The Photo Editors Series are conversations with well-known photo editors about how they view the media today, the role of visuals in reporting, the work they like to see, and advice for photographers on how best to connect with publishers.
In this event, hosted by David Campbell and Ilvy Njiokiktjien, the series combines an overview of the contemporary media landscape with practical tips. The editors in the series speak as individuals rather than representatives of their organizations, and the events are interactive with good opportunities for audience questions.
In the first episode, we spoke with Noelle Flores Théard, senior digital photo editor at The New Yorker.
David Campbell: So thanks to our partner PhotoWings for making these events possible, and welcome to the VII Insider event, which is the first announced photo editors series talking to photo editors about their work. As we begin, I am in Australia and it’s important to begin with an acknowledgement of country. So I want to begin today by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which I am today, and pay my respects to elder’s past and present. Now, the photo editor series is something that came out of the survey we did with VII Insider members who really wanted to be able to get insights into how photo editors operate, the sorts of decisions they make, and so on. It’s obviously a very important cog in the machine that enables visual stories to come out. It’s one thing to make a number of stories, but of course, they have to be published, be it online, or in print, or wherever, and photo editors are crucial in that process so it’s fantastic to have Noelle with us today. But we thought we’d also begin, as you know, I’m David Campbell, I’m the managing editor of insider, and Ilvy and I are going to do this series together, and we thought we should introduce ourselves a little more so Ilvy, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ilvy Njiokiktjien: Okay, I’ll keep you very short. So I’m a photojournalist based in the Netherlands and I have a focus on contemporary issues, and I’ve been working for about 15 years now and I’m a member of VII.
David: : Fantastic, yes, and Noelle, can we ask you to introduce yourself? Thank you so much for being our first guest.
Noelle Flores Théard: I am honored to kick it off. It’s really, it’s truly my pleasure, and I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of getting to spend some time with David Campbell at Chattogram in Bangladesh and it’s just it’s lovely to be here. So I’m actually on Lenape land here in New York City. There is a push here in the United States also to acknowledge indigenous land, I like to do that. So my name is Noel Flores Théard and I am a senior digital photo editor at the New Yorker magazine. Before this, I was at the Magnum foundation, I was program officer there for five years, and I had a brief stint also as a photojournalist. Maggie Steber gave me my first big break, when I was 23 years old, 20 years ago, I worked at the Miami Herald for many years as a photo journalist, and had had a very windy path to where I am now but I feel very lucky and privileged and blessed to be a photo editor. And also, I have to really acknowledge the director of photography, Joanna Milter, at The New Yorker, you know, I had never been a photo editor before, 10-11 months ago. Imagine that. So, but I think she’s really brilliant at understanding like, what is the transferable skills. So I think in many ways, I was very much poised for it, but I have a lot of respect for her for being able to kind of see it, because I think that’s one of the challenges of being, you know, a creative industries person is that sometimes you just, you know, you have all this mix of experiences. And sometimes it takes a little while for the world to understand, like, what that means. So, but it’s really it’s lovely to be here, and I have great respect for VII, just tremendous respect for the agency. So it’s, it is really great to be here.
David: Yeah, great. What’s been the most challenging thing and making that transition to being an editor? And what would you say, characterizes an editor from other roles that you’ve had?
Noelle: I think, you know, one of the biggest challenges is, I came from a place where, you know, we supported photographers through fellowships and unrestricted grants, so it was about bringing resources to photographers and always keeping like the rights of the photographer in mind, essentially, like, I was an advocate for photographers. Now that I am a photo editor, I work for a corporation and you know, The New Yorker is an amazing, you know, 100-year-old magazine with like a very rich history that I respect very much you is part of the Conde Nast brand. So I’m also learning about navigating kind of the complications around, you know, after having been an advocate for photographers for so long, I’m now that person saying like, here’s all I can offer you, you know. So that’s the part that sometimes it’s a little bit hard to bridge is, you know, really trying to find that balance between being photographer’s advocate, but also understanding my role as the representative of a major, media corporation that has its own long histories of operating, you know, it’s like one of those things where like, you have to, you have to pick your battles a little bit, and, you know, I’m still feeling my way as best I can.
David: I mean, it does seem that, I mean, we’ll see this throughout the series I imagine, but most photo editors have ended up being editors after doing other things, and it’s not like someone started out in university and said, I want to be a photo editor, perhaps I’m wrong about that, then there doesn’t seem to be a lot of specific training before the job to be a photo editor. So what are the.. Do you think that’s correct? And if so, what do you think of the transferable skills that have you’ve taken from other other jobs or experiences that you bring to being a photo editor?
Noelle: Yeah, I mean, I think at its core, being a photo editor is about being a producer. It’s about being a producer, so it’s like you’re managing, you know, you’re managing logistics, you’re managing budgets, you know, you’re ensuring they’re, you’re ensuring that all of the different pieces of knowledge that might be like scattered amongst a group of people all get filtered into the right place to move things forward. So it’s like, it’s really a lot about production. It’s interesting that you bring up about the college piece, because I actually am like this close to writing my alma mater at UT Austin saying, like, why don’t you have a photojournalism? Like, why don’t you have a photo editing program? Because, you know, the truth is, it’s it’s a viable career, it’s a viable career. And to be honest, there are a few people that are very talented photo editors and photographers, I’d say that my colleague, Elizabeth Renstrom, is one of them but in my time working, I realized how rare that is. So I think we should be encouraging people who want to get involved in the industry as editors and producers, and like honoring that piece of the work, you know, I think so much goes into the kind of creative practice and journalistic practice. But I think infrastructure wise, I would love to see more college level, even community college level, you know, how to photo editing, or, you know, The Times does a really nice job and a fellowship. You know, I’d love to see more fellowships for photo editing because, you know, there’s no, there’s no like, manual, essentially but I do think, you know, it’s a good, it’s a good gig, it’s a steady paycheck for people who have families and have responsibilities and can, you know, do the freelance life forever and ever. It’s not for everyone, because you do have to understand, and it’s really interesting, my daughter was born in 2014. And that was really, I was on my way to that point, because the projects that I was making were very participatory in nature. So I had moved away from even taking the pictures anymore. I was like producing so that other people could take pictures to tell stories but when my daughter was born, it was really interesting, because it kind of like, made me understand that the support role, I think there’s a bit of a parallel here, the support role is almost like an art form of itself. Like, if you have a great editor, if you have a great, you know, producer that’s helping you manage all the multiple pieces of the work, then that in itself is, you know, absolutely an art form.
David: Yeah. Is that something Ilvy, is that something that you’ve found that in your work that that having a good editor is a crucial part of the process of getting the story together?
Ilvy: Yeah, it makes all the difference, like literally makes all the difference. Like, I think, if an editor and you are kind of on the same page, it makes the story so much better. And I think that’s exactly what you’re saying, Noelle. That’s, yeah, and it’s quite rare, actually, to find someone that’s really good at and the producing part and the editing part as well. I think there should be a college or university diving into this, you’re onto something here.
