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By Todd Dominey | Posted Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Interview: Julie Grahame of aCurator

logoToday we’re starting a new feature where we interview people from the SlideShowPro community to learn more about them and their work. We’re pleased to kick the series off with Julie Grahame, Editor in Chief of the online photography magazine aCurator.

Tell us a bit about your background in photography and how that led to aCurator.

I ran a photo agency for 16 years. We syndicated pictures of famous people and events, working with hundreds of suppliers around the world. In 1992 I had visited the Time Life archives and, with my hands in the Elizabeth Taylor files, full of unseen images, I began to dream of publishing a magazine. Many moons later, when my work day with the agency changed from editing images to managing servers, I decided to get out. Experience working at ZOOZOOM — an early, Webby-winning full screen magazine — helped me understand more about digital production and the web. With Mike Hartley of bigflannel and SlideShowPro I was able to launch aCurator.

How do you typically find photographers to feature? Or do they find you?

Happily, both. There are of course more ways to find great photography than ever. Photographers are embracing blogging and social networking and it has really helped me find content I would never otherwise have come across. I receive submissions too. Photographers want to see their work published in this format, and the photo community has been really supportive. I’m lucky to be in New York, so I get to go to exhibitions and other photography-related events, plus I do portfolio reviews for trade groups. The magazine is such a great profile for images that organizations such as the Aperture Foundation and art galleries want to see their exhibitions published in it.

When considering a photographer’s work — for aCurator or elsewhere — what characteristics or hallmarks do you typically look for?

For aCurator, I like to see a story in the work; I want to feel something and experience something when I’m looking at photographs and I want there to be a flow across the feature. The work must be of a professional quality, even if the photographer is not a professional, and I prefer to edit the images myself. If I’m looking at a newer, less well established photographer, I prefer to run work that has not been over-exposed online.

A photographer just recently told me he uses aCurator in his class teaching students about project photography where the students get to declare a project, write up a project statement and then spend the semester working on it – that made me proud!

This is probably like asking a parent who’s their favorite child, but in the aCurator archives, are there any features that are especially personal to you?

I’ve felt quite honored to publish each one and as I’m looking across the whole thing, I’m still passionate about them all. The Queer Kids feature spread to a couple of major publications that published it after I did, making me really happy for the photographer.

I suppose all of the features that have a political bent are personal. I randomly noticed Leah Geisler following me on Twitter, went to her website and fell in love with this woman photographing 25 non-profits in S. America while she’s 25 years old. If I can help expose young artists I’m thrilled.

Also, as someone whose first job in photography was developing and printing snaps at a local retailer, I look at John Cyr’s Developer Tray series, and I personally enjoy the juxtaposition of these famous photographer’s analog tools, photographed on film, and published online.

Any advice or tips for non-professional photographers looking to improve their portfolio of work?

As Yousuf Karsh said — and forgive me paraphrasing — just because you have eyes and a camera doesn’t mean you can see. So, look a lot. Shoot a lot. Get someone else to edit your images. Don’t overwork your files. Think about what you’d say if someone asked you why you took a particular photograph. Join a trade organization and take advantage of portfolio reviews.

Looking forward, what’s next for aCurator? Print perhaps? Or will the web continue to be your focus?

I would love to go to print. A magazine or a newspaper, cost-permitting, or perhaps on-demand. Would also love to have an offline exhibition.

I plan on more cross-fertilization with other photography websites and organizations. If I can generate a little income to help with costs, and enable me to expand and pay the contributors something, that would be great.

Visit aCurator to see more. Also sign up for their email newsletter to be notified of new features. We’ll post our next interview in February.


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