By Anna Duke Reach, Director of Programs
One of the most common questions we get here at KR is how we choose our evocative cover art. While some define photography as simply “taking pictures,” at The Kenyon Review, we believe it is more about “making pictures.” As I research cover subjects, I look for photographs that transform a moment in time into the realm of story.
The current winter cover, by photographer André Kertész offers a stolen moment of calm during winter in New York City. The composition is lyrical rather than symmetrical; branches seem to dance in the wind as someone (perhaps a reader, might there be a literary magazine tucked under one arm?) strolls along a curving path in solitude. There is a calligraphic quality to the lines in this photo; walkways, trees, benches, fences and a lamppost bend like script to offer a cryptic message. A second figure tiptoes into the image in the top left; perhaps the silence will be broken? Many footsteps already crunched through the park’s icy piecrust, muted by snow soft as down feathers underneath. The unusual composition of this snow scene, the tranquility of this city park as well as its potential for story inspired me to choose “Washington Square, Winter, 1954” for the current issue. The staff concurred, and our designer, John Pickard, selected an arctic-ocean-blue banner to underline the frozen beauty Kertész captured.
Photos must also be vertical and proportioned to fit the magazine’s trim size, so cropping does not alter the composition. I try to continue a series of photographs by the same artist or group (such as the Photo League) for all quarterly issues in a year. The International Center of Photography in New York City opens up their archives for research, and we are grateful for their generous assistance. Permission to print must be granted, so we research specific rights for each image before designing a cover. As we are a not-for-profit-organization, permission expense is a consideration. When we first decided to use black and white photographs on the covers, it was for economic as well as aesthetic reasons; black ink on white paper saved the expense of color inks. Recent design changes introducing our new color banner means that some cover subjects are now printed in four-colors although they appear black and white. The digital printing process is determined for each subject in order to add tonal richness to match the original photographic print.
We hope each cover ignites your imagination and generates more stories.