Saturday 15 January 2022 – La Minute Monocle
We are working on a big project that will be launched this spring: a Monocle book of photography and reportage. He looks back at some of the great stories that have been shot for the magazine and is guided by our creative director, Richard, and cinematographer, Matt. There’s still a long way to go and some hard decisions to make, but this week we got to the point where pretty much every page was designed once. It’s time for a book project where we commandeer the canteen, lay out flyers on the tables, and run through everything to see if the order is working, if key points and passions have been covered, if the mix of locations makes sense. Joe, Molly and Amy from the book crew also walk the boardwalk.
Many of the images featured never made it into published editions of the magazine – images of a city just before the war ruffled it; blows taken in a bankrupt nation; grainy footage captured behind the scenes of a news channel. The pace at which any magazine operates means it’s hard to keep track of all the stories you’ve covered. And on the eve of our 15th anniversary, it was both sobering and satisfying to see the work spread across those canteen tables.
When we created Monocle, our ambition was to bring together words and images to tell stories. The idea was not only to use images to illustrate the words but to allow a photographer to deliver an almost parallel story. Especially with the Expos, our big free-wheeling shiny section, a photographer often worked alone, allowed to see and show things the writer might not cover in the text. At other times, a writer and a photographer worked as a tight team, locked together on epic journeys. It’s an approach that has helped make Monocle a magazine known for giving a photographer another 16 pages on a single story, encouraging them to work with film, trusting their eye.
Looking again at all of this work, I also realized how some of these images had a profound, almost unconscious, effect on me. The city that was soon to collapse was Aleppo in Syria; this story was shot in 2009 by Roderick Aichinger when the place was booming and trying to be more open. Here is an old-fashioned travel agency; waiters in bow ties hanging out on the roof of the Mirage Hotel; a cool young woman smoking in a cafe. What happened to all these people? What was their fate? As the civil war ravaged Aleppo, just seeing these images made me feel a strange connection to the city. It is the power of photography to connect spectator and subject, seer and seen, even if they will never meet.
By the way, it’s hard to imagine that almost two years ago we were making books and magazines from home. We’ve been through this and done some amazing things, but it’s so easy to lose nuance, to make slow and choppy decisions, when you’re not in the same room. That’s why we’ve always wanted to bring our team together, in our offices and offices, whenever the rules allowed. But as Omicron fades in Europe, we hope, and people speak with growing confidence about life after the pandemic, will companies that have accepted working from home be able to bring their teams together again? And do they want it? This week, I spoke to someone at a luxury brand who told me that while most people wanted to return to work in her division, she couldn’t motivate her boss to come in. Another person told me that it was hard to imagine ever feeling the old team spirit again, because their company had sold half of its offices and told staff that at the future, they should have “a good reason why they needed to come to the office” before starting.
And I promise that’s the last thing. I guess you know the UK Prime Minister is rightly in hot water for allowing parties to be held at 10 Downing Street at the height of the lockdown. It’s shameful and another example of Boris Johnson waving his privilege in people’s faces, but some BBC and Channel 4 news presenters have made it look like they’re auditioning for a Saudi TV job. “Have you ever been to a work event where they served alcohol?” they ask the ministers angrily. “I understand there was a trestle table involved,” one said. “Do you think it was okay to eat Pringles when other people in the country only had regular crisps?” (That’s what I thought was the next question.) The stupidity of our decision makers is annoying, but moralizing news anchors are also irritating. And in all honesty, I must admit that this week I drank a glass of wine during a work meeting and, sorry, cheese-sticks too. But there was no trestle table involved. That would have been bad and very anti-Monocle.