DECEMBER 17: THE PHOTOGRAPHY
I very frequently feel that the pioneering effects of Martha Stewart Living magazine are not fully recognized by the public at large. Martha's magazine revolutionized so much in the magazine publishing world: having her name in bold letters on the cover; having her face on the cover; having so many departments under the same moniker, from crafts to food to gardening to decorating. (Previously, a magazine would be devoted to just one of those subjects.) Martha Stewart Living not only pioneered the entire lifestyle category, it pioneered the way that category was presented, visually, to the public through its use of cutting-edge photography.
This will always be my favourite photo of Martha. It was used in the special "Entertaining" issue devoted to celebrating the year 2000 but was actually photographed on New Year's Day in 1999. It was taken in Maine, near Skylands, and I love the contemplative atmosphere. It was photographed by Todd Eberle.
Employing an artistic approach usually seen in magazines like National Geographic and Vogue, Martha Stewart Living sought to convey the wonder of the everyday object, to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. By elevating the status of a pitcher or a geranium to the status of a supermodel, Martha was creating a seductive mythology that enraptured the reader, made the homemaker feel that she was surrounded by excellence, that her belongings were treasures and that everything in her life had a meaning and a purpose.
The power of the image was something Martha Stewart understood early. As a former model herself, she knew about imparting that desire to the viewer, about selling people what they didn't even know they wanted. Martha employed only the best photographers and photo editors. It is no wonder, then, that Martha Stewart Living has won several awards for best photography over the years, including a National Magazine Award in this category. Below are some of my favourite photographs from the pages of Martha Stewart Living. Each issue has dozens of images that I find captivating. These ones demonstrate the new and impacting ways Martha used imagery in her magazine.
CREATING ICONS: The two images above demonstrate how everyday objects can become iconic when they are given full-page treatment, styled to perfection and photographed beautifully. A collection of plastic green kitchenware never looked so good. And this antique dresser needs nothing but the proper lighting to make us want it in our bedrooms.
FROM ABOVE: Photographing tables and plates of prepared food from above is extremely common in food and lifestyle magazines today, but it was Martha Stewart Living that pioneered this perspective in the early 1990s.
A GLOSSARY OF EXCELLENCE: The monthly glossary in Martha Stewart Living was an award-winning idea conceived of by Gael Towey, the former creative director of MSLO. Here, various silver serving pieces are itemized for easy reference to adjacent captions where the reader will learn about each piece. The sepia tone of the photograph imparts a sense of warmth and prestige. The glossary on beneficial garden insects, below, is stunning. I've never seen insects photographed with such elegance!
GET A LITTLE CLOSER: Extreme closeups of flowers, plants and other objects is a Martha Stewart Living signature. They take us inside a peony blossom or, in this case, a grouping of sweetpeas. It makes you want to reach out and touch them.
STEP INSIDE: Photographs of interiors are always special in Martha Stewart Living. There is such an attention to detail in the styling and the lighting. It really makes you want to step inside. In many cases, it is Martha's homes that are photographed, taking the reader into her private spaces. Martha's dining room at Turkey Hill is shown in the top photograph. Directly above is a gorgeous display of silver punch bowls for an article on collecting.
THREE OF THE BEST:
Three of my favourite photographers from Martha Stewart Living are listed below. Follow the links to their personal websites to see more of their work.
GENTL & HYERS