Why Editorial Works: Kareem Black for VIBE

By Conor Risch

© Kareem black
Comedian Kevin Hart photographed by Kareem Black for VIBE magazine's 2014 "Race Issue."

It's no secret that budgets for editorial photography are often slim, deadlines are frequently tight and subjects can be less than accommodating. Yet the creative freedom, challenges, experiences and opportunities to make great pictures offer photographers something they can't get from any other type of work. In this first in a series of articles about editorial photography, which originally appeared in the June Photo Annual issue of PDN, Kareem Black talks about a great editorial jobs he recently shot for VIBE, and about what editorial work means to him.

I want to do more editorial work,” exclaims Kareem Black. “I hate going to Barnes & Noble and seeing all the magazines that I’m not in.” Black works mostly on advertising jobs, and is happy to do so, but he’s making a concerted effort, including creating new promos targeted at editors, to get more editorial assignments into the mix of his business.

“I’m not as worried about numbers as my agent is,” Black says. “That’s what they’re paid for. I want to take some fucking pictures.” While commercial assignments are more lucrative, editorial work is about “the adventures and the pictures,” Black says. And it’s also valuable promotion, he believes. “Your successes in editorial are very public. Money is rarely the driving force in editorial photography. Editorial can be great promotion.”

VIBE magazine is among the editorial clients Black does have, and he’s admired the magazine since he was an undergraduate. “VIBE was on the level of Rolling Stone for me [as a young photographer],” he says. “I always have a special place in my heart for VIBE.”

Black has photographed three covers for the magazine, including a recent shoot with the comedian Kevin Hart for VIBE’s Race Issue, which was released in December of last year. That shoot presented an interesting challenge, Black says. The topic of race is “by nature potentially incendiary,” so the question was, “How do we navigate the race issue ... in a smart way?” Black explains, “When the call came in I was definitely interested in that aspect of the challenge.”

The cover depicts Hart sitting against white seamless beneath the legs of a white model, which form an inverted-V over his head. One of the interior photographs shows the woman stepping on Hart with her stiletto.

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