IN A WORLD WHERE WE ARE CONSTANTLY bombarded with images, the photomagazine makes for an unusual viewing experience. First, from the magazine perspective, there’s the slow, pleasurable realisation that turning the pages only for the pictures—something we do all the time with magazines, whether with the concentrated longing for glossy otherness, or as the desultory whiling away of time in the doctor’s waiting room—needn’t be the guilty pleasure it ordinarily is. Here the act of consumption is legitimate, expected, perhaps even imbued with significance. Meanwhile, from the photographic side of things, images placed on the page are experienced very differently from the way they might be if they were placed on a wall, or on a screen. The scale ensures a focused intensity to our viewing—one that remains a private act, shorn of the self-consciousness that often comes over people while walking through a gallery. The structure of a bound volume provides a clear, predetermined order and yet—unlike, say, a slide show—it allows each individual the freedom to turn the pages any which way.
But to me what really makes the photomagazine fascinating is how much of it is given over to words.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, as the old cliché goes, but few words are needed to determine how we look at a picture. Pictures inspire feelings. Words can transform the direction of our thoughts. A single sentence printed beneath a photograph can narrow down the innumerable potential interpretations; a paragraph, or three, placed alongside a disparate set of images can thread them together with astounding ease.