The staff of Photograph: Anthony, Bill, Fabio, Jean, Maggie, Mary Ann. Photo: Anthony Beale
On this, the 25th anniversary of photograph magazine (originally Photography In New York), The Click sat down with publisher Bill Mindlin to speak about the little magazine that could — and did — become a national treasure, the only publication of its ilk. The magazine, which features columns by Lyle Rexer, Vince Aletti, Jean Dykstra, Elisabeth Biondi, and Sarah Schmerler, among others, has become a mainstay among photography aficionados.
Says columnist Vince Aletti, “Bill is at once easy-going and focused, with a strong vision for photograph that he's honed and grown successfully over the years. I'm glad to have been one of the early contributors and happy to still be there among a larger group of writers and a substantially beefed-up section of reviews and features. What began as essentially a listings magazine has turned into something much more essential and lively. I'm always impressed by the design and efficiency of the magazine and happy to be associated with it.”
Mindlin's path to publisher is as eclectic as his magazine. A native of San Francisco circa the summer of love, he grew up in a working class neighborhood, went to UC Berkeley during the people's park years and then to Colombia for grad school in industrial social welfare. "After working at one of New York's unions for ten years, it was time for a change. So I went to Europe and ended up in Israel where I enrolled in a photography program in Jerusalem." Quickly realizing that he has the interest, but not the talent, Mr. Mindlin began exploring the medium more in depth, studying the lives and work of photographers and learning the history of photography.
“When I came back to the U.S. in 1986, I starting working at the Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery in Soho. Cusie was a pioneer contemporary photography dealer in the 1970s and 80s — way ahead of the times. I also briefly worked at A Photographer’s Place, a wonderful bookstore that specialized in photography.”
Mindlin got the idea for a guide while working at the gallery. “Visitors would always ask me where are the other photography shows, so I created a mimeographed list of suggested shows that I passed out. That was the genesis.”
Soon, others came on board. “I had many wonderful mentors,” says Mindlin. Founding editor Ava Swartz enlightened me as to what it means to be a good writer and a good journalist; Laura Miller educated me about the elements of good design; Conrad Gleber and Bob Warhover guided me through the printing and publishing side of the business. And the late John Figueroa worked tirelessly to get it off the ground, as did A.W. Lercher, one of our first columnists.”
“For the first issue in November/December 1988, we listed 116 photo exhibitions in New York City. The East Village was going strong; Soho was emerging as the hot new gallery district; 57th Street and further uptown had their fair share of galleries as well as the many museums lining Fifth Avenue.”
“1989 was a pivotal year for us in that it was the 150th anniversary of photography. Every museum across the country had a major photography exhibition. It was a phenomenon. That was the convergence of attention to photography. From that year forward, a host of dealers opened galleries: Yancey Richardson, Robert Mann, Bonnie Benrubi, the list goes on. The marketplace started to boom.”
“Flash forward to 2008. At that time we were going strong. But then the great recession happened. It was humbling. Everyone was struggling, but fortunately most of our clients managed to stay in business. We made cutbacks to survive, and people stuck with us.”
But what came out of the shock of 2008 was Mindlin’s conviction that social media was the way of the future. “I realized a digital and social media presence was critical to growing the publication and having it exposed to new audiences. We created a website that mirrored all the information found in the print publication; we created a Facebook page that now has over 138,000 likes, and a Twitter page with over 23,000 followers. Our latest project is a weekly e-newsletter covering the many openings, events and news of the week.”
“Undoubtedly the most satisfying aspect of the job is our photograph team: Anthony Beale, Jean Dykstra, Fabio Cutro, Mary Ann Livchak and the folks at Meridian Printing. Working with such a dedicated and talented team has led to the success of the publication.”
Managing Editor Jean Dykstra notes, “I've been working with Bill at photograph, in one capacity or another, for more than fifteen years. He is incredibly dedicated, smart, and one of the most generous people I've ever worked with. Photograph is really his vision, and it's a publication uniquely dedicated to covering that world — from collectors to dealers, curators, and photographers. It's a huge pleasure to work with him.”
Says Associate Editor Anthony Beale, a 20-year veteran: “My experience working at photograph has allowed me to stay continuously submerged in photography after getting my MFA at SVA. Over the course of 20 years, I have witnessed the field grow, transform, and expand. Back in 1988, Bill created something that was needed for photography galleries and institutions exhibiting photography. He created a resource that enthusiasts rely on for information. Working with Bill from the age of 23 to age 44 has been a gratifying and fulfilling experience.”
Mindlin concludes, "The magazine has taught me the love of the word and the visual. The photo community is an amazing group: gallery owners, museum curators, publishers and auction house specialists are among the hardest working, most committed folks. And while the field is small, the sense of camaraderie is large."