The cover of the 28th issue of Dear Dave.

SIGN THEM UP: The photography magazine Dear Dave is switching tracks — ditching advertising and newsstand sales in favor of limited-edition runs that are sold by subscription only.

Created in 2007 by lensman and educator Stephen Frailey, the magazine is a mashup of photography and writing that publishes idiosyncratic and original work. It bills itself as being “interested in the most unpredictable work of all genres and sensibilities, and from the familiar to the unknown.” Hilton Als, Lynne Tillman, Glenn O’Brien, Joan Juliet Buck, Liz Goldwyn, Ryan McGinley and Richard Woodward are among the artists and voices that have contributed work. Dear Dave won the 2018 Lucie award for Photography Magazine of the Year.

Subscription models are gaining popularity on different fronts, as evidenced by the metamorphosis of Substack from a newsletter platform to a media giant. And a former Vanity Fair editor Jon Kelly is at work on a digital publication where contributors will share in its subscription revenue.

Dear Dave does things a little differently with photographers contributing their work without fee for the opportunity to have their work shown in robust portfolios and none of the writers are paid for their essays. The subscription covers the printing and mailing. Published three times a year, the magazine recently published its 28th edition. There are only 410 copies of each edition of the magazine that are available. That may increase based on demand though.

Readers will find portfolios by Elena Subach, Ryan Maleady, Khalik Allah, Brett Warren, Matthew Swarts and Pati Hill. Essays have been penned by Susan Bright and Kim Beil. Foregoing advertising and newsstand sales was a means to “streamlining the process, remove that which complicated getting the magazine into the hands of the reader — procuring advertisers and distribution,” Frailey said.

Work by Matthew Swarts for the magazine.

Work by Matthew Swarts for the magazine.  Courtesy of Stephen Frailey

Much of the labor of Dear Dave falls to Frailey alone. The new set-up means having a leaner operation with the immediate goal of breaking even. The limited edition also was created “to eliminate waste, of energy and resources and most importantly, to have a more direct and intimate relationship with the audience and our future.”

An image by Brett Warren for Dear Dave.

An image by Brett Warren for Dear Dave.  Courtesy of Stephen Frailey

The new format is both a more purist approach for artists and a more sound financial one for the magazine. Frailey said it is “a more purist relation to our reader, and one that enables us to know exactly who they are.” It is also “a simpler financial basis without distribution and costs and waste,” the founder said, adding, “I do miss the visuals of ads.”

Recent advertisers included Salvatore Ferragamo, Brioni, LeBook, Frieze, Art Basel, the New Museum, East-Wing Gallery and Paris-Photo. Without any advertising, individual issues will cost $21 versus $15 before. A subscription for all three issues will offer a slight savings at $60.

As for how photography has changed after the last year, Frailey said, “At the very least, its importance as a way to communicate immediately with our community, to share experience and well-being and fear, has only grown.”

Fashion photography has been transformed by the pandemic, too, according to Frailey, whose book “Looking at Photography” was published last year. Fashion photography has changed in “how it is made remotely, which has contributed some new and inventive kinds of collaboration,” he said. There are “possibly themes to the fashion narrative regarding health, community, our culture fragility but also our global interdependence,” he added.

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