The British Journal of Photography relaunched last week with an extensive redesign. It’s much improved but does it rise to the editor’s own challenge of becoming a beautiful photographic magazine?
The relaunch issue is the BJP’s 7,774th edition – the magazine started as a monthly title in 1854, changing to a weekly in 1864. 146 years later it reverts to its original monthly format. One reason given for the recent change is that its readers are apparently now more likely to seek out news stories on bjp-online.com, while longer features and analysis still find a more favourable home in print.
The relaunch pushes some new sections within the magazine, including Projects (above) – where series of works are displayed and discussed – and Portfolio, which examines the output of a single photographer. And over its considerable 100 pages, it’s clear that the magazine has plenty to say: the content is extensive, with features on established photographers giving way to shorter pieces on new work and reviews.
The cover of the new issue features an arresting image by Reed + Rader, cover lines that work well as a list of contents, while a bold headline supports the main image as the lead story. But it does seem to suffer from a wealth of information fighting for space.
The BJP probably has one of the longest titles out there – 27 characters no less, hence the usual initialism. Coupled with taglines “A Different Take” and “The world’s longest-running photography magazine, established 1854”, another cover line, all in the upper fifth portion of the cover, it does make for a masthead that feels a little cramped.
The cover, as so many magazines do presently, echoes some of the key stylings that designer and art director Jop van Bennekom has created for titles such as Re- and Fantastic Man. The design of the short-lived Pictured magazine from a few years ago, perhaps also suggested a direction that the new BJP might take (its previous incarnation is shown below).
The BJP before the redesign
Under the creative direction of the BJP’s art editor, Mick Moore, a selection of new fonts have also been brought in for the redesign: headings are set in Farnham Display from Font Bureau (currently also used by CR); body text in Skolar from TypeTogether (above – note the ligatures at ‘ct’ and ‘st’); while nibs, captions and panels use the sans serif face, Gotham Narrow, from Hoefler & Frere-Jones.
Interestingly, in his column editor Simon Bainbridge makes the point that “Architects and graphic designers have beautiful magazines to read, so why not professional photographers?”
It’s a question that we’ve raised numerous times in the office ourselves. Despite the preponderance of fantastic photographic work out there, why are there so few devoted photography magazines that have risen to the challenge of being beautiful?
In line with Bainbridge’s own questioning, the new issue of the BJP doffs its cap to a selection of magazines that already do photography really well: Amusement, Russian Esquire, Candy, Garden & Gun, Rouleur and The New York Times Magazine (with pages from Ryan McGinley’s series of Winter Olympics pictures shown from the latter).
It’s a timely feature and alludes to the kind of company that the BJP sees itself amongst, even if the best efforts of van Bennekom are perhaps conspicuously absent.
Looking through the new issue, however, it’s clear that the redesign has refreshed the purpose and intent of one of the world’s longest running creative titles. It’s equally as impressive to see it assert the power of the printed photograph in such turbluent times for publishing.
The British Journal of Photography is on sale the first Wednesday of every month, priced at £6.99. More at bjp-online.com.