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How to be a Visuals Editor: Catching Up with Bon Appétit's Graylen Gatewood
How to be a Visuals Editor: Catching Up with Bon Appétit's Graylen Gatewood
by The Luupe
A candid conversation on photography, photo editing, and the hidden and exciting layers of photo production.
For many undergrads studying photography, and really anyone outside of the industry, the professional role of "photo editor" can sound ambiguous.
The first thought is often "someone who edits photos in Photoshop" – a photo retoucher – and not the role of booking and producing shoots, coordinating talent, sequencing, curating, and so much more. And then there's the newly coined role of "Visuals Editor" which can be even more encompassing.
Meet Graylen Gatewood – art director, creative producer, photographer, and Bon Appétit's Visuals Editor. While studying photography and starting a photo magazine at Bard College, Gatewood quickly realized her love and skill for making things happen. She took an internship at New York Magazine, which quickly turned into a photo editing job, and now an expanded role as Visuals Editor at Bon Appétit.
After collaborating with Gatewood on The Luupe's industry portfolio review last fall, we caught up to learn more about her discerning eye, career, and some tips for photographers and photo editors alike.
▲ Graylen Gatewood. Photographed by Isa Zapata
The Luupe: In just a few years, you've quickly moved from interning and freelance photo-editing into taking on remarkable roles at New York Magazine and now Bon Appétit. When you were studying photography, did you anticipate being a photo editor?
Graylen Gatewood: As a teenager, I was obsessed with magazines, especially Teen Vogue and Nylon. I blame a lot of the media from the time (The Hills, Ugly Betty, 13 Going on 30, The Devil Wears Prada) for my career trajectory, ha. I also come from a family of artists and journalists. My dad worked as the managing editor of Hamptons Magazine in the 80s and then opened his own graphic design firm. So there were always a ton of magazines and newspapers around my childhood home.
The Luupe: When did you start seriously photo editing?
Gatewood: I started a photography magazine at Bard College and also worked as an editor on the arts and literary publication at my school, Bard Papers. (P.S.: if anyone reading this is applying to college for photography, I cannot recommend Bard enough).
To be quite honest, when I was studying photography as an undergrad, I don’t think I knew what a photo editor actually did. The photo program at Bard is focused on being an artist, and they (at least when I was there) put little emphasis on careers or how to make money — besides getting famous and selling your work.
When I ended up getting an internship in the New York Magazine photo department after school, it was a dream come true, but I quickly learned that photo editing did not mean editing pictures in Photoshop!
The Luupe: Ha! We get that all the time. Were there any pivotal moments during your internship that made you realize you were destined to photo edit?
Gatewood: During my first weeks of the internship, the team was wrapping up production on their 50th-anniversary issue. I remember I somehow got former NYC mayor David Dinkins on the phone, and when a senior member of the photo department congratulated me for that, what a photo editor actually did finally clicked. Suddenly everything made sense!
I am so grateful for my education because although I may not have learned super "practical" career-applicable skills, speaking thoughtfully about an image and defending it in front of a room is now something I do nearly every day in my role as Visuals Editor.
▲ The portrait of New York City Mayor David Dinkins that got it all started. Photo © Bobby Doherty for New York Magazine's 50th Anniversary Issue.
The Luupe: When did you know it was time to move from New York Magazine to Bon Appétit?
Gatewood: When I learned there was an opening on a new visuals team at Bon Appétit that would be redesigning the magazine, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to have a hand in the new look of the print product. I figured I had gotten so much experience at a publication with such an established visual language, and there are only so many chances in life to have a say in the redesign of a brand as big as BA.
I loved NY Mag so much, and I like to think I could have stayed forever, but it was time for a new adventure!
The Luupe: Was the role of "photo editor" different from your new role as a "visuals editor"?
Gatewood: In my experience thus far, Visuals Editor is a modernized title for Photo Editor that encompasses a wider range of media, for example, GIFs and other moving imagery.
▲ The Luupe: Describe your day-to-day at Bon Appétit.
Gatewood: Reading recipes and stories, pulling swipe, building decks and shot lists, corresponding with photographers and stylists, reviewing prop pulls, doing photo research for timely news hits/digital pieces, scheduling and producing photoshoots end-to-end, and chatting with the editors about visual strategies. I also scour the internet for new talent all the time.
▲ © Isa Zapata for Bon Appétit
The Luupe: Wow! With the constant flow and bombardment of imagery coming your way, what should every photographer know when approaching photo editors or you specifically?
Gatewood: It’s a trope but it’s true… we really are so busy. If I don’t answer your email, it’s either because I am slammed with work or because your portfolio doesn’t exactly apply to the type of work I commission. I think it’s always important to have a reason for reaching out to an editor besides the fact that they are an editor.
That being said, there are photographers who reached out to me while I was at New York Magazine whose work did not make sense for that outlet, but their work makes sense for Bon Appétit…so I may answer emails a year or two later.
Be patient :) If you care about what you are shooting, it will show through.
The Luupe: What's one piece of advice you got when just starting out that continues to influence how you work today?
Gatewood: Be nice to everyone! And: don't let perfect be the enemy of good.
The Luupe: You recently participated in The Luupe's portfolio reviews. Why are portfolio reviews interesting for you to participate in?
Gatewood: I am always looking for more opportunities to meet new people in the industry and portfolio reviews are the perfect chance to do that. I feel very aligned with The Luupe’s support of women and non-binary photographers.
I come from an extremely privileged background, and I have been in the right place at the right time quite a bit. I try to remain aware of how I can open the door for those who may not have the same amount of opportunities I have been afforded, and give others a chance to be in the right place at the right time as much as possible.
I constantly remind myself of how much power someone in a photo editor role has, and how to best use that to make the industry better.
The Luupe: Can you talk about some recent projects at Bon Appétit and New York Magazine that you really enjoyed working on?
Gatewood; I absolutely love dessert shoots, so working on a project of recipes excerpted from Claire Saffitz’s new book for Bon Appétit was amazing. It was the most high-concept shoot I have directed at Bon Appétit so far, and I have really been enjoying learning more about prop styling.
While I was at New York Magazine I managed photography for the Look Book, which was absolutely my favorite section of every issue. The team does an outstanding job surprising readers every other week and showing us a cross-section of New Yorkers.
▲ © Jake Chessum for New York Magazine's Look Book Section, managed by Graylen Gatewood
The Luupe: Is there anyone in the photo-editing/ creative directing etc world you look up to?
Gatewood: I don't know her personally, but the work Eve Lyons does at The New York Times has always blown me away. The American Road Trip project she commissioned was so ambitious and well-executed. The road trip has such a rich and complicated history in the medium of photography, and it was compelling to see what has changed, and what has not.
The Luupe: In closing, what are you excited about this year?
Gatewood: Now that I am more settled into my role at Bon Appétit, I am excited to dive into my personal art practice more, and spend more time at my studio in Ridgewood.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Luupe is a one-stop production platform designed to help brands collaborate with underrepresented photographers across the globe, providing resources and opportunities that boost creator’s impact and income, while streamlining traditional workflows to create high quality, diverse content, at scale. Our brand purpose is to help underrepresented photographers and creators further their career and generate income with the goal of improving diversity in front of and behind the lens in the commercial photography industry.