Creative Brief: Beth Wilkinson

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This article was published in issue #7890 of British Journal of Photography. Visit the BJP Shop to purchase the magazine here.

Beth Wilkinson is a visual communicator. Based in Melbourne, Australia, her experience in diverse roles across publishing, editing, photography, video, graphic design and other communication strategies armed her with the crucial skills to launch Lindsay magazine, first online in 2017, and then in print three months later.

The biannual publication is named after her grandfather, a self-taught photographer who built his own darkroom and from whom Wilkinson inherited a vast collection of cameras. Inspired by his work and approach to life, the journal’s photography is all shot on film, “so there’s a warmth and honesty that runs through the entire publication,” she says. “I always describe the photos as being a hybrid of documentary and fashion photography. In Lindsay the goal is to capture the real world through a curious and artisanal lens.”

Portrait © Heather Lighton

How has the magazine changed over its four issues?

It continues to evolve naturally, but it still very much aligns with my original vision. I feel that issue number four is our strongest yet, but I think that’s because it takes time to get the perfect mix of editorial. Now, a year and a half in, I have the luxury of holding on to stories until they are right for a specific issue. But I have also discovered brilliant new photographers and writers to work with along the way. Plus with each issue, contributors begin to better understand Lindsay’s editorial aesthetic and vision – it has a very specific identity and I think people can see that now.

What are the first steps you take when approaching a new photography commission?

For me, the most important thing is to work with photographers who have the same approach and vision as I do. Lindsay’s aesthetic is very specific, so I invest a lot of time in searching for those photographers. I also take a lot of the photographs myself; it’s often convenient, but it’s also because of my love for photography.

Issue 04, feature images © Beth Wilkinson.
Issue 04 cover © Beth Wilkinson.

Do you give strict briefs or are photographers allowed a lot of freedom?

A mix of both. I’m pretty particular with what I am after, so I usually give a reasonably detailed brief. I have a strong vision for Lindsay. But I also trust the people I work with and want to give them creative freedom to create their best work. But that’s why it’s so important to find the right photographers to work with, because then that trust is already there – you’re both on the same page.

Name someone that you have enjoyed working with.

I’ve worked with Olga de la Iglesia [2] since the very beginning, so we have a pretty special relationship, and her vision aligns perfectly with mine. Her photo essay documenting the fashions of Myanmar for our debut issue is still one of my favourite shoots to date. It’s extremely difficult to enter a foreign country and photograph locals without seeming like you’re imposing, but her approach to that series was so artful and genuine. They really are such special images.

Issue 01, feature images © Olga de la Iglesia.
Issue 02, feature images © Valerie Chiang.

How far in advance do you work?

As soon as one issue is out, I’m onto the next. But often opportunities arise and they’re not quite right for a specific issue – perhaps they’re too similar to another story, for example, or I have too much content on that part of the world. So I often hold on to stories. The cover story for our latest issue, for example, I shot in Paris a year ago, and I’ve just been waiting for the right issue to publish it in.

How do you match a photographer to a commission?

Because Lindsay is about celebrating different cultures and places around the world, it’s often very location based: where’s the story and who is the best person there to capture it in the way that works with the story? I remember when we interviewed NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson and I didn’t have connections with any photographers in Houston, so I asked around and discovered Valerie Chiang [3]. She happened to be in Houston when I needed the shoot to take place. The timing, the location, her style – it all matched up. But my existing photographers also keep me in the loop with their travels, and from there, we often search the right story together.