Camera #5: In search of a mythical magazine
The guest of the latest issue of Camera isn’t a photographer. But someone who single-handedly reopened entire chapters of the history of photography and helped a new generation of photographers to be recognized. Allan Porter, the editor-in-chief of Camera from 1965 to 1981, hosted journalist Jonas Cuénin for several days at his home in Lucerne, Switzerland. It was a fruitful encounter, illustrated by the images of ten great photographers discovered by this champion of contemporary photography.
Created in 1922, Camera folded in December 1981, only to be reborn last year in a bilingual French-English version. The original version of the magazine was a landmark, and it remained so throughout the most important periods of photography. Camera was often among the first publications to feature work by photographers like Edward Steichen, Robert Frank and Jeanloup Sieff.
Its two most important editors-in-chief were probably Romeo Martinez and Allan Porter. The first joined the magazine in July 1956, and is known for bringing Camera into a new era by making it available in three separate versions in English, French and German, and for discovering a number of artists. Martinez was not a photographer, but a journalist with a keen knowledge of art history and photography in particular. He managed to increase readership before leaving Camera following the May 1964 issue. The magazine continued for almost two years under its director, Alice Bucher, and the team stayed on.
Allan Porter only arrived as a guest editor-in-chief in December 1965, officially assuming the position in January of the following year. That Alice Bucher selected an American with no real ties to Europe was hard for some to accept, but she was confident that his talent for design would save the struggling magazine. Under his direction, Camera was remarkable not only in its discovery of avant-garde talents and its modern approach to photography, but also for its recognition of the works of past masters. This continued until the magazine’s disappearance in 1981. Porter had helped the magazine reach a circulation of 50,000.
Vintage issues of the magazine are collector’s items today. They are reference works in photo libraries across the world, from the Centre Pompidou and Maison de la Photographie in Paris to the International Center of Photography in New York.