Noelle: Well, I think, you know, David’s onto something. And I also am remiss, Maggie, of course, was a photo editor at the Miami Herald and is a brilliant photographer so there’s another example for you. But yeah, I don’t you know, to be honest, in my experience, like working as a, you know, photojournalist, I can’t say that the editor relationships were particularly positive, you know, with all due respect to all the incredible, you know, people that I worked with, but I think it was always about you know, the dreaded words from an editor like, what else have you got? If you’re a photographer, do you know what I’m talking about? Like you got you just worked your butt off all day. You know, you’re back, you’re like, Look You get the pictures and you’re sitting with your editor, and they’re like anything else, and you’re just like, your heart breaks into a million pieces. Um, but I tend to be very much like, even as an educator, like, I always try to find the good in something, and to really encourage people and motivate people to keep working, and I think that, you know, in journalism, that’s not necessarily like, a traditional quality, I think, you know, editors are there to like, bust your chops and make the work better. They’re not always there to, like, you know, encourage you and kind of have a more nurturing kind of aspect.
David: Yeah, just a reminder to the audience, if you want to ask questions as we go along, please put them in the Q&A box, we’ll keep an eye on that, and either bring them in as part of conversation, or we’ll certainly get to them. At the end, we try and be as interactive as possible. Noelle, you were saying that, you know, now you’re at The New Yorker, and, you know, it’s part of Conde Nast, and so on. So we’re starting to, and I should also say, we don’t expect our guests to be speaking on behalf of their organizations, and so on. These are your personal personal views and reflections on on your experience and your position but how would you characterize the state of media today, particularly now you do have that experience working in the corporate sector, and so on, because a lot of people are very negative about it, that it’s, you know, resources are down, editorialists dried up does seem to be true, but how does it look from your perspective?
Noelle: You know, I’m surprisingly optimistic. I think, before I entered into this part of the industry, I did have like, I thought that you know, there really were, there was a scarcity of opportunities, and then of course, being on the other side, I do, there is still opportunity. What’s gone are like the very like, you know, hugely padded budgets of yesteryear or whatever but the work is still there. And I’m excited because there’s, you know, what I love most about the work is also being part of the New Yorker, like being part of the broader ideas that come through, like, pitching for an ideas meeting is incredibly exciting to me, even though it’s not about photography, specifically but there is this kind of generative, like, you know, there is there are resources, there is excitement, I think in the media sphere. And yeah, I’m actually like, pleasantly, like, optimistic. I’m hopeful, and, you know, I think this question of content and the creation of content, obviously, we’ve kind of like we’re moving into this, we’ve moved into this brave new world, but I do think that there still is opportunity for sure.
David: Yeah. So you mentioned an ideas making there. Can you say a little bit about the process that goes at your organization, when you’re working with photographers and photojournalists and how they come in to the story? Because there’s a question from from Ed Kashi already. Good question. He says, Is it hard to get photographs in the magazine given its emphasis on text? So that’s, he’s talking about the print side, you’re on the digital side, perhaps you can explain that and a little bit about the idea of these ideas, meetings, pitching and, getting visually into stories.
Noelle: You’re totally right, that the print side and the website function very, almost like separately, I mean, there’s some, you know, coordination between the to the magazine, it’s like you have like, it’s like fixed real estate, you know, you have X number of pages, you have the best writers in the world, you know, great illustrators, it’s like photography has a lot, you know, there’s never been a photograph on the cover of The New Yorker, there never will be right, like, so in terms of like, you know, opportunities for printed on the printed page, there’s no doubt that it’s incredibly challenging. And their processes are very kind of rigorous and planned far in advanced, the web does have a little bit more kind of like, spontaneity or ability to respond quickly to something that might be happening. So that’s, for me, personally, I’m happy to be on the web, just because of how my mind works. And but as far as pitching, you know, I’ll show you in a little while the photo booth is, you know, it’s a very long running column. Actually, it’s been around since 2010, and it specifically focuses on photography, and all the photo editors pitch for photo booths. So you know, everyone on staff, there’s eight of us on staff, and we have every three weeks we come in and we pitch. I think one of the things that I’ve tried to explain to photographers that I didn’t realize before, is that, you know, when you’re in a grant process, you know, your work has to speak for itself. You’re on a jury, you know, jury deliberates, they make their decisions, but when someone a photo editor is pitching your work, they are pitching you, right? And so, you know, the way that I’m gonna get this idea or this project through is that I’m gonna really have to believe in it. And I’m gonna have to convince you know, my director and the story editors that like this is something we should really do. And so you know, to the extent that photographers can make that job easier, and just remember that the photo editor is actually like, your best advocate for moving the work forward, like, you know, being really responsive, you know, following up all of these different things. Yeah, at the end of the day, the photo editor becomes definitely an advocate for the photographer’s that they want to work with. But again, it’s not up to me, like it’s a, there’s a process involved, right? So it’s like, I can’t decide that, you know, I want to hire X person, I can make that decision but then I’ve got to, I’ve got to bring it to the director, I’ve got to talk it through, I’ve got to say, this is the person and this is why, you know, here are a few others, and what do you think?
Ilvy: Would you say that most of the stories that you would pitch in a meeting like that? Do they actually come from photographers that reached out to you? Or do you find them in other ways? Online, or..
Noelle: That’s a really good question. Yeah, I mean, I think I encouraged photographers to write to me with pitches, I welcome it, you know, I never wanted to be that person that like, was really slow to respond to emails, sadly, I become that person that like, you know, six weeks later, I’m writing back to a photographer, like, thanks so much for sharing this with me, you know, XYZ. So I apologize, but I do encourage it, you know, as far as pitches, so it’s a blend of like, photographers who have pitched something to me, or photographers who, for example, have told me where they’re at, like, I’ve moved to Atlanta. Well, next time, there’s, you know, a portrait commissioned in Atlanta, that they’d be good for them, you know, I might be able to kind of like, oh, right, yeah. But I think some of it is also about research, and so I think that that’s the other part is that I do kind of have a bit of an academic background as well. And I’m somebody who’s, like, constantly kind of surveying the field, not necessarily like photography, per se, but like, you know, the ideas that you know, who’s producing on what themes and so some of it is also just making sure that like, you know, even visibility wise, like, you know, who like what areas or aspects do, we need to think about showing, for example, in photo booth, what kinds of work because that’s the other thing is that, you know, the beauty about photo booth is that it’s very broad in terms of form. So it’s like, it can be, you know, as long as the project is like, you know, concise, excellent, you know, intriguing. It can be like really, incredibly abstract work, it can be straight documentary work, it can be portraits, it can be, so I think that that’s the other piece is like, you know, making sure also that we’re looking at a range of forms in terms of photography, too.
David: Yeah, we’re gonna come on to having a look at photo booth and go through some of the really practical questions in the decision making process there and the perspective from the photographers in the audience, and so on. But I did want to ask kind of a couple of general questions about the industry itself. And because photo editors plays such a crucial role, and in many ways, you know, photography, has had something of a reckoning, probably needs more of a reckoning, you know, in the wake of Me Too scandals, the necessary push for greater diversity and so on. How do you think about this particular moment for photography, with those issues? And with those issues? And what do you think the role of the photo editor is in regards to those issues?
