Making connections between farm to table has been a growing movement and it isn’t slowing down any time soon. More and more people are becoming interested in where and who their food comes from, and how food affects the planet. Modern Farmer, a quarterly farming, food and travel magazine that launched in 2013, is the go-to source for the food-conscious and happens to be gorgeous to look at, thanks to Director of Photography Luise Stauss and photo editor Ayanna Quint. The two recently started their own agency, Stauss & Quint, with the idea of expanding their vision beyond publications to a wider range of clients through books, editorial shoots, and ad campaigns. For our latest Offset Group Show, we asked the two to select their favorite photos from the Offset collection, a new source of high-end commercial and editorial photography, and they came up with quite an exotic and vibrant collection. We also had them tell us more about Modern Farmer and what they are looking for in a photographer.
Describe the aesthetic of Modern Farmer magazine.
“Farming is a visual feast and agriculture necessitates a wide range of photographic approaches—portraiture, landscape, documentary. Modern Farmer covers bigger global issues dealing with political and environmental questions as well as smaller, more personal stories. We are trying to portray all of these subjects with photos that are modern, crisp, authentic and beautiful. We lean more towards clean and graphic imagery that still has warmth and feeling and try to stay away from overly sentimental photos, which can happen when you are dealing with pictures of animals! Richard Bailey, who has shot all the covers and the animal portraits for our Handbook section manages to capture the personalities of baby goats and piglets without making them precious and cute.”
What types of photographers are you looking to hire?
“We assign photographers who feel right for the tone of the story, have a point of view but who work in service of the piece as well. The people we hire tend to be very hard workers who can problem solve and apply their unique vision to what can be unusual topics, such as Farm Deaths and Food Waste.”
What do you look for in a photographer’s portfolio/website?
“We look for strong storytelling skills, original ideas and approaches to subjects, engagement with their subject, self-initiated projects and a distinct point of view.”
Can you tell us about a few of the more interesting shoots you guys have commissioned for the magazine?
“We sent Adam Golfer to shoot a story on Farm Deaths for the upcoming issue, which will be on stands June 10th. That was a hard story to conceptualize; we had to capture an ominous feeling without sensationalizing these very real tragedies. Farming is an extremely dangerous occupation which not many people realize. In a similar vein, we sent Michael Friberg to shoot a humane slaughterhouse for the first issue. That was a delicate balance and we discussed at length how to handle the story. We had to answer questions like, “What is humane slaughter? How much terror should an animal [have to] endure before it dies? Can we show the moment of death?” These are very sensitive issues and Michael handled it perfectly.
“For the second issue, we commissioned Grant Cornett to shoot a story on Food Waste which we approached in a very scientific and factual manner. The photos were based on statistics of how much food is wasted by a family in one month, and the different ways in which it gets wasted, much of which is in production which was surprising.”
Your Offset curation has a bit of an exotic feel. What were you looking for when going through the collection? How would you describe the final set of photographs?
“We actually went through all the photographer’s work, which was a bit crazy, but fun! We just pulled on instinct, photos that we responded to, then narrowed it way down to images that we thought worked together in some oddball kind of way. We ended up with a brief, strange journey involving a large fish, a sweet llama and a murderous farmer’s wife.”
Where do you find inspiration for the magazine? Are there certain food blogs, Tumblrs, Instagrams, etc. that you browse regularly?
“Feature Shoot, in all honesty! We follow a rather random assortment of photographers on Instagram, which helps keeps us updated on where people are or what they’re working on. We don’t really have time for Tumblr, though we should re-evaluate that! We looked at vintage farming magazines quite a bit for Modern Farmer as well as a lot of German farming publications. For other projects, inspiration can come from anywhere really. We are lucky to be in NY—there is inspiration everywhere in this city.”
‘The Next Pig Thing’, latest issue Spring 2014. Luise Stauss and Ayanna Quint of Modern Farmer and Stauss & Quint. Photo by Henry Leutwyler.
All photos featured in this post can be found on Offset, a new curated collection of high-end commercial and editorial photography and illustration from award-winning artists around the world. Offset is an exclusive category channel partner on Feature Shoot.