How to Approach Photo Editors


When suggesting ideas to Photo Editors, how detailed should my concept be?

Answer by: Tanvi Mishra, Creative Director, The Caravan, and Curator.

When reviewing pitches for photo stories at The Caravan, the first thing I look for is how well the photographer has understood the nature of the work we do, both in terms of the issues we focus on, and the kind of narratives we adopt in our published pieces. We are a long-form journal of politics and culture. Therefore, the more the pitch is tailored to our mandate, the likelier the chances are for it to be reviewed with attention to detail. While the rest of the magazine focuses on long-form texts, the photo essay section applies similar criteria, but with reference to photographs.

The question of how detailed a concept should be depends primarily upon the content, form, and narrative style of the work. For linear documentary work, it may be possible to gauge the story from a set of ten to twelve images, with short text—about 300 to 400 words. For more conceptual bodies of work, longer text may be needed to explain the process and eventual outcome of the project. Otherwise, one runs the risk of it being misinterpreted. I have even received videos—of installations or interviews—as part of pitches, to provide a better, or more layered understanding of work intended to go in print.

What matters is that, at the first instance, there should be an element that pulls the viewer in—this could be a title, an unusual aesthetic, a short but strong text, or most important of all, a novel idea. A strong idea with political (the personal is political as well) resonance, would be more likely to receive a response than one with a strong aesthetic sense, but lacking substance in its content. Since the number of pitches received always outnumber the time available to review them, the ones with the best hooks to draw you in are more effective in capturing the attention of editors.