Part 8: Photo Issues

At WIRED, we assign almost all of our own original photography, as most major American magazines do. We typically start talking about these photo assignments at one of two points in the process:

If a pitch particularly excites us, someone in the photography or design departments will chirp out a style or a name or a loose suggestion as we walk out of the pitch meeting. Schedules get checked, portfolios are called in, access is confirmed, and the wheels start turning.


We'll wait until the assignment letter gets distributed by the assigning editor. At which point, the design department coordinator usually sets up an informal meeting between me, design director Wyatt Mitchell, the art director on deck and the photo editor whose expertise or interest has landed her on the story.

But in this case, neither of the above scenarios happened because a red flag went up once our subject agreed to sit for the story. Kaufman does not sit for magazine photo shoots. That posed a problem; we take originality--the look and feel of the magazine--very seriously at WIRED, and without a quality portrait, it would be difficult to run this story at any length. Here's our first conversation about it:

On Aug 11, 2008, at 10:21 AM, Nancy Miller wrote:
Hi Everyone,

Wanted to loop everybody in here on Kaufman. He has agreed to do a lengthy interview but will not sit for a photo shoot. Before we send Jason down there tomorrow, wanted to alert everyone and discuss before we move forward.

On 8/11/08 11:10 AM, "Scott Dadich" <> wrote:
I thought this was part of the negotiation, that he had never sat for an interview/shoot. This gives me serious reservations about doing the piece.
On Aug 11, 2008, at 11:12 AM, Jason Tanz wrote:
I know it's a drag, but we are getting a good 2-3 hour interview with him on Wed, then going down on Monday to hang out with him in the editing room. Editorially I think we're ok.
On 8/11/08 11:24 AM, "Scott Dadich" <> wrote:
can we do a silhouette? something not showing his face?
On Aug 11, 2008, at 11:25 AM, Wyatt Mitchell wrote:
We've got to get some kind of shoot here. A quick snap, something.
On 8/11/08 11:28 AM, "Scott Dadich" <> wrote:
I'm happy to be the bad guy with publicist. Wyatt's right
On Aug 11, 2008, at 11:30 AM, Thomas Goetz <> wrote:
We've been trying to do this story for about 5 years - we shouldn't throw out the opportunity to finally execute for want of a photo. Why don't we brainstorm some ways to creatively solve this?

So clearly, it was time to bring in deputy photo editor, Anna Alexander.
  • Brandon Kavulla

    Hmmmm. Wonder if he'd do a self portrait. Drawing or pic.

  • Darrell

    I once had to do a portrait of Paul Rand for the AIGA but he couldn't come to the shoot.

    It turned out great! I just photographed what made me think of him rather than what he looked like.

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