The Wonderful Machine gang went south to Washington DC for a second week in a row! Traveling to DC is rare for us, but we had such a successful trip the week before that we had to schedule another visit right away. This time around, we saw The Chronicle of Higher Education and National Geographic Traveler.
Last week, when we drove to DC, we ran into some of the worst traffic any of us had ever seen — and we’re used to NYC! This time, it was relatively smooth sailing. You’ll always run into traffic around DC, but we never had to put our car in park … so I would count that as a win!
When we arrived in DC, it was 55 degrees, and the sun had just come out from behind the clouds. It felt like summer, especially compared to the cold rain we had in Philly. It was perfect walking weather. Convenient since we had a 15-minute walk ahead of us.
We were early for our meeting with The Chronicle, so Nadia and I hung out at the café in their building. Here, we had a chance to relax, enjoy some coffee, and check our email before heading up to the office. When we got to the front desk, we noticed everything seemed pretty quiet. After a quick photo shoot, we moved to the lobby to check out a few copies of The Chronicle. We noticed this paper looks like a giant magazine, not unlike local publications that you find in small towns or neighborhoods. We also saw lots of job listings for college administrators and professors! I suppose this makes sense since The Chronicle primarily distributes to university faculty and staff.
The Chronicle has the largest online audience in higher education, with over two million monthly viewers. They also publish 42 issues a year — that’s one issue a week during the fall and spring semesters and one every other week during the summer. We also learned that The Chronicle of Higher Ed also produces The Chronicle Review and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
After perusing The Chronicle, Photo Editor Erica Lusk greeted us and brought us into a conference room to meet. Before sitting down, she let us know that she wouldn’t have much time. It had slipped our minds that we came right in the middle of the college admissions scandal! It turns out the office was so quiet because everyone was jammed into meetings or on assignment!
Knowing we only had a short time to visit, we dove right in. We talked about our website and some new projects. While we were giving our presentation, Erica’s boss peeked in to say they had another meeting. So, we wrapped up with just enough time to show a handful of portfolios. Erica loved Kyle Monk’s book, filled with environmental portraits, natural light, and lighthearted energy. After looking through our photographers, Erica had to rush out to her next meeting. Although it was only 15 minutes, I think we all had a great time!
For our second meeting, we headed back to National Geographic — this time to discuss National Geographic Traveler with Anne Farrar. Anne is the Director of Photography at NG Traveler. She is a true lover of photography who has been in the industry for many years. We came to show her a few things but ended up learning much more from her!
Anne already knew WM pretty well, so we sped through the website introduction and went right to the portfolios.
The first portfolio didn’t strike a chord the way I thought it would. It was a beautiful example of travel photography with breathtaking images of exotic locations, smiling people, and beautiful cityscapes. It was an absolute gem, and I assumed it would go over well. Anne told me it would be great for the front half of the magazine, but she already had a lot of photographers to shoot the front. She explained that National Geographic Traveler shows two types of photography: bright, clean destination images located in the front of the magazine and narrative-driven, journalistic photos that fill the back half of the book.
Anne was particularly interested in finding more images for the back half of the book — readers love them, but they are harder to come by. Anne explained these photos must tell a unique story. She doesn’t want to see a generic tropical boat trip. Anne wants a tropical boat trip guided by locals, filled with unique imagery and a sense of place. She also wants her images to be authentic and unaltered as part of National Geographic’s journalistic standards. They want to show the world as it is, not cleaned up.
It’s essential that her photographers are on the same page. To decide whether a new photographer can work this way, she’ll request all of the raw files from an assignment. If they shoot 800 images, she wants all 800 images, including repeated and random shots. By doing this, she sees the photographer’s thought process, learns how they tell a story, and checks their skill level. Anne says this process leaves many photographers feeling exposed, but she says it’s one of the best ways to see what they can do.
Once I had a better handle on what she was looking for, I edited the massive pile of books down to a smaller stack of portfolios that I thought would be perfect.
The smaller stack consisted of Mark Lehn, Greta Rybus, Gary S. Chapman, Ben Weller, Scott Suchman, Lauren Ishak, and Ackerman + Gruber. Right off the bat, Anne knew Ackerman + Gruber and Scott Suchman. They produce a lot of great work, so I wasn’t too surprised. Anne also knew Greta Rybus, and told me she had spoken with her in the past about licensing some images — she loves Greta’s work. The ones that surprised her were Mark Lehn, Gary S. Chapman, Ben Weller, and Lauren Ishak. She had never seen their work and told me she would hire them, given the right opportunity.
We wrapped up our meeting but chatted for another 30 minutes. Anne is a fun person who knows a lot about the industry and happily shared some wisdom. We finally said our goodbyes, hooked her up with a mug and shirt, and made our way to the elevators.
Nadia and I had a great time in both of our meetings. We met great people, learned so much, and shared some talented photographers. We’ll be planning another trip to DC as soon as possible!