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Joe plimmer

Interview with picture editor Joe Plimmer

Ask the Experts

08 June 2017

Posted by Ana Maria Nica

Hi Joe, tell us about yourself in a few sentences - who are you?

I'm a freelance picture editor / photographer. I work for the Observer, the Telegraph and Mixmag Media. I shoot photographic assignments in-between. My appreciation of other photographers helps me to enjoy both sides. It's easy to be jealous of the guy pressing the button, but it can be equally rewarding curating concepts and nurturing photographers, helping them to receive the accolades.

What led you to becoming a photo editor?

A GCSE in Photography set me off. I loved the great photographers: Henri Cartier Bresson, the master of telling a story with just one image, Saul Leiter, who saw beauty in the mundane, Irving Penn, with his north light portraits, and my favourite of all time, Norman Parkinson. I hope my appreciation of them is reflected in my own photography.

I assisted photographers, but was also intrigued by how the other side worked. I found work experience at The Observer, and then at Camera Press photo agency. It was important for me to see it full circle. This led to summer jobs when I was at college, which led to where I am today.

If you had to define a perfect shot, what ingredients go into it?

Editorially, the perfect shot is the image that best illustrates the article. For me, atmosphere is the key. You can set up for a beautiful composition, but to catch the viewer’s attention it needs a bit of magic. Shut your eyes and read the piece and imagine what you see. Then look at the picture you have taken and try again. (Also see answer to Most Memorable below.)

What is the hardest/best parts of a picture editor's role?

A difficult thing is understanding the style of the publication. Photography is subjective. Also difficult is cancelling shoots with photographers. It happens. Sometimes you need to make decisions when all aren't in agreement.

The best thing about picture editing has to be seeing the work in print.

Name a few photography trends we can expect for 2017 and beyond?

We are seeing a trend towards the natural. People are also shooting analogue! I think we are getting tired of super-glossy highly retouched imagery. Magazines are starting to want real content that stands out from the ads. Photographers are shooting with available light, and using flash with subtlety. Digital sensors are now capturing in low light, so photographers are using this to their advantage, capturing subjects with low intensity light sources after sundown. A different way of seeing will always trend. Take Dronography for example.

What’s the most memorable set of images you’ve ever worked with?

Has to be the most recently commissioned. James Bedford photographed the Palazzo's of Palermo for This month's Ultratravel magazine (see below).

At the other end of the spectrum is the work of Giles Duley. Last week for the Guardian we curated a gallery from his new book about the refugee crisis. The pictures were so strong and moving, hard to forget. See the gallery here.

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Your #1 Tip for visual storytelling.

Set aside a whole day to shoot a body of work. Think of a theme, no matter how dull. Now try all of the above whilst shooting. Keep track of your route and be sure to make notes as this will help in the caption info.

What are three images you love on Picfair?

I love the gallery of Toni from Madagascar. Here are three of my faves. He should be charging much more for his work though!

As the morning fog clears, a dog inspects the surroundings

As the morning fog clears, a dog inspects the surroundings Read less

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haddad Toni

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A sea breeze, wooden horse and a small push are all it takes to make a child imagine. Carousels like this are still common in Madagascar due to scarcity of electricity.

A sea breeze, wooden horse and a small push are all it takes to make a child imagine. Carousels like this are still common in Madagascar due to scarcity of electricity. Read less

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haddad Toni

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A boat captain stands proud next to his pirogue before embarking

A boat captain stands proud next to his pirogue before embarking Read less

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haddad Toni

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£199.64

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