As a writer, I’ve always felt resentful toward the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Secretly, of course, away from my photographer friends and co-workers, I’d push up my nose at the thought of it. Seriously? A thousand words? A writer can do a lot of magic with a thousand words.
But the more time I have spent in this industry, the more I’ve realize the importance of a great photograph. Slowly, I’ve sucked up my pride and admitted my own limitations—as well as the limitations of the written word—and accepted the superiority of the photograph and its ability to capture emotion and raw humanity.
I will never forget the images of photographers like Eddie Adams, David Burnett and Chris Hondros. Hondros, who was killed while shooting the civil war in Libya last year, was a great friend to my friend and longtime cohort Greg Campbell (who also happens to be my new associate editor). He traveled the world following politicians, war and tragedy to bring heart-wrenching images to media everywhere. You may have seen his stunning portrait of a Liberian fighter in mid air or the screaming Iraqi child covered in the blood of her parents, who had just been killed by American troops.
If not, Google him. You’ll be changed too.
I’ve also come to realize how words and pictures—when paired like music and lyrics—can be such a symphony in print.
When I was a newspaper reporter, I’d rarely think about the imagery that would compliment my stories. A photographer might occasionally show up and snap some shots. Maybe, if it struck me, I’d throw the office Nikon over my shoulder and take a picture or two. But things have changed. When your pages get glossy, your photos must be stellar. In the magazine world, photography is second only to a lovely turn of phrase (or maybe it’s the other way around), and quality is of the utmost importance.
At this magazine, we rely upon an ever-growing group of photographers to bring light, focus and vision to these pages. Under-paid and never praised enough, these artists do spectacular work with little more than their own innovation.
Last year, I sent photographer Joe Hodgson (who shot both this cover photo and the group photos for our Singles Issue) out to take a simple portrait of one-legged Iron Man Paul Martin. A couple days later, Hodgson sent us a batch of captivating shots of the athlete. With hope, these will one day become award-winning images. Both Jenifer Harrington and Ed Corcoran have taken photos for this magazine for years. Harrington has shot amazing pieces with her baby son strapped to her chest. And Corcoran shot photos for us while his Golden home was under threat of fire. I’ve happily watched Jon and Paul of Gray Box Studios delicately and intricately plan and shoot everything from our 2011 Best of the West in the basement of Paul’s Thornton home to a garden from a Chautauqua rooftop.
And there are many more—too many to name all of them here. They have climbed mountains for us, traipsed through fields of snow and into darkened corn fields for us, and turned their homes into makeshift studios for us. They have spent their own time and energy to make our pages as beautiful as they are. And their efforts often result in the one thing that few words can do: attract readers to the magazine with just a short glimpse.
I guess what I’m trying to say in fewer than a thousand words is thank you.