by Robert Legendre
What follows is a request for moral support. The board of directors and editorial committee of CVphotois seeking the sympathy of certain supporters of the arts, of photography in particular, and of its contributors. As readers of the magazine, you too may voice your support and appreciation. We would very much appreciate receiving written comments and critiques discussing the magazine and our work.
The means for disseminating the work of Québécois and Canadian photographers are rare and, therefore, particularly valuable. CVphoto figures among them. For a number of years now, the government subsidies on which CVphoto is essentially subsisting have been stagnant and, in some cases, diminishing. While each renewal of financial aid, whether municipal, provincial, or federal, offers no additional monies to the magazine, the costs of production continue to increase. The fact of the matter is that government subsidies clearly constitute our main source of income. “What about private sector sponsoring?” you might ask. In contemporary visual arts magazines the space available for advertising is limited. The firms which, according to a certain logic, could be of aid (I refer here to those implicated in the field of photography or imaging), readily evoke the stagnating economic climate and the size of our target audience, and consequently have no desire to associate themselves with our product. We don’t reach out to a large enough audience (CVphoto circulates at 1500 copies), and our orientation is not sufficiently commercial (we neither play upon sensationalism nor promote photographic competitions for amateurs or students). Furthermore, the decision power of most of these big companies is based elsewhere; in some cases, Toronto (where, sadly, we have no offices), but more often in New York, Houston, or Tokyo. Hence, the drama grows. Indeed, it has become at once a drama of territory, of dependency, and of finance.
The fact that a considerable portion of private sector sponsors depends on head offices located outside of the province or the country, along with our lack of means to adequately enter into contact with the decision makers of these companies, and the insufficient subsidies we receive, seriously handicap our ability to disseminate the many experimental fields of contemporary photography in a satisfactory manner. I refer here to the use of colour and digital treatment of images, among aother features we are unable to afford.
THE REASON WE DON’T PUBLISH COLOUR OR DIGITALLY TREATED IMAGES HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING STRAIGHT OR OBSOLETE; we, for one, aren’t.
WE DON’T PUBLISH THEM BECAUSE WE’RE POOR.
And it’s really a shame. We are distancing ourselves from the day-to-day reality of artists. For lack of funds, we are confined to turn a blind eye to an entire sector of contemporary artistic practice which, for lack of vehicle, seeks support beyond borders, or in fields of activity that are blatantly commercial. It must be the art milieu’s equivalent of market globalization. In the end, the magazine will be left with only its historical value, “which is no small feat!” you may say. I familiarized myself with photography by reading and leafing through magazines and books published elsewhere – in France, Great Britain, Japan, or in the United States – and available in all well-merchandised news stands and public libraries. This was during the 1960s and 1970s.
Anecdote: While preparing a course I had to give last winter on the evolution of the character-subject’s treatment in photography, I realized that it was the first time that a thematic content of this nature could be developed and based upon photographic production from Québec and Canada. Moreover, the research material was easily accessible through five or six issues of CVphoto.
We are faced, nonetheless, with the sad reality of being unable to offer decent (honest) honorariums to our contributors. Our efforts to turn CVphoto into a bilingual magazine were prompted by a will to increase the dissemination possibilities of Québécois and Canadian photographic production. The results are more than satisfactory. That Québec shares not our enthusiasm for a bilingual publication, we are willing to understand. That Ottawa shies away from supporting this particular endeavour, is a bit more difficult to comprehend. Must we resort to knocking at the government doors of Great Britain or the United Sates?
In spite of our unrelentless efforts to produce a quality publication with very little means, it is expected of us to improve the magazine at all levels. The latest administrative policy in the field of arts and culture strongly encourages its players to strengthen their financial autonomy. Yet our subscriptions have been increasing steadily, just as our sales and distribution to Canadian and international news stands. We continue to work at ensuring a significant improvement in the quality of our texts, while regularly including contributions by leading national and international critics who share a particular interest in Québécois and Canadian photography. Wishing to avoid all forms of sectarianism with regard to photographic theory and practice, we are constantly widening and varying the basin of our contributors. Furthermore, we would like to be able to present the works of an even greater number of photographers. Insofar as this last wish is concerned, the ensuing addition of pages would clearly necessitate an increase in funds.
The artists whose work we publish are invited to submit the name of an author – either a regular or new contributor – with whom they share affinities. It sometimes happens that the connection is made beforehand, without us having to propose it. This method of working is both efficient and enjoyable, and allows us to keep our pace and proceed onward with our objectives. Our contributors accept to collaborate out of graciousness, chivalry, or romanticism. But then, they are also aware and understanding of the urgency and need for a publication such as CVphoto in an arts milieu – our’s – where cultural invasion (from south of the border and abroad) is often an excuse for indolence and laxity.
Besides, we have become a venue for new authors to render their ideas public and to publish their texts. They enliven both the magazine itself and the body of published works, through their contribution of insightful texts on art and photography, written in a fresh style – perhaps an indication of changing winds.
As a manner of compensating for the serious lack of publications promoting the work of Québécois and Canadian photographers, we have chosen to present the photographs we publish in a portfolio style. Our magazine is a quarterly publication, and each issue features three portfolios. As a result, with every year, we are able to contribute twelve more portfolios and twelve more texts to the body of our local and national artistic production. Hence, we hope and trust that, in the long run, our unyielding efforts and meagre means will have progressed toward the creation of an anthology of Québécois and Canadian photography able to convey a vision – as accurate as possible – of contemporary photographic production in this country.
And finally, we believe that CVphoto‘s layout, orientation and content offer artists a rather interesting alternative venue for “exhibiting” eight to ten of their works, accompanied by a text often written by a talented and respected author, for a minimum of three months and a maximum of many years. We invite their presence into our pages. Should it become possible for us to offer our contributors honorariums that correspond to their actual work, we would be proud to strive ahead and improve our product to the liking of sponsorers and subisdizers.
For all these reasons, because CVphoto‘s situation is forever critical, because it’s preferable to act now, before it’s too late, and because you enjoy receiving, reading and leafing through the magazine, I humbly request of you to express your appreciation by sending us a letter of support. Your letters will enable us to pursue our work while taking into account, insofar as it is possible, your ideas and suggestions. Unless otherwise specified, they may be annexed to the grant requests we produce each year.
Translated by Jennifer Couëlle