Each year as part of Graduate Photography Online we ask a number of professionals from the world of photography to review all the work submitted and choose their favourites. We chat to Kirstin Kidd, Picture Editor at The Economist and Selector for the MA/MFA phase of Graduate Photography Online 2020.
Tell us about your job? What does your core role at The Economist involve?
I’m a picture editor, I’m responsible for selecting photographs for stories in print, and various online platforms. I source pictures from a variety of places, including but not limited to, photo libraries and archives. The aim is to have a selection of photographs, that are factually relevant, can work in various spaces and cover various aspects of a story. I work in the art team, alongside the designers. We work with the section editors to get a good mix of words, photos, illustrations, and charts on page.
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?
From a fairly young age, yes. I studied photography, first at A level then through art college and a degree, having been introduced to photography by my father who was a very keen and talented amateur photographer. I worked in darkrooms mixing chemicals, and galleries painting walls, on a voluntary basis. I also worked for a wedding photographer putting albums together and spent a few days throwing rubber rats at school children while taking their pictures. I tried different things and wasn’t particularly fussy as long as I was getting some experience. I supplemented my income working in kitchens, which I loved, and which was a surprisingly useful experience. Working on a picture desk involves juggling many different stories and working to deadline and it was probably in the kitchens that I realised this is the type of environment I like. I moved to London and got a job in a photo library, working with newspaper and magazine clients. It was here I learnt a lot about the picture and publishing industry which lead me into my role as a picture editor.
How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?
I’m not sure of a conscious process, but light and composition are usually what catch my eye. In my role I am often looking at hundreds of pictures a day and often quite small on the screen. It’s the basics that get my attention.
As regards the photographer's statement, what are the most important things for you to know about the work? When it comes to showing their work outside of University, have you any tips on how graduates should prepare their work and the supporting material that accompanies it?
In terms of showing your work outside of university, I would suggest getting a website, make sure it loads quickly and is well designed, keep the words concise. Post new work on instagram, I look at it daily to find new photographers, and keep up to date with new work. If you are interested in working in editorial then introduce yourself to some picture editors, take a portfolio to show or send an email showcasing your work. I always enjoy seeing personal projects so include them on your site and instagram feeds. For supporting material, I need specific information regarding pictures most of the time. If your work is more suited to editorial it’s important to be as accurate as you can with your caption information.
What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your area of photography?
The role of a picture editor can vary from one magazine to another and even more so when you work for a paper or book publisher. Try different publications to see what type of role and pace of work suits you. The culture of a workplace can also be very different, so one place is not at all like another, even if the job is similar. Go for publications that you read, it’ll help if you’re familiar with their style and content.