Mike Trow, Picture Editor
Introducing the Selectors for the BA Phase of Graduate Photography Online 2016: we talk to Mike Trow, Picture Editor at British Vogue.
What is your core role in the job that you do?
Commissioning and producing portraits, features and some still life photography for British Vogue. Also keeping relationships with Vogue photographers across the board and making new ones.
How did you make your way into the career you're now in? Did you always want to work in a field that involved photography?
I started in a photo agency in docklands as a researcher before selling reportage photography after finishing a degree in philosophy. I always knew about photography and thought it could be a rewarding and interesting area to work in. I then jumped to a new mens title in the mid '90s and have been a picture editor ever since.
How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?
Everyone has an opinion on photos but I have to believe that when I work with a photographer I want to know the feel of her or his vision is relevant to Vogue, that it has some power and beauty and elegance to it and that it also feels modern. It's pretty nebulous and hard to define. You know it when you see it!
As regards the artist's statement, what is important for you to know about the work?
The work is what is important not necessarily the statements around it - if a portfolio works and I feel the artist is honest to what she or he does then that is often enough. Too many theories get in the way of the simple beauty of a great photograph.
What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your area of photography?
Portraiture is about knowing people, having a vision of what you want to get from a sitter and what you may give to that sitter also to make them want to trust you. Research your subjects but don't become weighed down by expectation - some things just happen without too much analysis. Be punctual and listen and look as much as you can. If a subject is wearing glasses focus manually on the eyes. Autofocus will focus on the lenses if you're not careful.
Do you foresee any significant developments in the role of photography in relation to your field of work?
Digital platforms will change ever more how we see and relate to work but the craft of using film is not dead yet. Stills and moving image are becoming more symbiotic but are still different disciplines that need to be understood deeply if you are going to do both at a worthwhile level. I'm not a tech head so seeing into an ever more complex future is not my forte. But the relentlessness of the image will, I hope, create a backlash and make words give more meaning to images again. The more vacuous imagery is forced upon us, the less we are able to think about what might actually mean something.