It was that time of the magazine again – the time we all love and dread.
It was cover time.
Coming up with a creative, feasible, resonant and alluring cover is one of our biggest challenges. If readers don’t like the face of the magazine, then they likely won’t pick it up to see what’s in the rest of the pages. And that would put all our hard work to waste.
We didn’t think our September issue would be that difficult – with a theme like “the romance of mining,” we thought we had a slam dunk. Something mine-related, maybe sepia-toned. But after several brainstorming sessions with our hair ruffled and feet up on our desks, we hadn’t gotten much farther than that. We thought of staging a shoot – which we won’t reveal here in case we decide to riff off that idea in the future – and started to gather props for it. But over several days, one image we’d stumbled across in our research seemed to stick: a black and white photo of a pair of ghostly, wax-like hands holding a grubby gold-filled pan. The gold nuggets inside looked more like rocks that had been badly spray painted, but still, there was something about that photo we couldn’t shake off. It was simultaneously prosaic and creative; straightforward and ambiguous.
The day before our scheduled shoot, we decided to switch gears. Let’s recreate that black and white image, we thought, but with our own twist. For one thing, the hands in the photo we liked were a little too wax-like. They weren’t grubby enough. The gold wasn’t convincing enough.
So our twist, in the end, was our very own art director-turned hand model, John Pekelsky. “I went around the office to see if anyone’s hands were better than his,” photo editor Angela Gzowski explained later. “But nobody did. Everyone had baby hands – really beautiful hands.”
JP likes tinkering with automobiles in his spare time.
On the day of the shoot, JP dutifully rubbed his hands with potted soil and then held up the pan for Angela’s camera. “My hands look nice and dirty,” JP joked, hiding a smile. “Stop talking,” Angela replied, and then told him to tilt the pan a little more to catch the light.
Despite their constant bickering (“Is this going to take all day?” “Stop it”), we knew they were both having fun. A couple of hours later, after they’d finished the shoot and examined the photos on screen, Angela returned to her desk, her face expressionless. We all held our breaths.
“He’s happy,” she said, finally. “The cover’s done.”