I didn’t know John Stanmeyer‘s work before my internship at VII in late 2005, and then it only crept up on me. His work distinguishes itself not by the sexiness of blurry black and white or other trends of the moment but by the slow burn of a dogged, investigative, and thoughtful approach to complex and abstract notions. You might not see wars directly in most of his work, but you will see the issues that lay behind them or the numbers underpinning a report in The Economist or an exploration of long-standing sentiment giving rise to social change. This is not easy to do, but thankfully Stanmeyer has just started blogging, showing the rest of us the process that goes behind illustrating the undrawable.
Of particular interest, check out Stanmeyer’s intermittent series detailing the process of shooting a story for National Geographic, The Amazing Yellow-Bordered Magazine (and part 2). I don’t know how many features he’s shot for the magazine, but his work for the publication is always wide-ranging and intriguing. In the blog posts, Stanmeyer details how he approaches an assignment, from the first cold call from an editor to the reading of anything related to the topic to story research to working with fixers to editing work along the way to more reading and so on.
In another series of posts, Why Choose a Holga (and parts 2 and 3), Stanmeyer begins discussion by answering a question from facebook about why he chose to use a plastic Holga camera for his book Island of Spirits (website) and continues on with a discussion of the entire process of making the book. There are more posts promised in the series.
Also, make sure to check out Stanmeyer’s field recordings–he’s spent much of his past 25 years of photography with a microphone in his hand or in his ears, and some of those recordings are coming out now through the blog.