A new book celebrates the creative mavericks behind the glamour of postwar magazine covers and explores the magic of a dying culture
s a teenager in 1960s Belfast, I fell in love with magazines. They introduced me to a community beyond family and school. They were seductive and aspirational. I remember seeing A for the first time in a Belfast boutique in 1968 while wondering if I could afford a Ben Sherman shirt. It was a revelation, voicing a cultural shift that I only hazily understood but knew I wanted to be part of. I bought the magazine, not the shirt. Little did I know, its co-founder, Rolling Stone Jann Wenner, would be my boss 24 years later.
Like any business, a magazines first job is to make money for the owner, and that has traditionally been done through advertising and copy sales. The newsstand cover is crucial in this and the industry has spent millions over the decades trying to find the magic cover formula. Some titles have come close, such as the US weekly
People, whose covers have been calibrated with particular brilliance.
The received thinking goes something like this. A mainstream cover should be instantly recognisable; it should have an attractive, accessible photograph with strong eye contact (we read the picture before the text and we prefer photography to illustration or pure type because it takes less time to decode); plus an easily digestible and relatable mix of cover lines peppered with the odd surprise; it should have a tone of warm, light banter; and one of the dominant colours should be buy-me red.
But the covers in
Uncovered are different their newsstand numbers fluctuated between the dismal and the dynamic. I chose them because they broke boundaries and started conversations. They made a moment feel red-hot and meaningful. Some confronted taboos about race and sex. Some ridiculed hypocrisy. Some memorialised a catastrophic event. Some provided a voice that was absent from the mainstream. Some were rallying calls. Some bordered on the crude. Some turned design conventions upside down. Some ended up hanging in galleries, such as George Loiss Esquire covers, exhibited in New Yorks Museum of Modern Art in 2008.
They are social documents with unique backstories. I wanted to hear these from the creative mavericks behind them. Thats why I start in the late 1950s; prior to this, key players are unavailable. I end when covers were re-energised by the twin political thunderbolts of Brexit and Donald Trump, and the warp speed of the political news cycle.
Today, there is an overwhelming sense that the
post- 1945 magazine era is ending. The internet has taken over as the engine of popular culture and decimated the print business model. On the bright side, there has been a surge of handsome independent niche titles, but as yet their pulling power is limited. With technology, the barriers to producing magazines have never been lower, but those to achieving success have never been higher.
So what of magazines future? The former
Spy editor Kurt Andersen hits the nail on the head: Eventually, theyll become like sailboats, he says. They dont need to exist any more. But people will still love them, and make them and buy them.
Uncovered: Revolutionary Magazine Covers is published by Cassell (30) on 4 October. To preorder a copy for 25.80 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846 O, The Oprah Magazine
Founder and editorial director: Oprah Winfrey
Editor-in-chief: Lucy Kaylin
Creative director: Adam Glassman
Cover photography: Ruven Afanador
A full afro had not been seen on the cover of a mainstream American womens magazine in a while.
O was launched in April 2000 by Hearst and Oprah Winfrey, the entertainment mogul and philanthropist. This image of the magazines founder hit a national nerve, prompted Froprah mania and clocked up over 337m media impressions. The issue won two National Magazine awards in 2014.
Lucy Kaylin: The topic of hair has deeply personal, psychological and political implications the idea was to start a big, fun, frank conversation about it. As for the cover, we thought: Lets see if Oprah would collaborate on a really bold hair moment. Adam Glassman, our cover magician, knew a wig maker, Kim Kimble. Andre Walker, Oprahs long-time hairstylist, did an amazing job making it look natural on Oprah. Luckily, our cover model was very much into it. That was the secret sauce: Oprahs enthusiasm.
Adam Glassman: We made it as big and curly as possible. It was like, OK, I want to be liberated and wear my hair natural like it is when I come out of the shower. Well do an exaggerated version of that. The wig came on a headstand in a bright-pink travel box. It was like the unveiling of the crown jewels. We listened over and over to the soundtrack of The Lion King because Oprah felt like a lioness with this mane of hair. When we showed it to people before we went to press, they were very divided. Some asked if it was too much of a political statement. It really was not the intention. National Lampoon
Managing editor: Tony Hendra
Art director: Michael Gross
Contributing editor: Ed Bluestone
Cover photography: Ronald G Harris
In the early 1970s
National Lampoon, the satirical monthly created by Harvard graduates Henry Beard, Doug Kenney and Rob Hoffman, was the incarnation of hip for its predominantly campus-based readership. Its notorious January 1973 cover began as a proposed subscription campaign: If you dont subscribe, well kill this dog and, if that doesnt work, a cat, and the animal death toll will rise until you do. The campaign did not run but it was the perfect cover for the death-themed issue. The shot was extremely hard to get, British-born Tony Hendra recalls. When the dog looked straight out at the reader he simply appeared victimised. Then someone had the notion of actually pulling the trigger. The dog reacted to the noise and this was the result.
National Lampoon, there probably would not have been Saturday Night Live. It incubated talents like John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner. Hendra, there from the start, had come from the comedy duo Hendra and Ullett, regular performers on US TV variety shows in the 1960s.
Tony Hendra: The level of censorship on American television in the 1960s was acute. It basically meant that people of my generation could not mention or discuss any of the things that were on our minds, whether it was the sexual revolution, or liberation of any kind, and certainly not the Vietnam war. So it was a source of explosive frustration. Going to the Lampoon was like walking out of a dark room into sunlight.
