Lisa Martin started at InStyle in 1999 as a freelance photo editor. Fifteen years and several promotions later she is director of photography at the Time Inc. magazine-cum-media brand, which prides itself on “delivering the knowledge and confidence to make the everyday fabulous.” On the occasion of InStyle‘s 20th anniversary mega-issue, Martin (pictured at right, sailing in St Barts while on a shoot with cover girl Cameron Diaz) took a break from overseeing the photo department, hiring photographers and stylists, and conceptualizing photo shoots to tell us about some of her favorite images, how she views the magazine’s signature aesthetic, and more.
What are a few of your favorite images from the September fall fashion/20th anniversary issue?
There are so many outstanding pictures in our September issue that I love, but the beauty story we did with Haley Bennett (below), shot by Jan Welters, was extraordinary. It was one of those shoots when all the pieces come together—the makeup artist, Wendy Rowe, achieved beautiful, clean skin texture with subtle neutral tones on Haley’s eyes and lips; the lighting was beautiful; and the styling, perfect. I don’t wear makeup, but if I did, I would try those makeup looks.
How do you describe the aesthetic or visual signature of InStyle?
Our visual aesthetic is sophisticated but accessible—the photos are rich in texture and color, so readers want to linger and look at them, especially because they’re inspired by what they see. Our fashion looks luxurious—and in many cases, it is—but it also looks like clothing you would want to wear. We want to make images that are modern and iconic while celebrating the recent fashion trends and celebrities.
How have you seen that aesthetic change over the 15 years you’ve been at the magazine?
InStyle was the first magazine to give readers access to the stars’ everyday lives, seen through a lens of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Now, we’ve evolved into a luxury fashion brand—we went from shooting lifestyle and home stories to creating beautiful fashion and beauty stories in the well. We’ve also broadened our photography roster to include more fashion photographers. In addition, there’s a huge front-of-book section and in the back of the book there’s the “Life Etc.” section, with incredible food and lifestyle photography. We give the InStyle reader 360-degree celebrity access.
What is your pet peeve when it comes to images or photography?
I don’t really have a pet peeve. I want to see a strong sense of self in the work. A great photographer is an artist and has originality that can’t be faked by another photographer. Sure, we have inspiration boards we use, but when I look at a Web site or meet a new photographer, I want to see their personality, voice, use of light, and so forth, to tell a story.
Who is a young or emerging photographer you consider one to watch?
This is really a tough question because I watch so many young photographers. I think that Maurizio Bavutti of Artlist is super-talented. He worked with Mert & Marcus for several years, but he has his own voice and is passionate about photography.
What recently published photography book has most impressed you?
I just bought Collier Schorr’s new book, 8 Women, from ICP. Her pictures have this great mix of art and fashion, and the book is nicely designed.
What’s the best creative or career advice you’ve ever received?
From my mom: to be passionate about what you do and owning what you do even if you fail. When we fail or make a mistake, we learn—although I think I taught myself that last lesson.