December 8, 2008 — Time magazine today chose the cover of The Virginia Quarterly's fall issue as one of their "Top 10 Magazine Covers of 2008."
The issue considered the impact of the Iraq and Afghan wars at home. The searing cover photo shows in its foreground a memorial tattoo on the shoulder of a sleeping woman, whose face is in softer focus in the background.
Joining the University of Virginia-based VQR in Time's top 10 were covers of such magazine heavyweights as the New Yorker, New York, Rolling Stone and the Economist.
"The cover owes everything to Ashley Gilbertson's amazing photograph," VQR editor Ted Genoways said. "When you get an incredibly powerful image, you present it simply and try not to clutter it with too much text. The plaudits really belong to Gilbertson for the incredible image he gave us."
In introducing the fall issue's theme, Genoways wrote that although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might not have the biggest headlines these days, "for hundreds of thousands of American veterans and their families, the war is anything but over."
Genoways continued: "Ira R. Katz, the [Veterans Affairs'] Deputy Chief of Patient Care Services in the Office for Mental Health, estimates that proper mental healthcare through the VA system may reduce the likelihood of suicide by as much as 75 percent. Simply by allocating greater resources, Katz believes, our government could prevent the suicides of 400 combat veterans per month.
"In this issue's portfolio, we have gathered the stories of several Iraq War veterans and their ongoing — sometimes losing — battles with the memories of what they saw and did overseas."
Arthur Hochstein, the art director at Time who chose the top 10 covers, including VQR's, praised the journal's strong format:
"Often cited by professional organizations for its content, The Virginia Quarterly Review also has consistently inventive covers. One of its secrets is the simple, strong format, which never varies from issue to issue. This particular cover isolates, for maximum effect, the stark black-and-white photo of a woman sleeping, dreamily out of focus. In focus is a tattoo on her shoulder of her deceased brother, who committed suicide after his second tour of duty in Iraq. And this focal shift turns reality inside-out: The dead victim is vivid and alive in the dream of his sister, whose life may have lost focus because of her profound loss. Regardless of one's position on the Iraq War, this is a searingly sad cover that provokes equal parts sympathy and outrage."
Genoways said the photo was selected because it put the death in the foreground while showing the face of a shadowy, too-often-invisible family member.
"The photo was enigmatic enough that we wanted to clarify it just a bit by selecting a military color palette for the blocks behind VQR and adding the simple text 'The War at Home,'"
Said Gilbertson, who also wrote the article accompanying the photo, "The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce": "The photograph represents, to me, a part of American society that is trying to come to terms with the horrors their loved ones have witnessed and try to cope on a daily basis with the aftermath of what's taken place in Iraq. Noah's case is tragic, and extreme, but by no means unique."
Gilbertson's many honors include the 2004 Robert Capa Gold Medal, the Photographer of the Year award from the National Photo Awards, and selection of his work for Time magazine's "Pictures of the Year." His essay, "Last Photographs," published in the summer 2007 issue of VQR, was a finalist for the Prix Bayeux-Calvados for War Reporting. He is the author of "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War," published in 2007.
In addition to Gilbertson's article, the issue includes "When Janey Comes Marching Home," by Laura Browder and Sascha Pflaeging, and "A Poem for the Last American Soldier to Die in Iraq," by former soldier Brian Turner.
Genoways happened to meet Time's Hochstein several months ago. "I was in Midtown Manhattan with my family last spring when a man stopped me on the street," he wrote in an e-mail.
"'Aren't you the editor of VQR?' he asked. I was stunned but said I was. 'I'm Art Hochstein, art director at Time,' he said. 'I love your magazine.' We were on one those temporary sidewalks around a construction site and the crowd swept us along in opposite directions before I could do much more than sputter a thank you.
"In the months since, that encounter has come to feel like a dream, but now I see that Hochstein really is paying attention to our work and — of course — we're deeply flattered."
The Virginia Quarterly Review, published continuously since 1925, is a current affairs and literary journal published at the University of Virginia.