'A Photo Editor' founder Rob Haggart on the Future of Photography

6 Feb 2014 | By | Interviews, Trends

Image © Justin Hackworth Photography

Image © Justin Hackworth Photography

For many, the future of photography feels like a grey area. But one man who’s lit up this space is Rob Haggart and the ‘A Photo Editor’ blog. Informed, impassioned, impossible to miss, we ask Haggart about the future directions of photography

Unlike much of our digital grazing, if you don’t check into A Photo Editor at least once a week you will miss a nugget, an insight into the photography business, some story, or some take on a buzz that will make you think a little differently. The website is edited by Rob Haggart, former DOP for Men’s Journal and Outside magazine, website developer and designer.

Go onto ‘A Photo Editor’ and check out Haggart’s post from December 26, 2007 – the year was a tipping point in professional photography. You’ll read his goodbye to the world of print magazines that was changing fast. Haggart wanted a different kind of lifestyle, to spend more time with his kids. Change? Twitter was launched March 2006, Tumblr was launched in February 2007, the first iPhone was launched in June 2007.

A Photo Editor is plugged very directly into photographer’s concerns around copyright, around fees and commissions, around the anxieties and opportunities of social media. There are instructional case studies on contracts and pricing, there’s showcase work, art book reviews by Fine Art photographer Jonathan Blaustein, photographer and Art Buyer interviews conducted by Suzanne Sease former Senior Art Buyer at the Martin Agency, and a curated set of quotes and links to other photo features around the web that have an uncanny ability to lock onto perspectives sure to rouse image professionals.

Hero Images / RF

Hero Images / RF

A Photo Editor is also very much a child of the blogging age. Unlike traditional trade magazines the content isn’t smoothed over, overproduced. It’s bumpy, both businesslike and a little baggy. Professional and impassioned, expansive in its tonality, in debates around social media, in Jonathan Blaustein’s digressive, gonzo, artbook reviews, whose storytelling is an effective gambit in drawing the reader into more unusual kinds of image-making.

If the site looks smart it’s also because web design and development is one of the areas Haggart has explored professionally. In that sense he’s representative of one likely future for the professional photographer, or photography/design school graduate, someone who has multiple, diverse, complementary routes to earning a crust. But at the hub of these activities there will be the eye, the brain, the hand of the trained photographer. We wanted to hear Haggart’s take on the important issues in photography and to get a sense of where it’s going.

Haggart’s vision of the future for photography is refreshing and surprising.

What motivated you to start A Photo Editor, and what kinds of websites or  magazines inspired it?

I started A Photo Editor back when blogs were getting really popular. I realized most of them were guessing what happened at a magazine and why hiring decisions were made so I wrote about what it was like to be a photo editor. At the time I was Director of Photography at Men’s Journal in New York City. It’s evolved to include other writers and topics unreleated to photo editing, but the mission remains the same: inform people how it all works behind the scenes. I try to only talk with people who are actually doing it.

Natalie Young / Image Source RF

Natalie Young / Image Source RF

What kinds of articles have been the most popular? Any features in particular that have caused a stir?

The most controversial and popular stories were the firsts. First time anyone had posted a commercial estimate online, first time posting pictures of a printed portfolio, first time posting a months worth of promo cards that came in the mail.

Your career has zigged and zagged in interesting ways. Young graduates in the creative industries will have to adapt to the rapid pace of change. Could you describe the thinking at the time behind some of the leaps you made?

Its pretty simple really. I started out working with print and moved online when that took over. I think you’ve got to have your head in both worlds. There’s lots to learn from the past that can be applied to the future. And we really don’t know where it’s all headed so you experiment and expect to fail.

jackSTAR / Cultura RF

jackSTAR / Cultura RF

You have Fine Art photographer Jonathan Blaustein blogging about the latest books, festivals, work by Fine Art photographers. How relevant is this kind of imagery for commercial photographers’ work?

First, I think most photographers look at other genres and think the grass is greener. So commercial photographers always want to get involved in fine art because they see opportunity. Next, I don’t think the genres are cut and dry anymore. Someone in Fine Art is being approached to shoot commercial and editorial and commercial photographers are asked to provide work for galleries. Finally, if you are a photographer at heart you love to look at work and try to understand it better – no matter what genre it comes from.

Millennium Bridge towards Tate Modern, London, UK. James Eckersley, Image Source, RM

Millennium Bridge towards Tate Modern, London, UK. James Eckersley, Image Source, RM

You keep a close-eye on the impact of social media on photography and photographers. How do you see this space developing?

Social media is the future for photographers. Brands need photographers who are comfortable working in the social media environment. Social media is image rich and there’s an opportunity for photographers to produce work that rises above the noise. That combo will be very enticing for brands.

You have been working at the edge of change in photography for over a decade. How do you see the future for professional photographers?

We’re seeing the end of the camera operator as a profession. Cameras used to be difficult to operate, film was difficult to use and digitising the results was expensive. That’s all changed and will continue to get easier. The profession of photography will be about creative problem solving, professionalism, production value, prolificness, access and audience.

Businessman by blackboard with digital tablet and moodboard

Cadalpe / Image Source RM

See A Photo Editor for yourself here.

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