2012 NMAs: Words and Pictures

Before that upstart World Wide Web came along with its clickable slide shows or the iPad arrived with its two-finger zooming, magazines were the best place to tell stories with both words and pictures. Despite the advances made by those Young Turks of media, the ink-and-paper medium still excels when mixing text and image. In this category, I would expect the winner to have not only great photography or illustrations, but well-crafted prose to match the visuals.

On the Interweb tip, “Toronto’s Waterfront Is…” by The Grid seems to take its visual cues from Web design, especially the three panes that run throughout the story. (Although, I think it’s telling that they display this story online as large images of the magazine pages.) It’s a fun layout that mixes streeters and gee-whiz facts and figures about Toronto’s waterfront. I don’t know if I’d say the photos and the words are award-winning, but they do add up to more than the sum of their parts. While subject matter shouldn’t matter, this story is up against some top articles that cover pretty heavy topics: no day at the beach.

Maclean’s “Japan: Special Report” is one of those heavy stories. It has stunning photography of the damage done by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. The writing mixes the experiences of a few individuals in Japan during the catastrophe with the larger social and political happenings during that time. The reader gets an epic snapshot of the disaster. The prose isn’t straight-ahead newsy; it has stylish bits, such as “the Earth’s movement twisted sidewalks with a grotesque licorice ease.”

The Walrus looks at the 157 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan with “Portraits of the War.” Joanne Tod’s 6″ x 5″ portraits make a quiet and effective tribute. enRoute combines pretty pictures of food and descriptions of it in “What’s the Story, Morning Glory?” Geist provides a guide through Vancouver’s literary history with “Signs of Literary Life in Vancouver” [.pdf of story]. Also very literary, Cottage Life, a sibling magazine to my own, gives us a portrait of poet Al Purdy’s A-frame cottage by another famous Canadian poet, George Bowering [.pdf of story].

Toronto Life’s “Going Mobile” takes us to a GTA trailer park. It has some of the strongest writing in this group, but I don’t think its photography can compete with the power and drama of those in “Japan: Special Report,” which is my call for the winner of this category.

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