Pacific Standard's Photo Issue: Behind the Scenes with Creative Director, Taylor Le

Pacific Standard's Photo Issue: Behind the Scenes with Creative Director, Taylor Le
The Rise of Ilhan OmarThe country's first Somali-American legislator is fighting xenophobic politics to improve Minneapolis--and the country.
Photographed by Olivia Arthur / @oliviarthur

Pacific Standard's recent July issue was the publication's first ever photo issue in its nine-year history. Partnering with photo collective, Magnum Photos and featuring four different covers from four different Magnum photographers, the cover images documented a range of topics spanning the country. We spoke to Pacific Standard's Creative Director/one-woman art & photo department, Taylor Le about the photo issue and what it was like to collaborate with Magnum Photos.

Read Taylor's powerful letter about the power of photography (found at the beginning of the issue) here and learn about the rest of the covers and the photo issue after the jump!

BurnoutIn the early 20th century, coal communities in the Illinois Basin boomed. And then new regulations set off an industry implosion.
Photographed by Peter van Agtmael / @pvanagtmael

Houston's Diversity is America's FutureHow demographic shifts helped save the city from economic stagnation.
Photographed by Alex Webb / @webb_norissweb

SPD: What prompted Pacific Standard's photo issue?
Taylor Le: Right timing and the burning desire to do more.

Generally speaking, any chance I can get more art into the book--I'm all for it. In August of last year, I had completed a redesign that introduced more imagery and simple, but thoughtful type play. I saw it as a foundation for something more as I'm a fan of evolving and surprising readers when the moment is right. 

That moment fell into my lap on November 8th (real wake up call), along with our ASME win for feature photography, and the fact that we added 2 extra issues--bumping us up from 6 issues a year to 8. It couldn't get any better. The stars aligned. A photo issue was born!

I paired up with deputy editor Ryan Jacobs, whose words and style I like to describe as smart, immersive, and poetic. We were on a mission to create a time capsule. The contents had to be beautiful, intimate, and raw; it would tell the story of our time. We would gut the book and do away with departments--heavy hitting, photographic features only. Choosing the right visual partner was a no-brainer. We both admired Magnum Photos, a photo agency with a strong legacy of making arresting imagery that has improved our world. They're celebrating their 70th anniversary this year, which made this photo issue the perfect platform to showcase a sliver of their work while Ryan and the team crafted short, but meaningful stories to accompany these photos to take readers on a journey like never before.
Five landmarks in the American Southwest illustrate the limits of engineering the environment to human favor.
Photographed by Mark Power / @marktpower

SPD: What was it like collaborating with Magnum Photos?
TL: I came from working with bigger teams where an art department traditionally has a handful of art directors and photo editors. Here, I'm a one-woman art team.  With that said, it was a dream and a bit nostalgic to be able to work with Shannon Simon, Lauren Winfield, and Daniel Rodriguez from Magnum. Finally, art folks I can talk to! Somehow we were able to work seamlessly despite being thousands of miles apart. We kind of created this laid back style of working and communicating--they would send photos, I would make my edits, mock up layouts, we'd hop on speaker phone and address any thoughts/concerns. It was fun when I would live spin designs while they were talking. We were two teams sharing one goal and we wanted desperately to make each other happy while being aggressive and ambitious with our work. We trusted each other and that, I feel, is the key to a true and successful collaboration. 

SPD: What's the story behind the four covers and how did you pick them?
TL: Initially, in the early planning stages we thought we would just run one arresting image. However, as assignments were being completed and photos started trickling in from Mark Power, Peter van Agtmael, Olivia Arthur, and Alex Webb--it was obvious that one was not enough! We explored different printing options--gate folds and pull outs--where all 4 could share space. In the end, each photographer had such unique personal styles and stories to tell that it would just be illegal not to give them their own covers (wrap-arounds, even)! Each select, as Shannon puts it best, "tell stories of diversity, strife, and beauty," while also "representing the diverse talent that Magnum embodies as we take a look at the present moment in the United States."

SPD: What's next for Pacific Standard?
TL: We have a lot of exciting things in the works. Our upcoming November issue is a cover-to-cover special on the black markets. We're juggling 3 issues simultaneously, ready to close out on December, and just getting warmed up for 2018--in which we celebrate Pacific Standard's 10th year! 

SPD Bonus Question: If you had to choose to live without one of your five senses, which one would it be and why?
TL: Ok so let's work backwards here: well, I learn and acquire memories through the things I experience visually so I'll need my vision, that's for sure. I love food and cooking so that'll require both taste and smell. I can't imagine a life without feeling or touching--it's a necessity. You can't bond or develop your surroundings without touch. I guess that leaves us with hearing--which, I can live without. Quiet is nice. 

Subscribe to Pacific Standard here and purchase the 2017 Photo Issue here.


Pacific Standard (@pacificstand)
Creative Director: Taylor Le (@itstaylorle)
Deputy Editor: Ryan Jacobs (@ryanj89)
Editor-In-Chief: Nicholas Jackson (@nbj914)

Magnum Photos (@magnumphotos)
Shannon Simon (@shannonsimon)
Lauren Winfield (@lwinnie)
Daniel Rodriguez (@daniel_evan_r)
blog comments powered by Disqus