10 minutes with Bailey Franklin

Interviews with Photo Editors May 8, 2014 1:55 pm

Do you remember when you first became interested in photography?

Both of my parents worked at Time Inc., and we had several Time Life photography books around the house. I don’t remember their names beyond “Life Goes to War”, but starting around the age of 5 or 6 I used to spend hours looking at them, getting completely lost in all of those incredibly iconic images. Everything from Robert Capa and Alfred Eisenstadt to George Silk and Margaret Bourke-White. Philippe Halsman’s surreal portraits were a particular favorite. I used to make a game out of seeing if I could remember who shot what (only child/nerd alert). The fact that they all had such strong visual identities made that both fun and (pretty easy in retrospect).

What led you to becoming a photo editor?

In a word, nepotism. My aunt Gay Franklin was a photo editor at Sports Illustrated and my father DeLance worked in the Time Inc. Picture Collection. I had no idea what I wanted to do after college, and spent years waiting tables in the South Street Seaport while taking pictures for fun. When I asked my father what exactly he did as a catologuer in the Picture Collection, what he described seemed like a fun entry-level corporate job. Luckily, at that time the department was large enough to keep me separated from him as per Time Inc policy, and in 1995, about a year after my first of many interviews and tests, they offered me a job. I was assigned to People magazine, captioning and filing the images from the magazine. After about a year and a half, People En Español went monthly and they started casting about for bilingual Spanish entry level photo editors. I majored in Spanish in college, and my former Picture Collection coworker Lillian Pons had just started freelancing at the magazine. She suggested me to the Photo Director Ramiro Fernandez, and I started as an assistant photo editor there in 1997.

What do you think the future of the magazine industry looks like, especially for photographers?

I hate to say it, but I’m pessimistic for photographers and especially photo editors, at least as far as earning a decent living goes. As more magazines fold and images move from print to digital, the amount of money that people are willing to spend on photography is probably going to continue to go down. It’s just getting too hard to justify the overhead on both the staffing and creative end in today’s publishing climate. That said, I certainly hope to be proven wrong!

Its actually kind of refreshing to hear you say that, since I think a lot of the people I interview for this blog either feel differently, or, perhaps, don’t want to jinx anything by saying anything thats not positive. Do you think more attention will be paid to online photography and thus giving photographers more of a budget with online-only shoots, and perhaps opening more doors for photo editors? It seems like despite the slashing of budgets and the, at times, doom and gloom of the print world, there is no lack of people graduating college or wanting to switch careers and become photo editors. Although with the web it seems like quantity over quality, but that must change at some point – right?

I agree that there will be new avenues online for talented photographers to showcase their work, but I’m concerned that the “Instagram effect” just gives the people creating budgets and signing checks the justification they need to see how little a photographer is willing to work for. When I think about the level of objective skill and knowledge that used to go into the process of creating and printing even a moderately successful image, I can’t help but wonder if today’s ease of use is great as a democratizing force culturally but terrible in terms of negotiating a living wage. Don’t get me wrong. I think there is a very clear distinction between accomplished photographers and creative enthusiasts. My concern is more about what people are willing to pay for that level of expertise. Personally, I think the photographers who can juggle editorial and advertising (and even fine art) careers are probably the best positioned. There is just so much downward pressure on editorial budgets these days, including at the big publishers like Conde Nast. You basically have a select group of talent that can command what I would consider healthy, appropriate budgets, and you have everyone else vying for greatly reduced numbers. Again, this is just my personal experience and perspective, and I am definitely not clairvoyant!

So very true! The process of creating and printing an image for print does, at this point, feel like a very different process then assigning for a web only shoot. If you could go back ten years, what advice would you give yourself?

Considering everything that has gone on not only in publishing but with the economy in general, I wish that I had started thinking entrepreneurially much earlier. That would also include exploring other fields I might have found interesting to go back to school and study. I plan on working until I’m at least 70, so even at this point I am still only half way through my working life.

Photo by Cheyne Gately

Photo by Cheyne Gately

Bailey Franklin has been working in magazines for over 17 years, including positions at People En Español Magazine, Bon Appétit Magazine and Runners World Magazine, among others. He is currently the Photo Director at Variety. Bailey is based in Los Angeles.

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