Lorraine Candy, Editor: ELLE UK magazine
Need to put a face to a name, get the background story, the right advice and the inside track on how to get commissioned? This month, we speak to Lorraine Candy, Editor-in-Chief of ELLE UK, about the magazine and her personal approach to commissioning photography for an international publishing brand.
Tell me a bit about your experience of working with photographers.
Well, ELLE is a fashion magazine, so I work predominantly with fashion photographers, who work in a very different to way to portrait photographers. But in a previous incarnation I was the editor of Cosmopolitan, so I worked with features photographers. And I worked with portrait photographers on The Times Saturday Magazine when it was relaunched as a glossy. The disciplines are very different. We don’t spend a great deal of money on photography at ELLE because editorial rates are very low, but photographers want to work for us because it leads to other commercial commissions and the projects are interesting. Wherever I go I work with a different set of photographers and I’m constantly looking for different ways of making the brand work.
How important is choosing the right photography to you?
I think other editors might do it differently, but with a fashion magazine, photography makes it what it is. ELLE is predominantly a visual magazine, so if the photography isn’t right I won’t run the feature. Fashion makes up 80% of our content visually, so I think it’s really important to work with a group of people who represent the brand the way we envisage it. I pick someone who I think I can work really well with, and then I get from them something that I think represents the ELLE brand.
How do you keep abreast of new photography?
I look at websites when I have time to spare. If a website takes a long time to load, or doesn’t show a breadth of work, however, that puts me off. If a photographer comes to see me and they’ve only got pictures of men, for instance, that isn’t going to show me how they photograph women. In terms of print, I might see a picture I like, say, in a Japanese magazine, and then I’ll check out other work by that particular photographer, or it could even be down to word of mouth.
What are the less conventional ways inwhich you’ve discovered new talent?
Sometimes a stylist might bring a photographer to me that they have started working with. We’ve also found photographers we like on blogs, such as Scott Schumann (The Sartorialist) and Garance Doré. We’ve also worked with assistants who have worked with some of the bigger names – I think that’s a good way for a photographer to get their name known. Within the industry people are always coming up with names of people doing interesting things and putting them forward.
You regularly commission famous photographers, but are you happy to take chances on those you don’t know so well?
We try to include two or three new names every season, because ELLE is all about ‘the new’. These guys at the top have a very defined image and we want to work with photographers who are just starting to create their own sense of individuality. It’s really important to bring young photographers through.
Do you think aspiring photographers have a realistic idea of what it means to be a fashion photographer?
A lot of young people think fashion photography is the Holy Grail, because that’s where the big money is. The reality is you don’t make a lot of money until you’ve been going for a long time. I do think the young photographers we see are really passionate, however.
Not all aspiring fashion photographers have the budget to create fashion-orientated books. What is it that you look out for in a portfolio?
I think the lighting and emotional feel of a photographer’s book is the most important thing. I’m looking for something unusual; someone with a slightly different take on things. Photography in print can convey a sense of emotion. There are a lot of good technical photographers out there, but you can’t get anything out of them. The emotion from a Terry Richardson picture is different from that conveyed in a Mario Testino image. I see a lot of work that is so derivative: if I see one more Jean-Baptiste Mondino/Grace Jones shoot… We know every Guy Bourdin, Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton picture ever taken, so don’t copy them, because you’ll show you’ve got no spirit of your own. Generally, I’m looking for some kind of individuality. For example, we did a portrait shoot with Pamela Anderson last year and I don’t think we showed her face in any of the images; yet you still knew it was her. We’re always looking for someone who takes that slightly different approach.
What type of rapport should there be between a photographer and the subject?
It’s very difficult to pinpoint. The photographer needs to convey that they will make the subject look like the person they are. There has to be a sense of trust immediately. In the past we’ve put a photographer with a celebrity and known almost immediately that a different photographer might have been better. Personality is incredibly important. If a photographer is a diva I might not get what I need from them for the magazine, so will steer clear of them in the future.
As the editor, do you get to see many prospective photographers in person?
I don’t see everyone. There has to be a filter, otherwise I’d never leave my office as we have to see models, writers and designers too, as well as print the magazine. Everyone goes through to the art department. If the art director likes a photographer they will send them to the creative director, who will check out their work and then send a select group through to me.
What other attributes do you look for when you’re commissioning?
I’m open to all new talent, but you have to be technically very, very good, really organised, flexible and able to take the creative process into account. For a cover shoot, for example, we’ll do three or four mood boards. We’ll storyboard, then go through the clothes rail with the photographer. A lot of it is creatively driven here by myself, my team and the creative director. We allow photographers to look at layouts and pick which pictures they feel work best. If you’ve got a difficult personality you won’t be able to do that.
Do you think the photographer is the best person to select the final image?
That’s a difficult one. Personally, I tend not to go on cover shoots so I can have a completely independent eye. If a team has spent hours setting up one shot they might be emotionally invested in it, where as I can look at it and say, “This doesn’t work”. It’s got to be a dialogue though, because this is a photographer’s life and passion, so you’ve got to be able to represent that fairly on their behalf. Most photographers we work with are brilliant at picking what fits with the magazine.
How have you relied on photographers to help the magazine get where it is?
The photographers have shaped this magazine and helped drive it to be what it is. They’ve been flexible, always brought me new ideas and tried to be original to make it look less like a commercial fashion magazine.
What changes have you seen happen in the industry?
I find the use of video alongside photography interesting. A lot of our fashion photographers make films because they’ve got websites, blogs, other projects they contribute to online and creative niche websites that they are involved in. They see these things running in tandem with their career as a photographer. They are living and breathing pictures, which is exciting. Everyone has their own aesthetic and the internet has provided a place for photographers to show their images in a slightly more imaginative and creative way.
A lot of photographers now come in with their iPads to show their work. It looks so much nicer than in a book and they can show me the personal work they are doing as well, so that’s really exciting. I don’t think [declining] budgets are a massive issue. I think people assume we have these gi-normous budgets and everyone travels on private planes, but we don’t. Photographers go everywhere on the smallest budget imaginable. I mean, nobody spends what US Vogue spends, for sure! We still manage to get what we want.
Editor: ELLE UK magazine
Reporter: Cornish Times
Reporter: Wimbledon News
Features writer: Daily Mirror
Woman’s Editor: The Sun
Assistant Editor: Marie Claire
Deputy Editor: The Times Saturday Magazine
Editor-in-Chief: B Magazine
Editor-in-Chief: ELLE UK
Taken from the December issue of Professional Photographer, back issues available from 01858 438832
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