Magazine article Communication World

The Commission: Photojournalism Interprets Spiritual Subject Matter. (Photo Critique)

Magazine article Communication World

The Commission: Photojournalism Interprets Spiritual Subject Matter. (Photo Critique)

Article excerpt

One of the few organizational publications able to consistently make use of photojournalism on a regular basis is The Commission, the magazine of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board (Richmond, Va.). I saluted this magazine's visual accomplishments in a CW column back in 1985, and 17 years later The Commission's efforts are just as effective.

What makes The Commission even more noteworthy is its demanding subject matter. It's published for missionaries around the world. Its content is all about missionary work. In every issue, its imagery must somehow capture the essence of a task that deals with spiritual, rather than material, topics. A daunting goal, yet one that is often achieved.

The Commission's photographs work best when displayed as cumulative, rather than individual, images. Picture editing and layout are critical to meaning.

As far as I can tell, this publication does not setup any of its pictures. The talented photojournalists who interpret the work of thousands of missionaries working in hundreds of countries on the pages of The Commission are observers, not intruders. They work as reporters with cameras, interpreting basic human values on film in often abstract and incongruent ways.

Those who manage this publication obviously have made a serious commitment to photojournalism--a feat most organizational publications, even those published by corporations generating billions of dollars of sales and profits, can't come close to matching. The Commission's editors and writers, and most critically Dan Beatty, its art director, are visually literate--skilled at using photographs as a language, as opposed to treating them as subordinate illustrations. The magazine itself is obviously planned around its picture usage--each story is designed so that it has an ample number of spreads at its command, making it possible for the pictures to be seen easily, and allowing photos to be thoughtfully related and sequenced to convey a substantive message. …

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