Noelle: You know, I am, I’m very grateful for all of the activism and organizing, often uncompensated labor of these incredible groups like diversify and women photograph and, you know, there’s this this push the entire industry benefits when I have a database at my fingertips, right, like, I just, I have no excuse. You know, I think that I, you know, we’re all very indebted to these organizations for doing this work, and I think there’s there’s been tremendous progress. I think I’ll say this for the photo editing just as I would for like arts philanthropy. I think there needs to be I love that there’s a push for diversity in terms of photographers, I would like to make a coequal push for administrators. So this is what I mean about like, the photo editors, the program associates, the program officers, you know, the people who are essentially like, I’m acting in a very, like middle position, right? So it’s like, I’m fielding talent, but I’m reporting to directors, I’m reporting things up. And, you know, I think, increasing the kind of not only, you know, diversity, racial diversity, ethnic diversity, economic diversity, you know, in terms of sexual orientation, all the range of things by diversifying that core group of people you know, I don’t know like, maybe it’s overly optimistic but this idea of like trickling up you know, and putting, like, I’m a senior photo editor if I see something, I will say something you know, and encouraging a culture where, you know, this these question terms of account accountability are brought up and you know, are kind of like fed through the right channels to hopefully, make sure that the changes is sustainable, and not just like, you know, there are protests in 2020 so now we’re gonna make a concerted effort to hire black photographers, which is super important, it’s incredibly important. But we have to make sure that that, you know, carries over and doesn’t become just a, you know, a knee jerk reaction to social problems. A systemic problem that I think requires that more of us kind of like move up in the ranks in terms of like, you know, positions within institutions.
David: Just before we get on to looking at some of the photo booth stories, I was interested, when you said there are eight, you have, you’re part of a team of eight. And yet on the print side, photography, has to fight for place, and so on. Is everyone directed towards the web? That’s quite a large team of editors producing visual material, when a magazine is predominantly text and using illustrations.
Noelle: You know, it’s funny, when I told my dad, it’s like most people, like you know, you’re gonna be a photo editor for The New Yorker, but they don’t really use pictures, right? But you’d be surprised because the thing is to remember, The New Yorker is a weekly, it’s the only weekly in the Conde Nast brand, right. So a weekly publication. That’s pretty real. That’s not a daily paper, don’t get me wrong, but there’s consistent and steady and, you know, significant work to be done. So I do think that, you know, in terms of the web, you know, we do have like, a hearty team. And definitely the web is very active on a day to day basis. But I think some of that print some of the photo editors work that feels almost like, you know, invisible, because they’re just, there’s a whole other process. It’s, like, quite opaque and has this whole other process for working. But yeah, it’s a really wonderful team. I mean, it’s just, it’s great.
David: So why don’t you show us some of the stories that you wanted to highlight on photo booth, and talk us through some of the decision making in those?
Noelle: Yes, so I can share. Excuse my desktop, it’s not as pretty as it could be. Alright, so one of my great pleasures is to produce photo booth, as I mentioned, so it’s been around since 2010. And when I say I produced it, essentially, I don’t make the decisions for it. I coordinate with story editors, with photographers, with writers to make sure that these things kind of come to fruition. So we’re ramping up production of these. So we’re going to be doing about two of them per week. So what’s exciting about this is that it’s a wonderful way to like showcase bodies of work like pre existing bodies of work. And I think with more time, I’d like to show you too there are kind of potential for like commissioned stories that I’ve been able to work on. So this one was just published over the weekend. And I have a very, you know, as a kind of scholar, I studied hip hop culture so to be able to work on this book, beautiful book by Sukwon. And it was written by who assume is just an awesome, like, you know, culture writer, he actually is a professor at Vassar, and so he wrote the text. So you know, photo booth is very much like where photography meets great writing, you know, the idea is to kind of, like, let these great writers kind of meditate on, you know, a series of pictures. And so, you know, this is Naz, this was interesting, because one of the reasons I felt lucky to be the person doing the photo editor is because I actually was familiar enough with the culture. There were so many pictures in this book, I’m talking about, like, 80 photographs, right? So then I get an early draft, I spend some time with the book. And then I make that edit. So I’ve got to narrow it down to you know, 15 pictures. But now, to Ed Kashi’s point, like, I am running 14 and 15 pictures on the web, this is what I’m saying about like, really is a whole other world. So, you know, when I get a draft, I make sure like, for example, he discussed these two photographs, in particular, I think, as a reader, I want to make sure that the reader is going to be able to kind of like, follow along, you know, but then also, as a photo editor, I also want to make sure that like, you know, the best photographs are coming through because writers with all due respect, you know, they’re not necessarily coming to it from a visual perspective, they’re kind of maybe seeing what’s in the content of the picture, but maybe, you know, kind of seeing it in a different way. So this was really a joy to work on.
Ilvy: It looks amazing. It’s such a nice inside view as well, like kind of images that you don’t see a whole lot from this industry, right? I’m curious to know, is 15 really like the limits or do you sometimes kind of push for 20? Because it’s the web, you maybe could or are there strict rules?
Noelle: You could if there’s no rules, that’s the beauty. But I do have, I do have to be responsible in terms of like, how much because the thing is too is that it’s got to find like a reasonable balance, in the sense that like, if I’m having 20 pictures with just like a smattering of text, I think it also I have to, I have to think about it holistically. So I’ve been doing this for, like, 10 months or so. And I think the most pictures that I’ve used is maybe like, 16? Because I think that that’s what could really, you know, that’s what could hold. Yeah, so you know, we do a lot of these kinds of like, when book projects come out, it’s an opportunity to showcase the work and think about the work in a new way. So Alex Soth has this new book called A Pound of Pictures, and then Vince Aletti, who’s a wonderful critic, and you know, art critic on photography, you know, he also pitches, that’s the other thing, writers will sometimes pitch both in these two cases, the writer said, Look, I want to write about this work. And then, you know, it goes through the editors process, and they make a decision, you know, whether yes or not, then it’s my job to make sure that, you know, the paperwork is in terms of permissions in terms of, you know, book excerpts. And those kinds of things. This work was really beautiful. You know, sometimes I wonder in terms of like the pairings, because I do have a lot of freedom to make the choices of how to pair, how to position pictures, I sometimes wonder if the photographers are happy with what I’ve done, but I, you know, I try to be as careful as possible. I’m very, you know, very thoughtful about the process. But I always get, I always wonder, like, how does this land, you know, when Alex Soth saw this, was he like, oh interesting pairing or was he like..
Ilvy: Don’t they, don’t they give feedback? Like, I really like to write to editors, like, I love the edit, or not. Do you get a lot of feedback?
Noelle: Sometimes, I do, sometimes I do, but you know, yeah. Not as often as you think, actually. And, of course, when the edits being made, that is an editorial decision, so they can’t peek in on my layout and see how I’m, you know, they have to trust. They have to trust that I’m gonna, you know, do my best with it. So let’s see if I can show another one.
David: So when you’re thinking about those juxtapositions, I mean, there’s obviously not one rule for all circumstances. But what are you trying to do? And what sort of criteria do you have? How do you how do you go through that decision making process in terms of those juxtapositions?
