[Summer 1998]

by Franck Michel

During a recent trip abroad, I had an opportunity to meet with a number of photography specialists, including publishers from various countries. These meetings enabled me to take stock of the state of contemporary-photography magazines throughout the world.

The situation is not wonderful. Over the last two years, many of the most important magazines have shut down: the magnificent Japanese Déjà-vu, the imposing Café-crème from Luxembourg, and, recently, La recherche photographique. This French magazine was one of the very few dedicated mainly to theory; with its essays and debates, it played a major role in the evolution of contemporary photography. Its demise leaves a gaping hole. The main reason given for these closures is lack of funds. It seems that it is a sign of the times, linked to a crisis in the world of publishing and the difficulty of adapting to new transformations in the photographic image. Nevertheless, new magazines are being created, such as Blind Spot and Double Take in the United States and Black Flash in Canada; the latter was the newsletter of the Photographers’ Gallery in Saskatoon, whose publishers decided to expand and become a real magazine, available at newsstands throughout the country.

Magazines are essential for contemporary photography, and we must fight for their survival. They have proven to be a favoured, effective, and relatively inexpensive way to make photography available and accessible to the general public. In a country like ours, where photographic publishing lags far behind that in most industrialized countries, magazines are becoming even more important, since they are the only way for many artists to publish – and thus to leave a lasting trace of their work.

I don’t yet know what the future of photography magazines will be. Will they be supplanted by virtual magazines, which are less expensive and whose immateriality corresponds better to the presentation of some contemporary work? But looking at a virtual magazine on a computer screen will never bring as much pleasure as rushing to open the latest issue of Aperture or European Photography – or replace the beauty of the printed object! I therefore hope that publishers, if they must change direction, will follow the example of the English magazine Creative Camera, which devotes a large part of its content to new images, virtual publications, and Internet sites, while maintaining its own classic form. This is the path that CVphoto is taking, as we showed in our last issue.

Our “Point de vue” column deals not with the problems of photography magazines, as interesting as they may be, but with another, just as disturbing problem: that of the photography market in Quebec and Canada. We invited Montreal gallery owner Eric Devlin to reflect on this question, and he shares his experiences and thoughts.

Our portfolios feature the work of three Canadian artists whose work reflects on territory and landscape: Mark Ruwedel, who has worked in the western United States seeking and photographing sites whose name evokes Hell or Death; Marlene Creates, who has travelled the peripheries of Quebec City and St. John’s, Newfoundland, conducting a systematic search for the signs announcing the limits of these cities; and Eileen Leier, who went to the Yukon to trace the paths of women gold prospectors. All three search sites for the traces with which human beings “sign” the territory – place their mark upon it. In this search, the road plays a key role, as the indispensable link between artist and subject. These “common landscapes,” to use Anne Baldassari’s term, would not be possible without the road.1 It is omnipresent, the very heart of their approach.

1 This term designates the photographic current that works with the theme of the road as an elementary aesthetic object, a poetic determinant of the relationship the photographer has with the territory. Anne Baldassari, “Le photographe, la route, le territoire, Introduction aux paysages véhiculaires,” Les Cahiers de la Photographie, 14 (1984): 3–27.