16 JANUARY, 2009
By: Maria Popova
Salt mines, German sanatoriums, and how a social media rescue mission saved one lovable photographic underdog.
Print is dying. You hear it everywhere. And over the past couple of years, a number of excellent publications have indeed folded. (Business 2.0 and JANE, we’re looking at you.) But the latest title to be kicked into a publishing coma, JPG Magazine, ended up as a weird ray of light for the relationship between traditional and new media.
Here’s the story in a nutshell.
In 2005, husband and wife duo Heather Champ and Derek Powazek set out to found a magazine where the content was completely user-created and voted on by other users, so that the best of the best ends up in the print publication. (Published photos receive $100 to stash with their pride and glory.) A truly democratic magazine, if you will.
A magazine that brought us the alphabet in the sky…
…and the aerial wonder (yep, we’re going at it again) of Utah’s salt mines…
…and the beautiful decay of an early 20th century German sanatorium.
Unsurprisingly, JPG amassed a significant base of dedicated loyalists over the years — people passionate about both photography and the idea of an inclusive arena for photographic excellence open to more than just the handful of professional photographers circulating all the other photo pubs. A place for up-and-coming talent to truly showcase their work.
But in late 2008, something left JPG supporters utterly distraught: Editor Laura Brunow Miler announced the magazine was folding under the pressure of funding.
That’s when the social media rescue mission started. Supporters quickly launched SaveJPG.com and unleashed a flurry of Twitter and Flickr buzz that eventually landed JPG several big-time acquisition offers. As a result, the magazine was resurrected and just launched into a new future with the latest issue, appropriately titled Faith.
And while we love a good underdog story as much as the next guy, we must admit there was one wonderful upside to the temporary downside of JPG’s existence: One motivated fan, Derek Steen, put together a comprehensive PDF archive of every JPG issue ever published — 223.4MB of free goodness — so grab yours and start catching up, or head over to the Faith issue and see what all the fuss was about.