Noelle: You know, that is such a good question. This, I think, is where, like, my training and education is really important. And I don’t mean to, like, gloss over it or not make it explicit but I do think it’s very much about me, spending a considerable amount of time with the work. And then just approaching it also formally, you know, like, which images might speak to each other in ways that are interesting. There’s also the kind of like, basic, like, you know, a vertical image doesn’t look great standing alone by itself, so if I’m going to run a diptych, which two could run together? You know, which images should be particularly large? Which ones are, you know, so, it’s, I don’t mean to make it mysterious, but it’s definitely like, it’s a bit it’s like, the place where I kind of get in the zone, you know, and there are feedbacks, you know, that’s the thing is, I do share, like, as I’m building out the edits, I’ll often there’s a team that I can kind of bounce ideas off of, you know, like, how does this look, what do you think? But I also, you know, I also have to kind of address the text. So that’s the other thing is that, you know, as I’m working on this piece by Daniel Arnold, you know, I’m trying to he’s, there’s certain aspects that are referenced that, you know, I want the photographs and the text to be integrated. They don’t have to be like, one for one. I don’t want the reader to kind of be confused by the edit versus the text. I’m just trying to find a way to kind of weave these two together.
David: Yeah. I mean, it is really interesting in those circumstances, but so much of photography, we probably think about it as being intuitive. And sometimes that’s, I think that’s a good description, and then sometimes I think that’s an opaque description, but it is very hard to articulate the aesthetic criteria or the criteria of judgment by which you make certain decisions.
Noelle: Absolutely. It Yeah, it’s tricky. And I think that that’s the other thing where I think that’s also like the trust, it’s like, that’s a tough thing to like, how do you hire someone for that? You don’t I mean, like, how do you know that you’re gonna get the person that’s gonna make the right decision? You know, those types of decisions. But I think also like, I’m a bit of a classicist in a way, you know, I come from like a documentary, journalism background. I really appreciate, like the discipline of like, medium format film. Like, I think I also, you know, when I was in college when I was at the Herald, we were still processing C 41. You know, for shooting news. So like, I also kind of like, understand I have kind of another reference point for a photography that I think is actually important, especially in this kind of bridge moment, you know, where I do think that there’s like a huge generational shift happening, but yeah, it feels like, I’m definitely like looking for, I know what I’m looking for. And it’s very much important, right? Like,
Ilvy: Maggie, actually, Maggie has a question about the generational. Well, let me just read it to you. So she says, just to comment, that hip hop series is so powerful, and beautiful and wonderful. This is really Maggie speaking to see this work published on photo booth. Wonderful to see this work published on photo booth, bravo. And do you think publishing this kind of work reflects on the ages of the photo editors at the New Yorker? The editors are on the younger side and fresher seeing the world in a new way, and I wonder if you think that influences the selections as well.
Noelle: You know, that’s a great point, Maggie. I do think though, I think that we’re at the moment, I’m actually easily, you know, 15 years older than some of the, like, more junior photo editors, and actually, the way they look at hip hop is quite different. Like, you know, when we’re looking at this 90s Hip Hop era, right? This was a, it was a, it was a magical time and hip hop, right, but there were tremendous challenges around gender representation. You know, there were tremendous, like, you know, power dynamics of play, that, you know, we can’t also like romanticize, I think that like, in many ways, I’ll be curious to see who sits in the seat like in, you know, 10 years and see how they think through projects, maybe differently. But I do yeah, yeah, it’s a good question. I would be curious to see, because that’s the other piece is that, like, you know, for example, there are, there are musical shifts and trends that are happening now that I know nothing about, you know, and I think the New Yorker is still like, to be totally honest. Like, I’ve noticed this, too, it’s very much like, you know, baby boomer, Gen X, kind of like, currently, that’s kind of the demographic. So the great, you know, this work from the 90s, like, the photographer is probably now in her 50s. Right. So it’s like, it’s definitely I don’t know if that answers your question but..
Ilvy: So when when you’re working on an edit, do you afterwards or during the process, look at it together with colleagues? Or is it very solid, solo thing?
Noelle: Yeah, I think when I first started, I tended to like, go more to my colleagues and say, like, what do you think like, how does this you know, I also think that like, as I got more comfortable with it, and also the workload of my, both the workload of my colleagues and also like, selfishly speaking, like, there is also a certain point where, like, if I feel very strongly that it should be one way, like, you know, if I’m going to show you, I’m not necessarily asking for your input here. So what I’m trying to say like, I tried to make sure that when I asked for input, I actually want input, do you understand what I’m saying? Not that I don’t encourage critique, don’t get me wrong, but like, I want to be very mindful that like, you know, I guess it’s a balance, you know, and I think that obviously, the feedback makes it much stronger. This is an example where there was a bit of back and forth with this was pitched by the editor of the magazine, he works a lot around the Chinese Exclusion Act. And he wrote this piece, and this was about a logbook found in California, of Chinese citizens. So what was exciting about this, for me is that, you know, it’s wonderful to be able to showcase books of photographers, I think there’s always a place for that. But photo booth, I think, also has the potential to have more of like a visual culture analysis as well. And so what was great about this is that, you know, these are 100 year old, you know, image scans from a library, right? And so thinking about, you know, this was a different type of process, like I kind of had to use a different part of my brain. I had to be much more mindful, you know, of the text and thinking it through. But I thought this was pretty special, too, because it was it just had a different. I mean, it’s heartbreaking. You know, if you see this man was burned. I mean, this is Literally, you know, a constable of a town was tracking all of the Chinese residents of this town, including, you know, when they died or when they’ve gone to China for goods. So this one was a really fascinating photo booth to work on. And it’s one that I’d like to, I’d like to press this a little bit more and encourage, you know, not just books have beautiful, gorgeous images, but also like, you know, real analysis on visual culture and photography. And then I decided to end the piece on the blank page. This is like a classic, like, maybe this was too heavy handed, but I had to ask the editor, I was like, am I getting like, is this corny? Like, am I taking it too far? But you know, he ended it with like, because he’s speaking for the first person. You know, I’ve wondered about each person’s journey to America, their aspirations in this hostile land the suffering they endured, and what ultimately became of them from this document. We have learned their names, but their stories are still untold. So at the last moment, the California Historical Society, I was like, can I please just use this blank page? You know, because I think it is evocative, you know, but I don’t know, some people might disagree and be like, it’s a little too on the nose.
Ilvy: I think it’s strong actually, to leave it like this. So in this case, you literally had the documents in front of you? Or is this all? Do most pictures come to you? Or stories digitally, or sometimes, do you have the books?
Noelle: They’re mostly digital. I mean, I, you know, I personally don’t, especially for self published projects, like, I would love to have an amazing collection of books from photographers, but I’m no longer like, we’re working like part in the office part not. So it doesn’t feel responsible to me to say like, send me your book, like, you know, I tried to work from PDFs. And also there are costs involved, especially with like, self published books, like I tried to make it like, you know the least but I have to say that like, yeah, a lot of it is done digitally. And there’s something really beautiful about seeing like, Mike Liu, he actually, he saw this logbook, and he looked at, you know, I think there are some moments where I think it really is pretty special to be able to, like, interact with a book or the work.
Ilvy: Yeah, it’s a different feeling, of course, as well. But if, let’s say, because I know, there’s a lot of photographers watching, and I’m pretty sure they would love some advice on how to kind of send pictures like pitches to you, but listening to you now, it seems like a PDF, or a WeTransfer or, like, what is the way that you like to?
