“Around 2009, during an airport stopover, it occurred to me how under-appreciated the travel magazine genre was," says Paul Kominek, as he talks through his process of commissioning photography for Travel Almanac
The Travel Almanac is described as the “first true post-tourism publication”, championing the importance of long reads, interviews and culture with a focus on travel. The biannual journal was founded in 2010 by Paul Kominek, who explains: “Around 2009, during an airport stopover, it occurred to me how under-appreciated the travel magazine genre was at that time – mostly dominated by advertisement editorials of beaches and exotic places. So the idea came to create an interview magazine featuring personalities from a creative background, like artists, writers, musicians and designers, and discuss their travel habits, to hopefully uncover unexpected sides of these people.”
Kominek’s background, as a music producer and co-founder of the electronic music label, Dial Records, connected him with fellow producer John Roberts, and “a few months later, we put out our first issue, which featured David Lynch as cover star,” he says. “The mix of the travel theme and the featured personalities immediately struck a chord.”
How much of the magazine is taken up by commissioned photography?
Initially, the proportion was around 70 per cent text and 30 per cent photos. That was partly a conceptual decision, but also because we were starting out from scratch, and we didn’t have a network of artists. The more the magazine became established, the easier it was to find great photographers to contribute. Over the last few years, we’ve worked with a diverse group of fashion and fine-art photographers – Collier Schorr, Juergen Teller, Harley Weir, Viviane Sassen, Ari Marcopoulos and Julia Hetta among many others – and this became a more prominent part of the magazine. In the most recent issues, photography accounts for 50 to 60 per cent.
Why is it important to commission photography?
We want to put together a thoroughly curated mix of photographers that fits specifically with the concept of each issue. Commissioned photography is essential in arriving at something that is purposefully made with a specific message or context in mind. This can sometimes be achieved with existing photography, but in most cases that would require a lot of compromises, which usually diminishes the overall quality of the final outcome. Apart from that, exclusive photography from exciting new or established artists is, of course, an important differentiating factor for each publication.
How do you decide who’s right for a specific commission?
We now have a list of photographers that we know well or regularly collaborate with, and depending on how complex an idea or production might be, that experience can help make a project happen, even with limited budgets. But in my opinion, it is important to have a good balance of more established photographers and up-and-coming artists.
Do the photographers have very strict briefs?
We usually have a clear idea of what we want to end up with, and that’s why we approach specific photographers. On the other hand, sometimes there are less formulated ideas that we imagine might resonate with a certain artist. The initial ideas then turn into a more concrete project through a conversation between the editorial team and the photographer.
Is there a photographer or project that you particularly enjoyed working on?
We did a 60-page story on the illusionist David Blaine. Juergen Teller shot it for us, joining David on a section of his tour throughout the US. I think Juergen gets as excited as I do about certain ideas, which some people might find a bit too weird or improbable, so it’s always a big pleasure to work with him. He is also just really interested in people on a very personal level, which is what’s at the core of what TTA is really about.
What makes a good cover for you?
Sometimes a more calm, studio-style photo feels like the best t. Other times, a rougher or more snappy image can work better. As a general rule of thumb though, I’d say that a good cover is something that you could also see on your wall or on a T-shirt.