Autumn 2009

Editorial Eye 73

This photography special issue is about the way photographs are commissioned, selected, edited, sequenced and otherwise interpreted within visual culture. The person who does this may have any one of a number of job titles, picture editor, designer, art director, but the term that recurs

in Liz Danzico’s Reputations profile

of Kathy Ryan (pp.34-43) is ‘visualist’.

Ryan, photo editor of The New York Times Magazine, may not be a designer or art director, but she certainly has a ‘vision’, and it’s one that is translated to her pages every week of the year, a body of work stretching back for more than two decades. Through her patronage, a large number of photographers have been able to extend their range as both artists and journalists.

However the people most frequently engaged with photography are design professionals like the four profiled

in ‘Art and art direction’ (pp.48-61). Within these pages we see the tensions between fantasy and the everyday; between the decisive moment and surveillance; between obsessive subjectivity and objectivity – the state sought by Daniel Eatock, who, though he describes himself as an artist, is rooted in the graphic design of the past decade. The starkest contrast with Eatock’s plain, witty observations

can be seen in the intoxicating glamour of Thomas Lenthal, whose vision informs dozens of luxury brands and fashion magazine Numéro, extending to a more abstracted, sexualised level in his own title Paradis.

But similar contrasts are played out elsewhere, such as in the photobooks of South Africa (pp.68-73) – where a new generation of photographers is redefining the way the world sees that country – and in the way that Brazilian photographer Julio Bittencourt frames the inhabitants of a doomed São Paulo tower block (pp.44-47).

Yet one unanswered question is left hanging at the heart of Rick Poynor’s extended critique of magazine art direction. ‘One week in pictures’ (pp.22-29), discusses the way that the much-vaunted new visual ‘literacy’ initiated by digital culture has actually devalued the meaning of photography, and the role of the photographer, speculating that the ‘sensitive handling of photographs’ is no longer central to design practice.

Whether this is a temporary blip, as graphic design adjusts to new forms of visual literacy or a void at the heart of the profession is a question for debate, and perhaps one that design educators should take seriously.

Our new Education section takes a different tack this quarter with Bob Wilkinson’s report about Voluntary Service Overseas (p.94). A signatory of First Things First 2000 (see Eye 33), Wilkinson took a two-year, mid-career placement as a volunteer designer on an HIV and AIDS programme in the capital of Nigeria. Not a complete ‘reversal of priorities’, but a big change.

This issue also features the results of Eye’s first-ever award scheme, Just Add Stock (pp.62-67) which has prompted an encouraging variety of entries, some excellent winning projects and valuable support from all corners of the business. Our warmest thanks to everyone who took part. JLW

You can buy this issue of Eye online by clicking the ‘buyEye73’ link at the top of the right-hand column, above.

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