Noelle: Yeah, every I imagine every photo editor is different, what I most prefer, and I know it requires some trust from the photographer, but I prefer like a WeTransfer of JPEGs because here’s the other thing, you know, as a photographer, you have an idea or a sequence in your head, about, like, what the story is about, but 50% chance that I’m going to look at your work. And I’m going to know that I’m gonna need to rearrange this thing before I go pitch it because I know the story that I’m trying to tell with your work, does that make sense? So sometimes when we get these beautiful PDFs, it’s just it’s very fixed. And I think sometimes that for me, I don’t work that way. I want to just, you know, have access to the assets, and then think through how I’d like to present them.
Ilvy: I was curious, do like you would like to receive WeTransfer with images? Do you then want an accompanying text in the email? What is best?
Noelle: Well, I think maybe what’s, what would make it like, because that’s the other thing, you don’t want to just be sending your files around. Right? So like, maybe an initial email with like a link to something, you know, like, you know, three sentences, here’s, here’s something I’m working on, you might be interested in. And then you can either, you know, you embody an image in an email so that no one has even click an attachment. It’s just right there. You know, maybe it’s like one really great image and three sentences, like, here’s what I’m working on. And then if I’m intrigued, I’ll write back and say, this is interesting. Like, I’d be interested in pitching it, at which point, you know, you can send me more assets or whatever. I think the idea is to not, yeah, to don’t make it so challenging for photographers. But I think for those that are looking for editorial work, you know, we’re not huge, we’re still quite small in terms of commissions. But it’s helpful to know where you are because you know it on our team of eight, I can’t tell you like, how often it’s like, who do we know in Baltimore? You know, who’s in Bangalore? Like, who do we know in..? You know, so this is the other thing is like, knowing where, you know, good, reliable, people are just incredibly important. And, you know, I’ve also learned this to like, yeah, it’s stressful because you advocate for a photographer, and sometimes things don’t go through or sometimes they don’t come through or can’t come through for whatever reason. And so, that’s the other piece is like being being reliable, I think is probably like, you know, just as important as taking great pictures. Like, are you communicative? Are you reliable? Can you take good pictures? Like almost in that order, because it’s like..
Ilvy: Make good pictures right at the end.
Noelle: Yeah, they’re kind of tied, you know, because I have to say that like, and some people have, like, you know, other other photo editors may feel differently and you know, have a lot more patience, you know. But I think for me, I just the roller coaster of not knowing you know, it’s just, you just got to know, you got to know that you can really count on the person, and I did want to share one more project with you, it’s a little bit different. So this was my first commission, and it was for photo booths. So we’re also occasionally commissioning for photo booths. So this was in Reynosa Mexico. And the photographer is Alejandro Cegarro. And I say, I’m working on another project for photo booth, Alejandro Cegarro, who’s amazing, he’s Venezuelans photographer based in Mexico City. So this was the first time that I got like, you know, insurance, you know, security protocol, like, you know, start to finish. And that was awesome, because I have to say that like, one of the great benefits of working for a bigger media enterprise is that there are resources for things like this, like, I mean, I slept better knowing that like, God forbid, something happened to me, we had a plan in place. So he traveled to Reynosa. And, you know, made pictures of the migrant camp there. And for you out for those of y’all in the states might be familiar, but Biden is basically keeping the stay in Mexico policy that was started under Trump. And so this means that the border towns in Mexico are just overflowing with people. And unfortunately, the cartels are playing a large role in how these camps are organized, and how resources are brought in now. So it is a reasonably dangerous place to work and certainly to live but this is, like documentary journalism and then it’s just, and this was, you know, three, four days in a camp. He did a really beautiful job.
Ilvy: It’s beautiful, it really is. So how many pictures for instance, for this story, because it was commissioned, do you then receive? Do you remember, like, 80? 100?
Noelle: Yeah, I think he sent me like 60 or 70 pictures, and then this edit is probably like 15, or 16. So again, I do envy the print editors, I couldn’t do tell me to pick one image for this story, I would have died, like..
Ilvy: 15 is already difficult out of so many images, how do you like to sit down and do that? Like, how do you edit? Is it very, yeah, it’s difficult to explain, maybe, but yeah,
Noelle: Well, I mean, it’s, that’s the part where like, that’s the part where sometimes I have to pinch myself because I get to sit at my computer with a cup of tea, and like, put on some or whatever, inspirational music and sit quietly and work and lay it I mean, sometimes I’m like, wow, this is this is my job, really? And then, of course, there are other aspects of the job but that’s really like a wonderful moment, because I do get I do feel that it’s incredibly creative. You know, I’m just realizing this ender, too, is, I guess I’m like a little attached to the enders of things, because I want to leave readers in a good place. But yeah, I think that the layout is really the it’s a wonderful part of the work. Of course, the challenge is the juggling. So it’s like, you know, I’m producing two photo booths a week, we also have like commissions from portraits, and, you know, all of the rest of it. So, but I do have in terms of the laying out process that’s really wonderful.
David: In that story from from the border, what’s, we have a question about kind of the relationship between photos and text and what what drives? As a commission, I imagine in that case, the visuals are driving that to some extent, that’s a visually lead story. But is that always the case? Sometimes does the text drive the story? How does that work out?
Noelle: That’s a you know, one of my, one of the challenging parts of my job is wrangling story editors and writers because we so often are on the back foot like, Oh, we’ve got you know, this writer is in Colombia, he’s filing his text tomorrow, what are we going to do about art? Well, you know, if I’d known you know, two weeks ago that this was in process, I could have assigned somebody and you know, we wouldn’t be you know, so that’s the other part of the work is like, you know, coordination. In this particular case, they did work together. They spent some time together in the camp, and then Alejandro kind of hung back for a while. I mean, I, you know, I’m curious actually, as a photojournalist, do you like working side by side with with reporters or do you like having your own space and time to just good question?
Ilvy: I think it depends on the story. I usually like to work by myself but if the story is very difficult, like if it’s very if it has many angles, I really like to work together with the journalist actually. So it really depends on the story. And sometimes what is very difficult is that if I’m not working together with the journalist, and I get the story sent, and I have to go somewhere, and the story already changed, because there is like three weeks in between, and you cannot find the same people or the same situation or the story describes horrible weather and you are there when it’s warm. It’s so depends, I guess, yeah.
Noelle: I mean, I remember that happened at the Herald, how many times was it like, you know, this happened, and then you go down to where this happened, and guess what? Nothing’s happening.
Ilvy: Exactly, yeah, I hate it when it’s like that. But sometimes it’s beautiful, too. I mean, you get the story, you go somewhere, and you have all the space by yourself to work on a story in your own pace. It’s, yeah, sometimes it’s nice together. I don’t know. I like all three ways, I guess.
Noelle: Yeah. Well, I’m also you know, that’s the thing that I think it’s not unique to the New Yorker is that, you know, photo editors and directors of photography are like fighting for photography, like within the institution, you know, they’re like the torchbearers to, like always, like, recognize that photography has its own discipline, you know, needs its own resources, and all the rest of it. So I think that’s the other part is, you know, I think the more you can educate writers and editors about how photography works, and what photographers need, then I think the better the results can be. And so I think that that’s kind of like, one of the not, it’s not a bullet point on my, you know, job description, but it’s definitely a big part of my job, in terms of my long term goal, right, is to like, you know, help be a bit of a bridge between these, you know, really these disparate departments and so that they can, we can all understand each other better. So that there can be like, you know, more of an understanding of what it takes to, you know, to produce really great photography. And the difference that it makes, like, you know, I recently did a presentation to story editors, I was like, you know, this is what you got, this is what it could be, you know, like to entice them and make them realize, like, you know, stories with commission photographs, they do much better on social media, you know, it’s, you know, great art, as much as you know, you can love the written word. I mean, I think we’re living in such a visual era. It’s just, it can’t be an afterthought, you know.
