Gorkana meets… Professional Photography

In October, Future launched Professional Photography magazine – its latest offering in the photography sector. Gorkana’s Sam Willis caught up with group editor-in-chief Chris George to find out, eight months in, how the market has reacted, why Future wanted to add to its existing photography portfolio and what he wants from PRs in content ideas.
Professional Photography

Chris George

Professional Photography was launched by Future last October. What was the inspiration behind it?

Future was already the market leading producer in the consumer-targeted photographic magazine sector, and while we did have content around aspiring professionals in some of our photography magazines, we didn’t have a dedicated title to cater to this market.

Two years ago we launched a new event – The Photography Show. It’s an annual show that attracts
about 30,000 people, including professional exhibitors in the photofinishing, wedding album and lighting markets. Out of that, the idea of launching a professional photography magazine became more exciting due to the client base that emerged from the show.

An opportunity arose when Archant closed Professional Photographer magazine. We acquired its subs list and social media strands to create what we think is a fresh magazine that fills the space that was left by the former title’s closure. We’ve changed the name, it’s kept some of the heritage of Professional Photographer, and its been refocused so as not to step on the toes of any other Future titles.

What were the biggest challenges around the title’s launch?Professional Photography cover

Getting the proposition and the magazine’s feel right. It’s always hard with a new product like this because you are approaching brands that haven’t heard of you, and yet you’re trying to persuade them to give you a lot of stuff and access. It’s a harder journey than if you’re established. Because we’ve sort of re-launched an existing title, people expect it to be exactly the same as the last one, so we’ve got to go through the process of explaining that it’s not, it’s even better. It’s exciting though – not a challenge!

How does Professional Photography differ from the rest of Future’s photography portfolio?

We don’t have any tutorial type content in the magazine – like ‘10 ways to light your subjects better’. More than half of the content in the title is picture-led feature articles (images by great photographers accompanied by intelligent discussion of their work).

Another strand of content includes ‘Personal Projects’ – a common tool used by photographers to say “I’ve been pigeonholed as ‘this’, but if you give me a free reign then ‘this’ is what else I could produce”. It’s a fascinating way to talk to photographers, because you get to see a whole other side to their day job work.

We also have a business section, which contains gallery listings and book reviews, as well as content around the business of making money out of photography.

How big is the Professional Photography editorial team?

We have two full-time members of staff; an editor and art editor. We also have a team of freelancers.

Tell us about the Professional Photographer reader.

They’re either a professional photographer or they’re the kind of person who has outgrown the practical content we give in our other magazine offerings. They’re the sort of person who would probably queue to go and see a Sebastiao Salgado exhibition at the Natural History Museum. They might buy a coffee table book by Yann Arthus-Bertrand or Cartier-Bresson because they’re really interested in photography, but don’t want to learn how to set up a flashgun.

Describe your relationship with PRs.

We have a very established relationship with people on, what I’d call, the equipment side. The PRs that we are trying to build relationships with – and it’s been going really well – are the galleries and the more extensive list of book publishers. We’re getting on their radars because we’re doing something different to other photographic magazines. It’s been a case of showing them rather than trying to describe to them what we’re doing.

How best can they help with content?

It would definitely be helpful to hear from PRs about galleries. I never curse at the amount of press releases I get in my inbox because you can get very skilled at going through them and picking out the ones you want very quickly. I’d prefer not to miss anything.

Finally, what would be your ideal piece of content to feature?

I get quite excited about the big-name people that we can feature in the magazine, whether it’s Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989, but has a major retrospective, or David Bailey, who we recently interviewed. He’s probably still the best known living British photographer. We’ve also featured David Hurn, who’s not such a well known name, but has established one of the first photo-journalism courses in the UK and is still an active shooter.

Occasionally you find these fantastic photographers that you haven’t heard of before. If you can show hardened professionals that have seen it all before something that makes them go “Wow, that’s breathtaking” then I think it makes it all worthwhile.

Chris was talking to Gorkana’s Sam Willis

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