Saturday, January 15, 2022 – The monocle minute
We are working on a big project that will start this spring: a Monocle book with photography and reporting. It looks back at some of the great stories filmed for the magazine and is directed by our creative director, Richard, and our cinematographer, Matt. There’s still a long way to go and some tough decisions to make, but this week we’re at the point where almost every page has been designed once. It’s the point in a book project where we staff the canteen, put printouts on the tables, and go through everything to see if the order is working, if the cornerstones and passions are covered, if the mix of places makes sense. Also on the road are Joe, Molly and Amy from the book team.
Many of the images shown never made it into the published editions of the magazine – images from a city just before the war crumpled them up; Shots in a Failed Nation; somber images captured behind the scenes at a news channel. The pace at which each magazine operates means it’s difficult to remember all of the stories you’ve covered. And on the cusp of our 15th anniversary, it was both sobering and satisfying to see the work spread across those canteen tables.
When we started Monocle, our goal was to bring words and images together to tell stories. The idea was to not only use images to illustrate the words, but to allow a photographer to provide an almost parallel story. Especially with the Expos, our large free-running glossy part, a photographer often worked alone and was allowed to see and show things that the author might not have covered in the text. At other times, a writer and a photographer worked as a close team and holed up on epic journeys. It’s an approach that has helped make Monocle a magazine known for still giving a photographer 16 pages with a single story, encouraging them to work with film and trust their eye.
As I reviewed all of this work, I also realized how some of these images had a profound, almost subconscious effect on me. The city that soon crumpled was Aleppo in Syria; This story was filmed by Roderick Aichinger in 2009 when the place was thriving and trying to be more open. Here is an old school travel agency; waiters with ribbons hanging around the roof of the Mirage Hotel; a cool young woman smoking in a cafe. What happened to all these people? What was her destiny? When Aleppo was ravaged by civil war, just looking at these images made me feel a strange connection to the city. It is the power of photography to connect viewer and subject, seer and seen, even if they will never meet.
On a side note, it’s hard to imagine that almost two years ago we were making books and magazines from home. We’ve gotten through this period and done some amazing things, but it’s so simple that when you’re not in the same room, nuance gets lost, decisions become slow and conflicting. That’s why we’ve always wanted to have our team together, in our offices and offices, whenever the rules allow. But as Omicron fades in Europe, we hope, and as people speak about life after the pandemic with growing confidence, will companies that have caught on with working from home be able to bring their teams back together? And do they want? This week I spoke to someone from a luxury brand who said that while most people would like to go back to their department, they can’t motivate their boss to do so. Another person told me that it was hard to imagine ever feeling old again because their company had sold half of their office space and told employees that going forward they “needed to have a good reason for coming into the office.” have to” before they rock out.
And I promise this is the last. I suppose you know that the UK Prime Minister is rightly in hot water for allowing parties to be held at 10 Downing Street at the height of lockdown. It’s shameful and another example of Boris Johnson waving his privilege in the face, but some of the BBC and Channel 4 news presenters sounded like they were auditioning for a job on Saudi television. ‘Have you ever been to a work event where alcohol was served?’ they ask the ministers morosely. “As far as I know, a trestle table was involved,” says one. “Do you think it was acceptable to eat Pringles when other people in the country only had regular chips?” (That was, I thought would be the next question.) The stupidity of our rule-setters is unnerving, but hypocritical news anchors are also irritating . And in all frankness I have to admit that during a work meeting this week I also had a glass of wine and, sorry, cheese sticks. But there was no trestle table involved. That would have been bad and very un-Monocle.