Ilvy: Of course, I agree. As a photographer.
David: Can you say a little bit more about that, in terms of what you think photography does? The text doesn’t? What is the particular power of the image? So when you’re pitching, trying to make that case, to those other editors? How are you describing the role of photography and visuals in the story and what it can achieve?
Noelle: You know, I think, like, most recently, I got, I was very, like, not poetic, and just made it about eyeballs, you know, like, you know, like, beautiful art gets, you know, you love the writers want their work to be seen, like, you know, beautiful art is going to ensure that that happens. I think, you know, more broadly speaking, yeah, I mean, I’d have to think about that more, I think I would, I hope, like maybe that’s one of my goals is to get to the point where I can describe it in a more like, philosophical way, so that it kind of hits them in a different way because it’s like, you never know how you’re going to actually reach someone, you know, you can tell someone something over and over. But maybe there’s some example or you know, what I love to do, when there’s great photography on a piece, whether I don’t care who’s commissioned to anyone from my team, I’ll send it to the editor. And I’ll say, look at how amazing this was, you know, like, let me know who you got working on what. So again, it’s like that kind of like creating like, a positive reinforcement for it. And then my personally like what I’ve thought about in Photo Booth, because I’m encouraging all the editors and the writers like, hey, this is an avenue for you all, you know, it’s, oh, man, I love the New Yorker. I can’t always read five and 6000 word articles. So for me, we’re dealing with such a sophisticated readership. I’m like, photography is like another way to expand someone’s perception, like this. You know, I mean, you can spend, you know, 40 minutes on reading an in depth piece, or you can spend six minutes on a photo booth, you know what I mean? And literally, like, your whole, the way you look at something can be transformed. I mean, honestly, six minutes is probably generous. I mean, when you look at how much time people spent, I mean, you know, you pour all this work, and average readership is one minute and 42 seconds. It’s like..
David: Did you have all the analytics on how many views, how long?
Noelle: Yeah, but my, you know, my director is very, very adamant about, you know, this is not we don’t do this for clicks like this is not. That’s information, but it’s doesn’t drive the decisions that we make. So I’m grateful for that because I can imagine that other publications, there’s probably a lot more pressure.
David: Yeah, also, I think we have to put that in context, I’d have to find a source to be sure this is entirely accurate, and not apocryphal, but I have heard that, you know, studies on people in museums, for example, reveal that on average, people will look at paintings for about seven seconds in a museum. Now, obviously, that means that’s probably counting them as they walk past. And they might spend a long lot of time on one, but somehow that one has attracted them. So sometimes when we get short view times on the web, you know, we might be better be doing better than people in museums, we’ll have to check that but you know, it’s interesting, to put that in context.
Ilvy: There are many questions coming in.
Noelle: What I’m gonna do is just, I’m putting my email in the chat so you all can write to me.
David: That’s the most common question.
Ilvy: That is the number one question. Thanks so much for doing that, guys it’s in the chat.
Ilvy: There’s one other question that came up a couple of times, and it is from, from photographers from outside of the U.S. that are curious, what kind of stories would maybe be interesting to pitch which angles I would.
Noelle: And, you know, David knows this about me, and Maggie certainly knows this about me, I’m very interested in international stories. And I think, remember, I come from, you know, a background at the foundation that, you know, 80% of the projects that we funded, were coming from outside the U.S. and Western Europe. I think there’s great, great opportunity there in terms of, especially for photo booth. Because remember that the reported stories, we’re going to be getting stories from the regions where the writers have specializations. And so sometimes, you know, that may or may not be, you know, an area where you are, but I do think, you know, what I would want to see from wherever you are is, it’s like, you also can’t put a finger on it, because, you know, I’d say like, is there a kind of news peg? Well, you know, that’s neither here nor there. I mean, are you offering a perspective, like a perspective on something that like, most people wouldn’t have considered? Or if you’re looking at something that people generally know about? Are you telling us something new about it? Are you making us reconsider it? Do you know what I mean? Because I think that that’s the most important thing is like, are you? Are you sharing with us something that we might not have known before? Are we seeing something in a brand new way? So it’s hard for me to say like, what would work? But I do have to say, just very honestly, like, visual consistency is incredibly important for me. Right? And I think I’d say probably for the, for the magazine as well. I totally adore photographers that kind of like work in mixed media and multiple forms, and all in, you know, these different ways of working but I do think that for me, like, I want to see like, you know, 15 pictures on something, and they don’t have to be like, I don’t want to, like, discourage experimentation by any means, right. But I just, I need to see like a body of work, you know what I mean? And that form can take a lot of different forms, but..
Ilvy: And someone’s asking if you would consider work that might have been reviewed or written about already in another publication? Or, does it have to be brand new?
Noelle: So, so to I think there was a question before about print. Anything in the print magazine, should have never been previously seen before, and that is a hard and fast rule. There’s absolutely no exception to that. For the website, it is possible, yes. And, you know, the, especially for photo booths. So if it’s depending on you know, how long ago, you know, I really liked that about photo booths, actually. It can be it doesn’t have to be the project that you did last year, it’s a really great project. And it’s like two years old, like, it doesn’t mean it’s off the table, or if another publication has featured it or talked about it, it doesn’t, you know, make it off the table. So for photo booth, there is still an opportunity if it’s been published in like the New York Times, that might be different, you know, like if it’s been seen very widely, but again, remember, a New Yorker writer is going to take their own. That’s the other thing, you know, you’ve got to you’ve got to give yourself over to a to a writer. You can’t predict what they’re going to do. I mean, this is even in the field, right? Like, you cross your fingers and hope you you know, see eye to eye, but I even in my own experience, you know, there’s times where you’re just like, Man, this reporter does not get it. I think that that happens, I guess that’s a risk that you take.
David: But that just means the whole process is just highly collaborative, isn’t it? It’s you, the photographer, the writer, your senior editors, art director, et cetera, et cetera.
Noelle: And their story editors, remember, because the writers have their own.
David: And, you know, it’s probably not entirely clear in the end, who makes the final decision, because it’s actually out of this collective that a decision comes, and that’s a whole series of decisions, you know?
Noelle: Yeah. But I have to say, I’m very impressed with photographers, so far, I have to say, like, you know, photographers will tell me, like, I love, you know, number of 54 and 73. You know, that happens occasionally, but really, like, there’s tremendous trust in me, like, you know, when a photographer sending me like, 70 images, they’re not gonna get a pre-edit, they’re not gonna get to see what I’m thinking, like, that’s a tremendous amount of trust. And I’ve actually been, I feel very lucky, not good. So far, I haven’t gotten, you know, any angry email, like, why did you..? I’m sure it’s coming. Okay. But, you know, I think that that’s, that’s just something that I wanted to share is that, you know, you know, photographers, I understand the trust in photo editors definitely for that, you know, you’re trusting us with how your work is going to be represented so that’s a big responsibility.
