SNAPSHOTS: Ask a Photo Director
PDNedu: When did The California Sunday
Magazine launch, and what was its founding
mission? How is it distributed?
Jacqueline Bates: We produce ambitious, nonfiction features and cinematic photography
from across California, the West, Asia and
Latin America for a national audience. We
launched the magazine in October 2014 and
are distributed in select Sunday copies of the
Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle.
You can also subscribe by visiting our website.
PDNedu: What are some of your favorite stories
you’ve worked on?
JB: I love hiring photographers who haven’t
shot editorially before. I was impressed
by some photos I found online by a young
Colombian photographer named Mateo
Gómez García. I assigned him a cover story
on two men who found God and set out to
convert their Pentecostal church to Orthodox
Working with young photographers and
helping them think through narratives is
very meaningful to me. We paired his images
with work by Michal Chelbin, which I loved—
someone who’s just starting out mixed with a
For our first-ever single-topic issue, which was
about the sounds of the West, we published a
photo essay on Saturday night music scenes
across California. Michael Schmelling shot the
urban music scenes in color, while Elle Pérez
shot the black-and-white rural scenes. They
committed four or five Saturday nights to the
project—and would have shot longer, but we
had to ship the issue.
PDNedu: How would you describe the visual style
of the photography the magazine publishes?
JB: Since we’re a general-interest magazine,
PDNedu: How do you find new photographers to
each story has a different tone and mood, and
I try to reflect that in our photography. Leo
[Jung, the creative director] and I always want
to surprise the reader. We look at the issue as
a whole, and make sure to create a diverse mix
of looks and photographers. We don’t overly
art direct anyone—we hire artists for who they
are and for their unique take on the world. We
don’t shoot anything in studio, because our
stories all have such a strong sense of place.
work with? What’s the best way to pitch long-
form stories or shorts?
JB: I always open an email from someone
who was recommended by a photographer
I’ve hired or an agent I trust. I attend a lot of
photo reviews. I judge contests. I go to book
fairs to see what the smaller book publishers
are doing, and I’m on Instagram everyday—
probably way too much. In every issue, I
commission photographers who are just
starting out, and more established people. I
don’t enjoy flipping through magazines that
share all the same photographers, so I always
do a ton of research to foster new talent.
PDNedu: If you’re working with a photographer
who is just starting out, what are some things
you tell him or her?
JB: Slow down. Take time with your projects.
You can’t make a long-term body of work in
one day. If you admire a photographer, reach
out to them. Don’t work in a bubble. Study
every photographer who has come before you
who is intrigued by the same subject matter. If
we meet, don’t wait for me to give you a story
idea—I want to hear about everything you’re
curious about and all of your interests. EDU
Pitch your ideas or unpublished projects:
Interview by JACQUI PALUMBO
Q&A with the photo director of The California Sunday Magazine.
THIS PAGE: This October issue photo essay,
“Saturday Night Out,” paired photos from
Elle Pérez and Michael Schmelling.
From cowboy bars
and opera houses to
dance clubs and
Saturday night gets
us out and gets us
together. The headliner
runs through sound
check. The soprano
warms her voice. The Elvis
himself up in the
mirror. The opener
goes on. The bouncer
settles in. The
small talk. The place
begins to fill.
1:02A. M. El Palacio Night Club, Merced 12:21A. M. Bissap Baobab, San Francisco
Elle Pérez and
SA TURDA Y
Since its launch, The California Sunday Magazine has had a focus on beautiful photos—and lots of
them. The magazine was awarded the National Magazine Award for Photography for the second
year in 2017, and it was also a finalist for Magazine of the Year. At the helm of its small photo
department is Jacqueline Bates. Here, she discusses the type of photography they seek out and
how to get your own work in its pages.