From deep dives into commercial photographers’ practice to advice from luminary brand directors and photo editors, we look back at our most widely read features of 2021.

As the year comes to a close, we’d like to highlight the stories and interviews that resonated with our readers. These range from photographer spotlights to challenging conversations and helpful advice from women and non-binary individuals influencing how we experience visual culture. We encourage you to spend some time with each of these and let us know what you think! If you have a story tip or pitch for 2022, please feel free to reach out at any time.

11 Fashion Brands Doing Body Positivity Right

© Hayley Benoit for Yogametters

Body positivity is more than a buzzword. It has a range of origins and cultural roots dating back to the fat acceptance movement of the 1960s. Over the past decade, it’s picked up momentum with brands championing similar themes in their own campaigns. In this feature, The Luupe profiles eleven brands body positivity to a new level, creating sustainable, inclusive clothing for people of all sizes.

 

How to Be a Design Director: Google Nest’s Rachel Been

The Luupe speaks with Google Nest’s Design Director Rachel Been about her path from aspiring photojournalist to leading design for one of the world’s biggest brands. We caught up to learn more about her career journey and why user experience is crucial to everything visual.

 

100 Visions of Motherhood

Possibly our most popular feature since we launched The Luupe’s magazine a few years ago, we curated a collection of photographs and words celebrating the complexities of motherhood. It’s an inspiring and complicated story, filled with love, joy, struggle, beauty, and sorrow. Published for Mother’s Day, we invited photographers from around the world to share images that represent its many possibilities. Becoming a mother, being a child, the struggle to conceive, the exhilaration of birth, the delight in watching them grow, and the drive to protect them, and the impact of loss.

 

The Complicated Ethics of Retouching in Commercial Photography

© ELISABETH VAN AALDEREN

In an age where everything seems filtered or artificially polished, photographers weigh in on the ethics behind retouching in commercial photography. For some photographers, these issues surrounding “realness” are at the heart of their work. Body positivity and skin positivity movements have been fueled by photographers capturing beauty that defies the standards of the mainstream media, and many photographers consider it a responsibility to represent reality. Others, however, are avoiding it entirely. In this feature story, writer Emilie Murphy speaks with photographers on this complex issue.

 

How to Be a Creative Director: Ebony’s Rashida Morgan Brown

For over a decade, Creative Director Rashida Morgan-Brown has been a powerful figure shaping the visual direction behind Essence – and now Ebony Magazine’s biggest cover stories. Under Morgan-Brown’s leadership, cover after cover are fueled by this emotive balance. They visualize important political and cultural figures as powerful, accessible, and human. We spoke about her inspiring career, plus advice for aspiring creative directors.

 

The Best 33 Photobooks by Women and Non-Binary Photographers

An annual year-end tradition, we highlight a compelling mix of art photography, documentary and commercial photobooks These photobooks cover a range of genres and even include children’s books to get little ones thinking about photography early on. Most remarkable are titles that give light to underrepresented voices in photo history. We encourage you to buy these books, read them, support them, and share with friends, students, and anyone who may be moved by their power.

 

The Personal Journey of Documenting Breast Cancer

© KEA TAYLOR/IMAGINE PHOTOGRAPHY & ZURIWORKS

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, writer Sara Rosen spoke with five photographers who are reshaping the image of the disease to show a wide spectrum of experiences. Whether dealing with issues of age, race, or treatment, each of the artists profiled here transforms the camera into a therapeutic tool to expand and explore the way we think about health, illness, and survival.

 

The Stories and Struggles of Maternal Health in The American South

© Bethany Mollenkof

Reproduction rights, childbirth, healthcare and maternal support in the United States are forever contentious, particularly in the American South. And, as politicians continue to debate abortion bans, the health risks associated with having a baby increase. We speak with Luupe photographer Bethany Mollenkof about her ongoing work visualizing the many stories of women working to protect the reproductive health and rights of women in the United States.

 

How to Make it as a Photo Editor: The New York Times’ Alana Celii

© Daniel Dorsa

Alana Celii’s expansive career includes photographing, producing and editing for publications including Time and The Wall Street Journal. In her current role at The New York Times, she advocates commissioning work from emerging photographers for their spark and storytelling voice. The Luupe speaks with Celii to learn more about her path as a photographer and producer plus insights into shaping visual culture in a rapidly changing world

 

The Photos Behind Square’s Campaign Amplifying Black-Owned Business

© Akilah Townsend for Square

In June, 2021 Square launched “The Future is Built…” a global campaign to support and amplify Black owned businesses in cities like Chicago and Atlanta. The premise was simple: show these businesses and the people behind them as the backbone for commerce. Show how they are shaping the future of business and a thriving culture. Square commissioned Luupe photographer Akilah Townsend to photograph the campaign in Chicago, highlighting three Black-owned beauty, apparel and book businesses in the city. Townsend’s portraits channel her signature style warmth and energy, not only to show these brands as a compelling force, but the power and humanity behind them.

 

Helen Au Tells Heartwarming Stories with Food

© Helen Au

In 2018 Helen Au launched a fun, vibrant Instagram page “A StepFull of You” to create conversations and recipes around vegan food. The photographer and writer pairs eloquently produced photographs with recipes and personal, yet widely accessible stories behind each image, often following each post with a food related question to further engage her readers. We speak with Au to learn more about food photography trends, the story behind her words and images, and how she expanded her Instagram page to a full-fledged recipe blog.

 

Empowering Portraits Reflect Growing up Queer in the American South

© Peyton Fulford

Drawing from her own childhood in the bible belt, Peyton Fulford’s ongoing series “Infinite Tenderness” is an open-ended photographic diary honoring LGBTQ+ youth in small town America. Fulford’s images show a diverse group of individuals embracing their bodies, identities and connection to others unique, yet shared experience. In this illuminating interview with Fulford, we learn more about how this work and her expansive commercial practice highlight the importance of empathy, intimacy and respect.