Just one little technical point, someone’s asking, in your email address that there’s one underscore and one hyphen. I think that’s correct. The first one is an underscore. The second one is a hyphen on the surname. That’s not a miss typing by us.
Noelle: No, it’s not. It’s like It’s like generates, it’s like a first and then a last. I have a hyphenated last name.
David: Exactly. There was one question about any academic literature from coming on, I think that was referring to editing itself, and the decision making process and editing. I’m not personally aware of any other, I don’t know if you are. But the only thing I would throw in and see if you think this works Noelle, is that I think that there’s a lot to learn from cinema. And certainly, I was looking at some of those Photo Booth stories that you were showing, and particularly the the two images side by side, and you really see sequencing, you can see movement from one picture to the other, you know, sometimes contrast, but sometimes direct movement. And I think there’s probably a lot to learn from, from great editors in cinema, someone like Walter Murch, for example, who has a great book on on editing, in cinema.
Noelle: Put that in the chat.
David: I’ll put it in a in an email to Insiders at some stage and tell me a little while to dig that reference out, but I don’t think I’m not aware of any other kind of literature describing the process of editing. I mean, because as we were discussing, it’s hard to articulate sometimes, but anything you’re aware of on that front? No guides to editing, no simple how tos.
Noelle: I mean, I don’t really have any, I mean, I know that, for example, again, I’m trained as a journalist, right, like my BA is in journalism, I worked as a journalist. So, you know, there’s also these ethical questions, as we know, that have come up, right, like, do you show the faces of a protester? Do you not, do you know, and I am very, like old school, if a person is, I mean, I might get some flack on this or something. And I’ll say, you don’t know, if a person is protesting on a public street. Like, I think you can run their face, I think, you know, I think that we have to be very sensitive around like photographs of children, I have one, I’m super mindful of that but I do think that it doesn’t mean that we can’t ever, you know, show the face of a migrant child in a camp because, you know, so these are the kinds of like, I’ve been actually talking to a lot of the younger photo editors, and I’m, I’m kind of annoyed with myself, because I’m becoming kind of the curmudgeonly, like, you know, like, and I actually probably need to do exactly that and look to see if there is, if there’s some scholarship or if there’s like, some, you know, some actual information that people can read up on instead of just like, you know, take my word for it, you know, because, again, that’s very much like, it’s how I was trained. And it’s like, it doesn’t go away, you know, but articulating the whys, I think is like, you know, good educator. I think there’s a lot of room for that is like a curriculum.
David: Well, on the ethical questions, we can plug a previous VII Insider discussion, I had a discussion with Savannah Dodd from the Photography Ethics Center. And we went to into a lot of these questions about consent and public space and so on, not to come up with conclusions, but to just think around the whole issue and so on. So if people are interested in that, I think that that is worth paying attention to because it’s about a process of how to think about it rather than coming up with very strict guidelines but because there are a lot of very complex things, they’re about showing the issue not showing the issue of doing it with dignity and respect, etc.
Ilvy: I think guidelines would also almost be impossible because they’re changing so quickly, and it’s so different.
David: The circumstances are so different in different places naturally.
Ilvy: Exactly and each part of the world has kind of different rules, I think as well. So yeah, I guess that might be difficult. There wasn’t really, do we have to, can I do one more question?
David: No, we have time for a couple more. There’s some good questions.
Ilvy: Do you as well, Noelle? Are you okay?
Noelle: Yeah, yeah, I’m good.
Ilvy: Okay, because I thought this was such a, this is actually a question I would like to ask as well. I usually work on long term projects, and I see Paul in the chat has the same thing going on. And he’s wondering when to kind of start showing a project to an editor. So would you like he’s saying, do you want to see your pitch at this point, like, right in the beginning? So you can follow along? Or, and maybe still influence the series in some way? Or do you just want to see it at the end?
Noelle: That’s a really good question. I think I’m gonna be very honest, for the photographer’s that I have relationships with, who I may have intersected with, and I’m familiar with their work, I quite like seeing what they’re working on because half the battle is won in the sense that like, I already would advocate for this person, because I believe in their work. And so if I have like, four pictures on a new project, I might go ahead and be like, hey, you know, like, maybe there’s something we can seed here. I think it’s, it’s trickier when you don’t have a relationship with the photo editor. And you’re saying, like, here’s a sketch of a few pictures, you know, because that’s the other thing, so far, it hasn’t happened to me. But I remember, as a photographer, I know this feeling, you know, you work for years on a project for years, you pour your life blood into it, right? You’re not the only one for working on that subjects, or that idea, right? The frustrating way of like, this person is famous and has done this, and therefore, like the past six years of my life, or you know what I mean? Like, I know that feeling, but, you know, I think that you do have to be somewhat careful, because I, we are in an ideas kind of economy. And I have to say that photo editors are ethical, like, by my experience with photo editors has been great. Like, we don’t take an idea from one person and assign it to another photographer, like there are, there are always there are rules of the road, right? Like, my experience, everyone on my team is incredibly respectful of, you know, ideas and where they come from. But yeah, so it’s hard, it’s hard for me to say I mean, you know, if you’re at the start of something, and you think it might turn into something big, then it might be helpful to say, Hey, I’m working on this, you know, just heads up, you know, it’s gonna be coming up in the news, or you might see this issue come, you know, we had a photographer send us said, Hey, like, I’m at the frontline of Ukraine, I was in a position to hire him. And there, I wouldn’t just hire a freelancer, I’d want to make sure that they have like insurance and protection, all the rest of it have to be responsible. But that’s the kind of thing where like it for a minute, you know, every once in a while, we’ll get like, Hey, I’m in X place, like, you know, here’s a few things that I’m working on. And that might be actually really useful for photo editors to know.
Ilvy: To know where they are. You mentioned that before.
Noelle: So when I am making a case for photographer I have to bring, it’s like, you know, bidding, you have to do it nice and fair. So there are very few cases where I’m like, I want this photographer and my director is like, yes, like, I understand why you made that choice. It’s like, it’s, you know, I’ve got to offer options, and so what I need from you all as photographers is I need a link to great work, no filler, like so if I’m hiring you for a portrait, I need to be able to show her like you kick ass at portraits. If I’m hiring you for like a documentary commission, I need to see like, you know, a 15 picture story on any subject but that just demonstrates that like you can get this done. Because that’s one of the hard things is like we have we have very short attention span. So sometimes, or maybe it’s your Instagram, that’s awesome. And I go to your Instagram and I see like, you know, whatever best representative form, in one link, I’d say is really important. I’m sorry, I kind of cut you off and you had a follow up question.
Ilvy: That’s good. That’s actually great to know because I was also wondering how do you look at these kinds of portfolios, then? Is it on websites? Do you check people on Instagram, social media?
