13. whatever…you want to own a gun and talk about in a magazine? go for it. That is why we live in america. Personally, I don’t own a gun, have never even shot one and don’t really have the desire to but, if you like it then so be it. I’m glad we have that choice here.

  14. We need a publication that is succeeding in this dismal economy right now. Personally I’m a fan of being hired! Beggers can’t be choosy. I’d shoot for them any day! (pun intended)

  15. CellPhoneDriver

    PE. Thanks for keeping things fresh here. Even if it drags out the trolls with their sharp elbows. Maybe Gun&Garden isn’t my thing but I thank the editors for putting their cash on the line by expanding offerings on today’s new stand.

  16. Rob,
    Unlike most of the hypocrits above ( I won’t send MY book there “sniff”..oh wait you WANT to hire me…well then…) , I’m from the North and all ABOUT the guap! I’ll be hitting up this mag. Thanks again!

  17. Apart from the name it looks like every other boring magazine on the stands. The name is just a cheap marketing ploy to sell an extra copy.

  18. Why so many negative feedbacks? I love the magazine, nice and stylish, great content and the online version is a huge plus – that’s nice to know that you can enjoy your favorite magazine regardless of the circumstances. Well, haters gonna hate. Thank you for the posting.