Assessment 1 part 2 – Researching

Research your proposed publication and its agenda and aesthetic. Who is its audience and how is photography used to communicate ideas?

With a range of topics discussed in each issue, the Big Issue reaches a wide audience, but appeals directly to those who consider they have a ‘social conscience’.   The magazine is very pro active in maintaining transparency, with several areas of the website, and each issue explaining exactly how the consumer price is divided up, and re stating their independent stance.

The photographs in the magazine are used to highlight stories, and especially to put a human face on the articles.  While many articles have only one image, there are several articles in each issue with multiple images, varying from quite candid shots, to technically complex, well set up studio images, and everything that can possibly range between.

Describe the magazine’s typical reader

A typical purchaser of the Big Issue is me.  Well, probably a little younger than me (I am 49), judging by the people who I watch stop and buy outside Southern Cross station (where I first became aware of this magazine).  To hazard a semi educated guess after watching one vendor, I would estimate the average age at 30.  They seem to be quite well educated, judging by the breadth of articles, have a keen interest in the world around them, and are willing to step up and be counted about current issues that affect their world, and the world of those around them.

What kind of stories does the magazine run?

There are many subjects in each issue, with the publication priding itself on covering a variety of topics and in their approach.  Serious when needed, but always with a number of humorous or quirky articles to maintain reader interest, I have seen articles on creating the perfect retreat for a teenage girl’s room (thus confirming my belief that middle age Australians, who I am interested in reaching, are among the target audience) to an article on touring abandoned buildings in Europe, through to interviews with celebrity chefs.  Each issue contains an article which highlights one of the vendors of the magazine, keeping an important human face on the enterprise.  The website and several advertisements in each issue also offers information on other programs that the organisation runs, with an emphasis on empowering disadvantaged or marginalised women, and education of children about social issues.

How many photographs are used in a feature story?

Each story has varying requirements for images and word count, with guidelines being listed on the FAQ page, however, there appears to be a lot of flexibility around those guidelines, with my count for one article being six images, which appears to exceed the stated guidelines.

How are the photographs used within a feature story?

Photographs are used to create interest within a story, portraits of interviewees being quite common,  pictures of topical interest quite often being on the cover (the current issue shows a horse and a pretty girl in a spring races outfit), several stories will show pictures that illustrate various points within that story, and others will depict and emphasise the humorous or serious side of the story.

Are the pictures mainly informative or illustrative?

The vast majority of the pictures do appear to be illustrative, but again, there is a wide range that changes per issue, I can discern no set ratio.

Does the magazine use one style of photography or a variety of approaches?

With many photographs being taken by the contributing author, they vary widely according to the taste and style, and indeed, the equipment available.  The magazine does frequently commission photographers and other artists for various articles.

If the magazine commissioned you, what other factors would you need to consider when planning your shoot?

As I have changed the focus of my story after discussions with several people, including my lecturer and some potential subjects,  I would need to consider the national focus of the magazine, and attempt to find sources from different areas, so as not to seem too ‘local’ for publication.  I would also need to keep the tone quite upbeat to appeal to the widest possible number of readers.


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