Alternative Realities: F-Stop Magazine
What would compel a photographer to create his own magazine?
Founder of Musée, Andrea Blanch, herself a photographer, felt curious to investigate the drive behind fellow like-minded photographers-turned-magazine publishers.
Founded in 2003 by Christy Karpinski, F-Stop Magazine is an online photography magazine featuring contemporary works from both established and emerging artists. Each issue, published bi-monthly, centers around a theme or an idea which unites the photographs in an open dialogue among artists.
Interview by Baylee McKeel
The name F-Stop is quite unique; can you tell me a bit about what inspired that and what inspired the creation of the magazine as well?
Christy Karpinski: I started F-Stop in the fall of 2003. I wanted to see other photographers fine art work beyond what I could find in printed books or at exhibitions where the photographers tended to be well established or well known. At the time there were very few online photography websites that just focused on the images, most were commercial oriented sites or tech sites. So I would say my desire to see a lot of photography in one place motivated me to create the magazine along with wanting to share work I found interesting and inspiring.
I think with choosing the name it was mostly about wanting something photography related that was simple. I am not great at naming things and didn’t want to get too creative with it and wish I had named it something else later. And I do love depth of field as a visual tool too.
Why choose a strictly online platform?
CK: F-Stop started online because that was what was possible for me to do at the time. I have many times since looked into making a printed version but it always comes back to it being very time consuming and costly. It is still mostly just me building the issue every other month.
I did at one point do a four years in review type book and found it to be too expensive to really be accessible to people in the way I had hoped. I think there are magazine publishing platforms that exist now that would be better, but I haven’t yet explored that as an option. https://www.amazon.com/F-Stop-first-four-years-Magazine/dp/0615140475
How do you decide which artists to feature, what are your criteria?
CK: The featured artist, as well as the group exhibition, is all chosen from the work that is submitted to that particular issue. Each issue typically has a theme or an idea that is meant to guide and inspire the content. I like the notion that by putting together many images that have some connection to an idea, a sort of conversation can be begin to happen among the different photographers’ work. So when I am going through the submissions I am looking for a variety of images that speak to or about the theme in different ways ranging maybe from ”inspired by" to "right on". I am also looking for strong images, engaging composition and all that very subjective criteria that one applies when looking at photographs, but I really try to see beyond my own taste in photography and include things that push at my assumptions, but it is definitely still my point of view.
Can you explain a little what you mean by including things that “push at your assumptions” and how this challenges you both as an editor and a photographer?
CK: I just mean that I try to not just pick images I like based on my own taste in imagery and try to take the time to question my choices, check in with myself on my reasons.
What do you feel that photography’s role in society is?
CK: Wow that is a big and broad question… I guess for me photography has so many roles in society that that is part of what makes it interesting. It can be scientific and functional, purely artistic, or anywhere in-between. I tend to engage with it the most as a form of communication and expression that allows for sharing of one’s perspective and connecting with others. I love that it can be as easy or as hard as the photographer wants to make it and so it can be accessible to most anyone as a form of expression.
In what ways, if at all, has working with your magazine influenced your own work?
CK: I don’t know that it has influenced my own work really. Maybe it has in the way it has made me acutely aware of very common subject matter or types of images, things one might call “clichés”. I think that challenges me to more thoroughly think through the purpose or goals or the “why” that I have for any given photograph or body of work.
Has your magazine given you the chance to work with any artists who have been particularly influential to your art?
CK: I have worked with photographers whose work I really admire and enjoy. I love all of the connections to other photographers I have had through F-Stop. Seeing their work and their drive and passion is inspiring.
You recently published a project about immigrants and refugee camps; do you see the magazine taking on a more political role?
CK: No, I have no plans on making the magazine political. I am happy to have the opportunity to show work that is engaging with contemporary issues political or otherwise.