Publisher Q&A: Bryan Formhals of LPV Magazine
In October we posted a short, straightforward conversation with Shane Lavalette about Lay Flat, the independent publisher of limited edition photography books and multiples that he founded in 2009. The questions from the conversation with Lavalette have been adapted and given to 11 more publishers and editors that represent a variety of sizes, orientations, and audiences in the photography publication market - both on and offline. As a whole, the 12 posts aim to provide a snapshot of the current publishing landscape.
Today's post is the 6th in the series and features responses from Bryan Formhals of LPV Magazine. Previously published are responses from Lavalette, Michael Itkoff of Daylight Magazine, Ray Potes of Hamburger Eyes Photo Magazine, Jeffrey Ladd of Errata Editions and Barry W. Hughes of SuperMassiveBlackHole.
Publication: LPV Magazine
Location: New York City
Format: Online and print
fototazo: What gave you the drive to create a photography magazine? What is the backstory on how LPV formed?
Bryan Formhals: I started LPV in September of 2007, initially as a Flickr group. We started by creating monthly galleries, sort of as an ongoing archive. Then I decided to create a stand alone website to showcase those galleries because I thought more people would be willing to look at work from Flickr if it weren't on Flickr. Then it just sort of kept evolving. I started a blog where I featured work and then about a year later I started to do some writing.
I think the main drive has always been to learn and find new work. These days, I'm really interested in the collaborative process and how the web can facilitate that in new ways. My intent is for LPV to be a constantly evolving platform for photography and probably other creative work in the future.
f: What is particular or unique about LPV? What separates you from other publishers?
BF: I don't know. The web has a pernicious homogenizing effect. I'm not sure too many sites are doing anything terribly original when it comes to editorial and publishing.
This year we've created three print issues in addition to weekly features on the website. I don't think too many other magazines and blogs are doing that yet. There are a few others and I imagine it'll be the norm in a couple of years. The most frequent compliment I receive about LPV is the writing so I think that separates us a bit from other curatorial sites as well.
f: What is your process for deciding what to publish from the submissions received?
BF: Well, it has to resonate with me aesthetically on some level. I also try not to publish work that's been all over the place either. But these days the biggest factor in making the decision is the willingness of the photographer to collaborate and discuss the feature with me. This two way dialogue is incredibly important to me right now because I don't simply want to churn out features. At times I feel like photographers treat blogs and online magazines as PR people. Any time I get a hunch that people just want me to promote their project for the sake of it, I generally file the submission away in the gmail archives.
f: How do you view the contemporary landscape of photography publications as a product and as a market in relation to the past?
BF: Clearly it's easier than ever to publish and share work. It's a very crowded space and becoming increasingly commercialized. I think there's more of an intent by new publishers to try to turn it into a business or a stepping stone to a career. This has created a more competitive environment. A consequence of which is the non-stop promotion that we see. People have figured out that being visible all the time is the way to grow your audience. I can't fault people but it does create more noise and more self-promotion than I think we need.
It's hard for me to comment on the past because I'm not all that familiar with the history of photography publications. I do think there are great opportunities for people to show their work but I'm just not sure any publication can really create the critical mass necessary to be financially sustainable. Who knows though. I'm sure someone out there will crack the code.
f: How has working on publishing LPV influenced your personal work and your aspirations in photography?
BF: I don't have career aspirations for my own photography. I just like to make photographs and want to organize them in ways that will make browsing through them when I'm older easy and hopefully a bit more enjoyable. I feel very fortunate when anyone whether it's on Tumblr, Flickr or wherever even bothers to look at my photographs, especially given the fact you can see tons and tons of amazing work on the web every single day.
Now, in terms of my career. LPV has opened more doors than I could ever imagine. I'm a media junkie and have a journalism background. I've always wanted to be an editor and run a magazine of some sort. I'm amazed that the tools are there for me to realize that aspiration.
f: What has been your highlight in working with LPV?
BF: The highlight without question is meeting so many amazing, intelligent, inspiring photographers, writers and wanderers. For me, working with other creatives is what it's all about. It can be maddening and frustrating, but when it works, there's really nothing like it.
f: What is next for LPV?
BF: Issue #3 comes out soon. I have a few projects I'm working on that I think will be interesting. But other than that, I don't really want to know what's next. We'll either evolve or close up shop.