It's late and I've been out for a few drinks after work. It's even a school night. I am waiting here in Victoria train station for my train home and standing confused in the magazine section of a major newsagent. It's a big newsagent. It sells novels and everything.
Where are all the photography magazines?
I know the death of print has been heralded for a long time now, time & again. But I'm not asking where the magazines are... I'm asking where the photography magazines are.
I have time to stand here and type my thoughts as I wait for my train, time to browse the shelves. Ignoring the huge, £15 "Ultimate Guide to Photography" pseudo-books, I can count a few genuine photography magazines. The venerable Amateur Photographer is still there of course, sucking on its Worthers Original, alongside one of the generic Digital-Practical-Photography-Camera-Photo-DSLR-User clones. I can see a copy or two of Outdoor Photographer sat beside a single, lonely copy of the British Journal of Photography with Black & White Photography & the single copy of Professional Photographer I have snatched off the shelves finishing off the pantheon on offer.
It wasn't that long ago that we had maybe double the selection we do now. Notable passings include my personal favourite, Advanced Photographer, for example. Yet when I look around I find evidence for the death of the magazine in short supply for any other genre of magazine.
My train still doesn't have a platform so I begin to count.
- Five magazines devoted to models, from wargaming figurines to sci-if tanks. If we add the model trains in here it doubles it to ten
- Essentially countless video gaming magazines - just the gaming, not the general technology magazines. They have their own entire stand.
- A mind boggling 17 - SEVENTEEN - sewing magazines. I include things like quilting because it's basically the same, in the same way outdoor photography is still photography.
- Another fourteen baby & pregnancy magazines.
- An entire rack of music magazines - this is the opposite side to the video game stand so we are taking dozens of different ones.
- I count over 20 house & home magazines. This includes one magazine dedicated entirely to "Wallpaper"
- I skip hastily over the Hello/OK-style drivel but not before noticing they have a full end-rack of celeb-news rags
- Four or five magazines dedicated to every sub-genre of sport imaginable - per genre I might add - except football which stretches off into the distance.
I could go on - quite literally because I'm still waiting for a train - but it's at this stage I realise how woefully under-represented photography is.
The standard reason for photography magazines dying off basically boils down to the Internet - all the news, opinion, user guides & inspiration you could possibly want is available, often for free, online. Magazines can't keep up to date with a fast moving technology industry like photography and in the same way our high street photography stores are closing, magazines die off.
Based on the evidence of my own eyes though, why does every single other genre of magazine seem to be thriving?
Surely every other technology-based magazine genre should be trimmed back to its last few stalwarts too, depleted by the advance of the Internet, but computing, HiFi, television & movies are all heavily represented. Those industries move just as fast as photography with at least as much material out there online.
Homewares, baking, arts & crafts all have Etsy, Pinterest and YouTube to offer advice and inspiration so who still needs a magazine?
Running, body-building, football... the internet is swimming in content and you can't exactly jog around reading a copy of Runners World.
These magazines can't survive on the occasional after-hours reader picking up an impulse copy on the way home; they must have a loyal readership. What do they offer their readers that photography magazines do not?
All of the reasons we've been told that herald the death of photography magazines should apply equally to other magazines, pretty much, but while photography is relegated to a corner of the news stand alongside iPad for Beginners and Ancestry Weekly, by contrast the other magazines seem to be thriving.
As I finish my musings I've managed to make it onto a train and I'm nearly home. My copy of Professional Photographer is sitting untouched next to me - for now.
I have a feeling I may not be able to explain why photography magazines are so poorly represented tonight but I will damn well figure it out... I feel some theories percolating.
Let me know your thoughts & theories in the comments below!
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