January 28, 2011 — To mark the start of its 87th year of continuous publication, the Virginia Quarterly Review entered into a collaboration with LOOK3, Charlottesville's nationally acclaimed festival of the photograph.
The special issue – co-edited by the LOOK3 team of Michael "Nick" Nichols, one of the festival's founders and a longtime National Geographic photographer; Andrew Owen, managing director; and Jenna Pirog, technical producer – features extended photo essays by 10 emerging photographers and single photos by more than two dozen additional photographers.
"In June, Nick and Andrew assembled an incredible group of young photographers on a farm outside Charlottesville for an event they called LOOKbetween," VQR editor Ted Genoways said. "The goal was gathering the next generation of photographers and editors to share ideas about the future of the industry." During the event, VQR announced it would publish the best work from the festival as a special issue of the magazine.
"It was a really natural fit for us," Genoways said. "LOOK3 is offering support to aspiring photographers who recognize that traditional on-the-ground, in-depth reporting and long-form storytelling remain vital, even as they embrace the new technologies reshaping journalism."
A magazine of current affairs, literature, history and criticism, VQR has been published continuously since 1925 at the University of Virginia.
Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va. vice president for research who attended LOOKbetween and supported the publication of the special issue, said, "We believe VQR provides insight and emotional clarity through a unique mixture of reportage, literature and world-class photography. LOOK3 shares that commitment to using artistry to investigate the important issues of our day."
The publication of this issue also marks the completion of VQR's reorganization under Skalak's office.
"This collaboration with LOOK3 and Nick Nichols illustrates the profound potential for growth in the reach and influence of the magazine," Skalak said. "We expect that VQR will be invaluable to tomorrow's scholars and decision-makers, even as it shapes our personal outlooks on the world and the place of humankind within it."
To coincide with the release of the issue, VQR is also launching a website of reporting from Afghanistan by Elliott D. Woods, one of the featured photographers at LOOKbetween. The website, Assignment Afghanistan, features photographs, multimedia and writing and will be expanded throughout 2011 – not only as Woods adds new reporting, but also as the troops and Afghan civilians featured in his stories provide updates on their stories.
"This stand-alone website signals a new era in VQR's development," Genoways said. "We're in no hurry to abandon print, but we are also committed to introducing new ways of reaching readers. The challenge is simultaneously embracing emerging technologies and maintaining high intellectual standards."
While the current media environment presents new challenges, the University is confident in the vision of Genoways as editor. "Given the outstanding record of creativity and innovation in the recent years of VQR's history under Ted's leadership, we are convinced that VQR will continue to be a visible thought-leader in the publishing world. VQR is committed to exploring new territory," Skalak said.
Genoways said that historically, Americans have received information from print media, but the rise of digital media has eroded the market and social value placed on serious reporting and altered the revenue models for publishing.
"VQR has created its own model of on-the-ground literary reporting that is nonprofit and university-based," he said. "We hope to build on and expand that model with multimedia, web-based projects like Assignment Afghanistan, with the larger goal of sparking a renaissance among a rising generation of storytellers by finding new audiences for their work and a new business model for publishing a magazine in the digital age."
In the last three years, VQR has garnered two nominations for the National Magazine Award for photojournalism, been named to Time magazine's lists of the year's 10 best photographs and 10 best covers, and been hailed by trade magazine PDN as "the little magazine that runs big photo essays." VQR also has won four National Magazine Awards in recent years and has received 14 additional nominations – unprecedented numbers for a magazine of its size. VQR has received Utne Independent Press Awards for General Excellence and International Coverage.
The special photo issue is on newsstands nationwide at select independent, Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores.
For information or subscriptions, visit the VQR website.