Jon Levy founder of Foto8 Magazine.

Today we went down to London to see founder of FOTO8 Magazine Jon Levy, where he invited us into his office to speak about how the magazine and the gallery is run. Jon discussed that the magazine was created to fit the need of photographers who had stories that they wanted to share via a magazine. Jon prefers to print stories that have been brought to his attention rather than go out looking for stories.

Their summer show invites photographers to send in three photographs from their previous years work. Then FOTO8 displays these all together, letting the show take on it’s own narrative.

Jon’s preferred method of working is not to decide on a narrative first and then go out looking for photographs. But instead by looking for photography first based on personal interest then whilst working with this sense of freedom see where the story takes you. He advised us to keep an open mind about how a simple story can be edited by different mediums . . . .  After all what determines a good story?

Jon explains the importance of considering each project individually when judging if it is the artistic approach or the story telling that is most important. He also highlights that the author should bear in mind the audience that they want to reach and the intended impact the photographs will have on the viewer. He suggests the ultimate process for good documentary storytelling would be to suggest issues to the viewer but leave them asking questions, as by doing this it is possible to design photojournalist work that will instil a particular feeling in your audience.

Jon shared with us these useful points about how to approach editors:

  • Don’t be intimidated by editors; it is their job to seek out stories and review potentially pintable photography.
  • Be consistent and regular in your approach by following up the contacts you have made around 5/6 months of initially showing your work.
  • When you go to see them, know what you want from them but at first be content with just meeting them and showing your work (don’t expect too much).

Jon then shared some advice for our degree show:

  • Be aware of the fact that you are separate artists and either make that a feature of the show by making an obvious contrast, or pull the theme together which will therefore highlight the subtle differences between photographers.
  • It is not the theme that differentiates you as artists; it is your style.
  • Don’t be afraid to add an element of fiction to your theme.
  • Choose the way in which you display your work to compliment the type of story you are telling.

For the booklet that our group is planning for our final year project, Jon advised to make a feature of the fact that it is a one off piece. And again make the finishing touches we decide on be a part of the story and fit in with the context of the photography.

I then showed him the task images of photographs that meant something to me or that I liked through my time learning photography. Jon gave me the following feedback:

  • Liked the randomness, liked the grouping of different layers / emotions that have connections whether the viewer realises them or not.
  • The best narratives in photography are often the ones that individually aren’t obviously part of the same title (like these).
  • Hope that in the long run I will add to this envelope of photographs and develop even more nostalgia.
  • He could pick out two or three images that particularly fit together.
  • Liked the element of humour in the photo where the person is cut out of the shot by the flower.
  • Liked the small beach photograph because it accentuates the size of the people ‘small like dots’.
  • Also liked the way it is not the beach that’s determining them, it’s the character of the photographer.
  • It’s nice how I have taken these photographs to take notice of something seemingly different / outstanding, but I have taken them with the familiar notion of family album shots making it comforting for the viewer.
  • He suggests I give myself the freedom to react to the story and remember it doesn’t need any text to be a story.
Images I showed to Jon Levy:

 (David Bailey)

 (Martin Parr)

 (Simon Roberts)

 (Trish Morrissey)

 (Diane Arbus)

 (Elinor Carucci)

 (Elinor Carucci)

 (Colin Grey)

 (Colin Grey)

(Jim Goldberg)

 (Robert Gumpert)

Whilst still in London we had the option to visit a recommended bookmaker and an exhibition at magnum studios. I decided I wanted to take the opportunity to do both as the bookmakers would be useful for our final year booklet and my portfolio, and I had always wanted to see inside Magnum studios. Visiting the bookmakers was really interesting because they showed us all the different style of books they make and how they make them there in the shop. Having seen this for myself and took away a price list I feel more confident about making my portfolio. Visiting the magnum studio’s was interesting as at the time we went they had their contact sheets out ready for their planned move of the next photography to be put on the walls. So I was able to see the contact sheets of different photographers, including one of Martin Parr’s contact sheets where he had circled his chosen image. It was nice to see the other images and made me feel reassured that he had chosen this image from a sheet of many, which is similar to the way I work.


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