The dog cover was Eds idea. Casting was obviously crucial and the dog we eventually got was modelled on Freckles, my very sweet mutt who had a big patch on one eye. In a funny way, it was more moderate than a lot of the other covers we did around that period but it did nail the fact that what is really sacred for every American family is pets. So that was what gave it, if youll excuse the expression, legs. Were people outraged by it? Absolutely. We certainly couldnt do that cover today without being shot, or banned for ever.
Editor: Harold TP Hayes
Cover design: George Lois
Cover photography: Carl Fischer
From 1962 to 1972, Madison Avenue art director George Lois and American
Esquire editor Harold Hayes created some of the most original, ideas-rich, uncompromising and incendiary covers in magazine history. Lois often worked with the photographer Carl Fischer, Lois creating the concept, drawing a tight sketch of each idea and directing them, and then Fischer bringing it to life.
People would say to me, You got some balls doing those covers. says Lois. I would say, No, its Harold who has the balls. Theres no editor in the world who would do that now allow me to choose the article in the upcoming issue, and then accept each cover I created with appreciation and pleasure.
Esquire cover of me drowning in a can of Campbells soup? I love it! But George, arent you gonna have to build a giant can of soup?
So said Andy Warhol to George Lois when he heard the cover concept. Lois had already done multiple photomontage covers for
Esquire, but this visual joke part mocking, part homage ranks as one of his finest. You could look at it as just funny, or you look at it as how fame swallows people the absurdity of fame, he later said. But he really stood for something. Pop art was ludicrous to me, but I could see why it was catching on.
Carl Fischer: The basic shot was a soup can with the dirty lid open a certain amount so that we could get the logo in. I spent the day dropping childrens marbles, one by one, into the soup. We did a million splashes and finally got one that made a nice hole to drop Andy into.
I photographed Warhol a lot. His mother and he lived up the block from me on Lexington. He would do anything to be on a cover of a magazine and for no money. He ran an ad once in the
Village Voice saying he was available for endorsing products.
We had him come into the studio and said: Youre falling into the ocean, just about to drown and youre dying. We did a whole bunch of pictures of him with his arms up, his arms out, screaming, whatever. George sent it out to a retoucher and they put the two shoots together.
28 May 2015
Editor-in-chief: Christoph Amend
Creative director: Mirko Borsche
Art director: Jasmin Mller-Stoy
Designer: Mirko Merkel
Guest editor: Mohamed Amjahid
Cover caption: Every day, people start out in the hope of a better life. We dedicate this issue to you. An especially large number of the refugees coming to Germany are from Arab countries. Thats why
Zeit Magazin appears in German and Arabic.
The weekly newspaper
Die Zeit launched Germanys first magazine supplement in 1970. , introduced a double cover, two consecutive photographs, illustrations or type treatments that make a pithy point. This was a special on refugees that Simon Kuper from the Financial Times read open-mouthed because it presented refugees not as helpless mute victims on sinking boats but as grownup humans with insights into their adopted country.
Christoph Amend: I had the idea in the last days of 2014, when I read the first reports about refugees making their way to central Europe. To edit, design and produce the issue was highly sensitive, so we hired Mohamed as a guest editor.
Mohamed Amjahid: All the text had something to do with the new lives of refugees in Germany: learning a new language, fighting bureaucracy, getting over homesickness, facing racism. The issue featured many new citizens, not only those from Arabic-speaking countries. However, wedecided to publish the texts in Arabic and German since most of the arriving people in 2015 spoke Arabic.
Jasmin Mller-Stoy: We split every page into two. Arabic type is read from right to left, but our InDesign wasnt able to type the Arabic font in the right direction. We had to figure out how to turn the cover in one direction so you can read it as German, and turn it in the other direction to read it as Arabic.
MA: I sometimes turned the monitors upside down because it was easier or I printed the pages out, putting them in the middle of the room and running in circles. I am one of the few German journalists who speak Arabic as a mother language and I was the only one at the magazine who could read the whole issue. I felt a huge pressure. It was hard to translate the texts so they made sense at the same time.
JM-S: It was tricky to choose a colour for the cover. We first thought about green, but not all Arabian countries have green in their flag and we didnt want anybody to feel excluded. So we decided to take a neutral colour. Yellow seemed to be perfect. Mohamed helped us find a font that looked modern. We had this idea to use the first pictures that refugees took in Germany inside. They really appreciated this. We tried to do extra copies so they could get them. We took the magazine to several refugee camps in Germany.
MA: Was there a message? Refugees welcome. Many German subscribers were amazed. Of course, some rightwing supporters complained that their Germany will disappear now because we had published in Arabic.
CA: We never had so many requests from organisations and schools for extra copies. Friends from the magazine industry in New York wrote, saying: We could never do that in America. It was quite a ride to publish half of a magazine that you cant read yourself. One
Magazine editor: Don Slater
Art director: Eve Elloree
Cover artist: Dawn Fredericks
Alfred Kinseys 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male said that over a third of American men had had same-sex contacts and helped inspire the homophile movement. One came out of that political movement. The idea was to bring all gay people together as one.
Ones cover artists and editors had to fashion a visual style that would evoke gayness yet avoid inciting backlash from postal authorities, vice squads or censorship groups. Most of the illustrations were drawn by two women who were a couple. A commercial artist named Joan Corbin drew under the pseudonym Eve Elloree during the 1950s, and in the 60s Dawn Fredericks took over: a rare example of female creative control.
Their illustrations were non-threatening: the homophile organisations of the 50s were assimilationist; they wanted to be accepted by society. Whats striking about this cover is how big the words are huge letters proclaiming that in a shocking, daring way. But its not a menacing image. Id describe it as a prideful stoicism that says: I have a right to exist.
Craig M Loftin
Craig M Loftin is lecturer in American studies at California State University