Alpaca herd in Ecuador © Evan Sklar / Offset
The beach at the Amalfi Coast © Lorenzo Pesce / Offset
Founded in 2009, AFAR magazine is known for its authentic outlook on world travel, connecting travelers with local communities and honoring the diversity of our planet. As Director of Photography at AFAR, Tara Guertin immerses readers in global cultures, introducing us to the food, architecture, and arts of faraway countries. For AFAR, travel isn’t simply a recreation, but a life altering experience shared with others. For Guertin, this means finding imagery that shifts our perspective on specific destinations and speaks to the mind-set of its locals.
Prior to her position at AFAR, Guertin served as Photo Editor for leading publications including Seventeen, Talk, InStyle, Lucky, and BlackBook Magazine. For our latest Offset group show, Guertin shares some images that suit the original aesthetic of AFAR. We talk with her about travel, photography, and what separates AFAR from other travel magazines.
Two swimmers floating in the Arabian sea, Qatar © Lisa Limer / Offset
How would you describe the AFAR aesthetic to someone who is unfamiliar with the magazine?
“I would say AFAR explores unexpected ways to look at travel. We are energetic, authentic and beautiful without taking ourselves too seriously. I love imagery that pops and makes the reader linger on the page for a while. Travel is about personal experiences, and being open to other cultures and decompressing from the daily grind. Everyone is looking for something different and so much on this planet has been seen before — so carefully choosing unconventional imagery is a wonderful way to inspire the reader and present a new perspective.”
Competitor on pond skimming contest © Carl Tremblay / Offset
What does a typical day in the office involve? Are you traveling a lot for work?
“I spend much of my time in the office behind a computer and on the phone. I am constantly doing research- either looking for new and talented photographers in obscure cities or finding pick up imagery for our FOB. I travel for work about 6 or 7 times a year. A few annual trips to NYC and LA. The past few years, I’ve attended Rencontre de Arles photo festival (which I love). And often I work in a few international shoots and a press trip or two.”
What’s one of the more magical places you’ve visited?
“I revisited Myanmar last year working for AFAR. It is incredible how much that country has changed since my last trip in 2000. I’m an avid outdoors girl – so hiking the highlands of Scotland with Michael Turek last year was incredible.”
Portrait of a Tunisian man © Lisa Limer / Offset
Orthodox Jews walk together after prayer © Grant Faint / Offset
What does a typical shoot for AFAR entail (or is there a typical assignment)?
“Most of our features are shot over four or five days depending on the region and shot list needed. Most stories also have a cover try. Because AFAR’s photo department is so small, my production assistance is minimal for most shoots. Often the photographers need to book their own flights and find a fixer/assistant to help schedule things while on assignment.”
Where do you find imagery for the magazine? Do you commission many shoots?
“I commission about five shoots for each issue. “Feast” and “Resident” are smaller front of book articles specific to a town or city— then typically I have three 10-14 page features to assign in each issue as well.”
Do you ever use Instagram to find photographers?
“Absolutely – It’s very easy to get lost down that rabbit hole. I find interesting photographers all the time. It’s also a great way to track my favorite talent who are out on the road.”
Spanish man riding on horseback © Grant Faint / Offset
How often do you work with/hire new photographers?
“All the time. I have to keep an eye on the AFAR budget so I need to find photographers living in or traveling to featured destinations. AFAR is constantly covering new locations so very often need find talent I haven’t worked with.”
Wakhi man with a buffalo © Benjamin Rasmussen / Offset
What are you looking for when going through a portfolio?
“I very often look at personal work because I am interested in photographer’s passions and creative projects. This helps me assign stories to the right person. Getting a photographer personally excited about an assignment always produces great results. That said, it is very important to look at commissioned work. This represents how the photographer handles the quick and sometimes not ideal assignments. If that work is still great, I know I have a gem.”
What makes a good AFAR photographer?
“Someone who gives 100% and cares about the final edit submitted. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised. I also have enormous respect for photographers who reach out if something goes awry while on the job. It will always be easier to find a solution together – once the job is finished it’s too late to come up with a work around.”
Yurt in Mongolia © Marianna Jamadi / Offset
How do you keep track of all the photographers you are finding for the magazine and what is the best way for photographers to stay in touch with you?
“I have many browser bookmark folders listed by country/city/region. I also constantly ask photographers to email me about future travel plans. Due to seasonality, AFAR often shoots stories well in advance, so if I know someone is headed to Turkey in four months’ time, I can work with them and set the shoot when he or she will be there.”
Where do you go for inspiration for the magazine?
“Blogs such as Feature Shoot, The New Yorker’s Photo Booth, Flak Photo, Emaho, Burn, The British Journal of photography, Verve, Time Light Box, LENS, There are so many! Also of course magazines like WSJ Magazine, New York, The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg, NatGeo, Kinfolk, Cherry Bombe, etc. Also Instagram for sure and Tumbler when I have some extra time.”
Chinese tourists at Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada © Grant Faint / Offset
Are there any trends that you are sick of seeing?
“I have always steered away from heavy color saturation and high definition imagery; you won’t see either in AFAR. Also using fish eye lenses for hotel interiors is something I will never understand. Seeing an entire room in one shot does not necessarily make me want to stay there.”
Mountains in the clouds © Grant Faint / Offset
How did you go about choosing this edit from the Offset collection?
“Mostly by gut, choosing the shots that caught my eye. However, I ended up selecting far too many photos on my first pass, and then found it difficult to narrow down. There are so many wonderful photographers in the collection!”
Tara Guertin, Director of Photography. ‘AFAR Magazine,’ 10/2014.
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.