Tuesday, October 18, 2005

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone...


Photographer Annie Leibovitz was honored (sort of) by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) this week when they announced that the January 22, 1981 issue of Rolling Stone magazine's cover was the "Greatest Cover of the past 40 Years." That cover depicted a naked John Lennon curled up on a bed with his wife Yoko Ono. Lennon was shot and killed hours after that photo was taken on December 8, 1980. The issue hit the newsstands about a month after Lennon's killing.

Here's a link to her original photograph used on the Rolling Stone cover.

Leibovitz also has the honor of shooting the organization's number two cover of the past 40 years, the August, 1991 Vanity Fair featuring a nude and pregnant Demi Moore.

The ASME unveiled is 40 winning covers in honor of its 40 years of handing out such awards. Actually, there were 41 winning covers because there was a four-way tie for 37th place.

According to the ASME, of the 41 winning covers, 32 featured photographs, seven were illustrations, and two contained only type. There were 11 winning covers from the 1960s; eight winners from the 1970s; three winners from the 1980s; 10 winning covers from the 1990s, and nine winners from the present decade.

Here are the Top 10 covers:


1. Rolling Stone - Jan. 22, 1981 - John Lennon and Yoko Ono laying in bed

2. Vanity Fair - Aug. 1991 - Nude pregnant Demi Moore

3. Esquire - April 1968 - The Passion of Muhammad Ali: Ali with arrows in his body

4. The New Yorker - March 29, 1976 - Drawing of New York from Hudson River and rest of the country to Pacific Ocean

5. Esquire - May 1969 - Andy Warhol drowning in Campbell's soup can - The decline and collapse of American avant-garde

6. The New Yorker - Sept. 24, 2001 - 9/11: Twin towers drawing in all black against a gray skyline

7. National Lampoon - January 1973 - "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog." Man pointing gun at terrified dog

8. Esquire - October 1966 - Oh my God, we hit a little girl.

9. Harper's Bazaar - Sept. 1992 - Linda Evangelista holding up the letter "A" in magazine's title: "Enter the Era of Elegance."

10. National Geographic - June 1985 - Afghan girl: Haunted eyes of an Afghan refugee's fears.


While it's nice to see that photography is getting the recognition it deserves for the role it plays in selling magazines -- if not as art -- there was one thing missing from the ASME festivities. There was absolutely no mention of any of the photographers in the organizations press release about the event. They dutifully mentioned the publications and the issues the winning covers were from, but they did not mention Leibovitz's name -- or any of the other photographers for that matter. Neither did they mention the illustrators or cover designers.

The fact that Leibovitz alone was responsible for the top two covers should have garnered her a mention at least. But nooooo....

In the news coverage of the awards, Leibovitz was mentioned, as were some of the other photographers and illustrators. But for some reason the ASME (which is made up of magazine editors, who rely on photographers to sell their rags on newsstands and consequently, keep themselves employed) didn't deem it necessary to mention the fact that the photographs responsible for their covers being considered award-winning were shot by photographers.

Would it have hurt them to at least mention the fact that Leibovitz was responsible for the top two covers of the past 40 years? One sentence in a press release is too much to ask?

I hate to burst your bubble guys, but the award was for the photograph, not for the paper, or the type, or your brilliantly clever cover lines (except, of course, for the covers that featured only type.). If it weren't for the photographs (or the illustrations), your covers would not have even been considered for inclusion in the competition, let alone placed in the top 40.

In all the excitement of the competition, it's easy to forget how you got where you are and who helped you get there. But publishing a magazine (at least an old-fashioned one on glossy paper) is not a one-man affair. It takes a lot of people working very hard to publish a magazine. A little recognition of this fact now and again will go a long way toward keeping the troops happy and help spur them on to design the next award-winning cover for you.

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