To mark the start of our 87th year of continuous publication, we’re pleased to announce a groundbreaking collaboration with LOOK3, Charlottesville’s nationally acclaimed festival of the photograph. Our Winter issue, which should be arriving in subscriber mailboxes as we speak, is a special issue co-edited by the LOOK3 team of Nick Nichols, one of the festival’s founders and an editor-at-large at National Geographic magazine; Andrew Owen, managing director; and Jenna Pirog, technical producer. It’s the culmination of months of planning and cooperation.
In June, Nick and Andrew assembled an incredible group of young photographers on a farm outside Charlottesville for an event they called LOOKbetween. The goal was gathering the next generation of photographers and editors to share ideas about the future of the industry. The setting was quiet and extremely relaxed—with all the participants camped out in tents in an open pasture—but there was such energy in the air and such natural sympatico between LOOK3 and VQR. Like us, LOOK3 was looking for ways to support aspiring photographers who recognize that traditional in-depth reporting and long-form storytelling in print remain vital, even as the industry is reshaped by new technologies. These changes have met with considerable anxiety among industry insiders, but the mood at LOOKbetween was positive and forward-looking.
On the second night, we announced that VQR would publish the best work from the festival as a special issue of the magazine. Tom Skalak, UVA’s vice president for research, pledged to underwrite the issue—and he and Jeffrey Plank, associate vice president for research, mingled with the young photographers as well as the likes of Gary Knight, co-founder of the VII photo agency and awesome print magazine Dispatches, and David Griffin, the executive editor of electronic publishing at National Geographic magazine. It was also a chance to see some past VQR contributors, like Dana Romanoff and Elliott Woods.
Now, six months later, the Winter issue is out and includes photo essays by ten LOOKbetween emerging photographers, as well as an amazing set of single shots by thirty additional young photographers. The full contents of the Winter issue will appear online soon. For now, look for the issue on newsstands, and keep an eye on this space. We’ll be releasing a series of multimedia projects—created as companions to the print photo essays—here on the blog, beginning with projects by Maisie Crow, Christopher Capozziello, and Susan Worsham, over the next few weeks.
To coincide with the release of the special issue, we’re also launching a new website of reporting from Afghanistan by Elliott Woods. The website, called Assignment Afghanistan, features an amazing collection of Elliott’s photographs, multimedia, and writing. And it will be expanded throughout 2011. Elliott will be back on the ground in Afghanistan in a matter of days, but the site is more than just Elliott’s words and images. It will also feature updates from the very troops and Afghan civilians included in Elliott’s earlier stories. It’s an experiment in mixing traditional reporting with new media tools.
This standalone website signals a new era in VQR’s development. Don’t misunderstand: we’re in no hurry to abandon print. But we are committed to exploring new ways of finding the next generation of readers. The challenge will be embracing these emerging technologies while maintaining high intellectual and literary standards. It’s a tall order, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand. The rise of digital media has eroded the market and social value placed on serious reporting and altered the revenue models for the entire publishing world. VQR has created its own model of on-the-ground literary reporting that is nonprofit and university-based. We hope to build on and expand that model with multimedia, web-based projects like Assignment Afghanistan—with the larger goal of sparking a renaissance among a rising generation of storytellers by finding new audiences for their work and a new business model for publishing a magazine in the digital age.
Some may see hubris in such ambition. We see a challenge—and an opportunity for innovation.