Noelle: Both because remember, what I’m doing is like let’s say there’s something in Seattle. So what am I going to do? I’m going to think about who do I know in Seattle that I’m going to, thank you diversify and women photograph. I’m going to think about okay, what can I plug this into one of the databases and see who’s there and do some research and look around, I might ask my colleagues like, who do you, who do you all know, you know, who’s in this area? And then I’m going to look for somebody that I think could do the job well, and I’ve got to share kind of some representative samples of that person. And I think that’s a really important thing. I mean, I think it’s important to kind of keep that process democratic. Because, you know, also, as a photographer, I know that feeling of like, all you need is a break, you know, like, all you need is somebody to give you an assignment, you know, like, all you need is like that one opportunity. And I think, you know, as far as the New Yorker is concerned, we do. I mean, there’s absolutely, you know, we’re looking for, we don’t just want the kind of tried and true, I think it’s always a question of making sure that just as you would with, like, you know, it’s almost like bidding for any job, it’s like, you have to make sure that you’re getting like a range of voices, you know, different formal perspectives, like you’re really bringing some options to the table that are responsible, and you’re not just relying, you’re not only relying on your networks to be like, you know, I’ve got this person in Portland, who’s great, who you’ve known for 15 years, you know what I mean? Like, luckily, there’s checks within the system that basically like, that’s great, there’ll be one and a mix of three, you know, that will be looked at. So I think that that kind of keeps us all honest, too.
David: So a question from Antonio, about what photo editors can do to support up and coming photographers, I think in some that you’ve touched on this a number of ways by the various databases, and kind of the more diverse sources that you’re using to try and source photographers. But any other thoughts on things that you can do to support up and coming photographers or photo editors generally should do?
Noelle: I think it depends on your personality, because again, like, I’m also kind of a teacher by nature, and I have this very strict like, I will find something nice to say, and I won’t make it up. Like, my eye is trained to find what’s working, you know. And so I think that that’s the other piece, maybe you’re more like me that like gives the negative encouragement. Or maybe you’re the opposite, and you’re the person that can find what’s not working, and find a nice way to say it. You know, I mean, I think that like one of the things, it’s hard for editors, what’s come up for photo editors, you know, that I’ve had with some of my colleagues who maybe are a bit younger or, haven’t been doing it as long is I don’t want to take meetings with photographers, because I don’t want them to get the wrong impression, because there’s so few opportunities, right? So it’s like this pressure of like, you know, if I take a meeting with you, or if you look at my portfolio that, you know, maybe there’s opportunity on the other end and photographers, photo editors actually feel quite guilty about that. There’s really, so I’m optimistic about the, you know, generally speaking, but I’m not gonna lie, there’s, it’s tough, you know, in terms, there’s not that many commissions, for example, you know, there’s just not that much work, there’s work, but so what am I trying to say? I guess, if you have it in you to continue to meet with photographers, you know, either encourage them or provide some constructive criticism, or, you know, I mean, I know that there’s, I’ve seen a few here, like people who have reached out to me that I haven’t responded to you, I try to at least, you know, respond. And I think there’s something to be said for just responding, you know, being encouraging, saying, Have you seen this, you know, if it’s a project that’s like, Oh, I just read this book, did you see this article, you know, just being generous with, with your thoughts, you know, and kind whenever possible.
Ilvy: That’s a good one.
David: I made reference to a book by Ian about Walter Murch, and Ted very kindly went and found the reference. It’s a book by Michael Ondaatje, the English novelist, actually, it’s called the conversations Walter Murch in the art of editing film, it’s a great read itself. And then there’s another one that Ian spotted, which is called, I think this one might be by Walter Murch, In the Blink of an Eye. So they’re in there in the chat. Again, if you’re interested in reading more about sequencing editing, I’ve read the first one. And it was just a great read itself. No rules, no principles, but just you kind of get a sense of the history and the perspective and again, you realize how hard it is to articulate the decisions that are being made here, which are fascinating things.
Noelle: I mean, I think you you’ve in all the institutions that you’ve worked with, you brought so much of that like, thinking and scholarship and like that is so valuable. So I’m like VII is super smart to have brought you on and telling you because it means broader conversations, like there’s a lot of there’s not a lot of people doing the grounding in like theory, or making theory like accessible, you know, so it’s they’re not these two completely different things where like, there’s a field and then there’s theory.
David: Yeah, everyone has a theory, they just don’t know it. You know, it’s like even if you think you’re even if you think you’re anti theory, you have a theoretical perspective, but we could spend hours debating that we’re getting towards the end of our time, and you’ve given lots of really good practical advice. I mean, one of the things that, so I’m not a photographer, but one of the things that I take away from what you have said, is reaching out, all good, but to be very specific, and very direct. So that if you’re reaching out about a portrait, it’s usually portraits reaching out about a documentary story make sure that that is easily accessible, the link takes you exactly there. So that you can pitch. And I thought that was also one of the interesting things was that, in essence, when you when you want to pitch a story, you are working on behalf of the photographer, and so you have to know them and trust them. And so they need to get that information across. But what do you think, probably to finish with your number one do and your number one don’t, for photographers reaching out to you? Doesn’t have to be one but, you know, what are the major do’s and don’ts that you would briefly summarize for, for photographers?
Noelle: The number one do is, don’t take anything personally. Like, no, I mean, it, and I actually, this applied for the grant making to, like, you know, have confidence and faith in what you’re working on, you know, be kind and generous, like and patient, you know what I mean? Just like Teflon, like, just let it roll off, like, yeah, just don’t take things personally, like, for example, it’s a photo editor, and I’ve heard it a lot. Like, if a photo editor has taken a really long time to respond to something, or has never responded to something, right. Maybe what I would ask is just to the extent that you can give the benefit of the doubt, and don’t let it get under your skin, you know, keep it moving. If you get rejected from a grant that you really thought you had a good shot for it, just keep it moving, use that application and finagle it into the next opportunity. You know, I think that that’s what I would say, and then the number one don’t is, you know, don’t get lost, don’t be in the middle of an assignment, and then I can’t find you. Be communicative, I’d say, and also don’t, you know, just generally, like, be kind, don’t be hostile. This is kind of all tied together. Like, you know, I have gotten some nasty emails over the years from people who, you know, legitimately felt like, you know, they deserved an opportunity that they didn’t get, and, you know, I definitely, I am always as empathetic as I can be, you know, but to the extent that you can, you know, try not to kind of take it out on the person that’s delivering the news, you know, whether it’s your program officer or the photo editor, like, you know, give the benefit of the doubt is what I’d say.
Ilvy: That’s some solid advice.
David: Absolutely. In all walks of life, but particularly with editing. So I think that’s, that’s a great place to finish. Kyle asked the question, yes. As always, recording of this talk will go up on the VII insider a website usually takes us about a week to get these up, because they go to Sarajevo, to be edited, and come back now to Australia to be posted, so a global operation here. All our events are recorded. They do appear online eventually so that’s great. But Noelle, I want to thank you profusely, because it’s been, as you’ve seen in the chat, and so on. It’s been an absolutely fantastic conversation. People and a really great insight so perfect way to kick off for us.
Noelle: It’s a pleasure, really.
Ilvy: And thanks as well for for sharing your email because yeah, well, I don’t know if you follow the chat or the Q&A, but people were really eager to…
David: That was the number one question.
Noelle: Bring it on.
Ilvy: Yeah, really. There will be a lot of pitches coming your way.
Noelle: Just be kind a patient.
Ilvy: Give her some time, people. All right.
David: Alright, thanks very much. See you guys later.
Noelle: All right. Bye