Using photography as a uniform for discovery.
Chris and I have worked together for about 20 years, starting from when I was the deputy photo editor at The New York Times Magazine, to New York Magazine where I have been the director of photography since 2004. In the late '90s he shot mostly reportage, in conflict zones. While he was bearing witness to conflict and struggle, his images spoke less to the conflict itself and more to the experience of living through it. The image that struck me the most in that era was of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan photographed through the windshield of a car. It reminded me of the crucifixion of Jesus, and that was the moment I realized Chris was seeing things differently from other photojournalists.
The relationship between a photographer, a photo editor, and editor is a very special one. There is so much that happens in between the initial proposal for a story and what eventually gets published. And it is all of the in-between that differentiates how one photographer’s voice is translated from one client to another.
In 2012, Chris became our first ever photographer in residence, a position created specially for him. He was eager to experiment with assignments outside the boundaries of reportage, and the magazine was simultaneously experimenting with its photographic voice, so we were both excited to collaborate. The unique synergy of our partnership has always been rooted in Chris's unusual eye and our own gravitation to the less expected, the more revelatory, the left of center.
This partnership yielded some of the most memorable portraits. Some made with access, and many with barely any access at all. From Pharrell at the height of his fame, to Spike Lee, to Mayor Michael Bloomberg nearing the end of his term as Mayor of New York City, which became our cover. The Bloomberg cover portrait is a great example of the synergy between us, as it is an unconventional portrait that Chris purposefully framed, omitting most of his face, and instead focused on his hand pensively resting on his mouth with his elegant cuff, so that it was all about gesture. He managed to convey Bloomberg without ever meeting his eyes. We published this on our cover, lowering our logo to accommodate the image, and resulted in one of the most iconic covers in my fifteen year history at New York.