I had a chance to catch a long time editor, mentor and friend lecture the other night at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Jimmy Colton, Picture Editor at Sports Illustrated, flew in from NY to speak to a packed house about what he looks for when editing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked and known Jim for twenty years now, I was still impressed by the passion and desire to reach out to young photographers that he exhibited during the evening.
He showed a lot of great images. No surprise there given SI has always been about the photos (sorry to my friends who write for the mag, but there is more than a modicum of truth to that!). Jimmy showed iconic images and examples of the magazines evolution into convergence with audio slideshows and use of video. All that fine work aside, it was the inflection in the voice, the impassioned pleas to forget about how bad things are in the publishing world (while acknowledging that these are tough times) and create images that make impact. Cause a reaction, Jimmy said, and you’ve succeeded.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to a group of students, one from California State University, Northridge, where I lecture part time, and several from Brooks Institute of Photography. First, it was energizing to see that the students, at least one of whom has no interest in “sports,” had the desire to travel LA’s labyrinth of freeways at rush hour to listen and learn from one of the industry’s most accomplished editors. Then to watch their reactions and listen to their questions and comments was a glimpse into the future and I liked what I saw. Jimmy reached them. And not just with sports, but with photojournalism in general. Telling a story about another colleague, Lynn Johnson (a fantastic photographer whose work has graced the pages of National Geographic, SI, the NY Times Magazine and beyond), taking photos of young kids in the Dominican playing ball with sticks and the reader reaction to the photos, Jimmy explained how Lynn’s images made a real impact. Readers asked how they could donate so the kids could have real baseball gear and before they knew it, Jimmy and Lynn gathered enough gear and personally delivered it to the kids in the Dominican Republic. I could see the impact the story had on the students sitting next to me.
Jimmy made sure to emphasize how well the business of photojournalism has treated him. In return, he is committed to giving back and does so in a variety of ways. He helps young photographers by being available to them for advice and professional critiques. He has given since the beginning (over 20 years ago) to helping young photojournalists accepted into the Eddie Adams Workshop. I was one of those, so I can tell you forthright that he walks the walk. He is also committed to Do 1 Thing.
A great lecture from a great editor at a great gallery. For those who haven’t visited the venue, you should try. The Annenberg Space for Photography also hosts the annual exhibition for Pictures of the Year, International.
For more on the lecture, visit Beate Chelette’s blog at http://photosecrets.wordpress.com/