It began with a basic concept: Provide an outlet for young artists, create a showcase for documentary photography and have fun while doing so.
For Taj Forer and Michael Itkoff, co-editors of Daylight Magazine, an independent documentary photography magazine based in Chapel Hill, the solution was simple: start their own publication.
"We were increasingly frustrated with how limited the number of outlets were for young artists and emerging artists," said Forer, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. "I realized a lot of other people were experiencing the same problems."
With its second issue, currently available at select locations and via the magazine's Web site, www.daylightmagazine.org , Daylight's editors are already pushing the envelope.
The Summer 2004 edition--Issue 2--features photographs documenting the conflict in Iraq, and, in addition to pictures from established photographers such as Sean Hemmerle and Susan Meiselas, it also includes images taken by Iraqi civilians, a project of which Forer is especially proud.
"We had this idea, but we thought, 'How are we going to pull this off?'" he says. "When we put our money where our mouth is, we had enough time to actually complete one of our initiatives and send cameras to the Iraqi civilians."
Itkoff knew Daniel Pepper, a photographer who had traveled to Iraq to work on his own project. Pepper was able to help facilitate contact between the magazine and journalists working in Iraq; Sheryl Mendez, a photography editor at U.S. News & World Report, assisted with the distribution of disposable cameras to Iraqis.
Forer says to ensure that the perspective would be as fresh as possible, a majority of the people who received cameras had little to no training in documentary techniques.
After a week, the cameras were collected and mailed back to the United States. Only a handful of the images were published in Daylight, though Forer hopes to eventually compile an exhibit of the photographs.
The majority of money earned from the sale of these photographs will be funneled back into the Iraqi economy. A small portion will also be used to help sustain Daylight's documentary initiative as well as the magazine's Daylight Community Arts Foundation, a nonprofit organization associated with establishing "community-based documentary partnerships" throughout the world.
The foundation's current projects include photography workshops for Buddhist monks in Laos and Vietnam, and photography assistance to residents of the Saint Regis Mohawk Reservation in upstate New York.
The magazine also emphasizes the work of up-and-coming photographers alongside that of more established artists. Local photographers applaud Forer and Itkoff's efforts to present high-quality documentary work in an accessible venue.
"It fills a void and brings a point of view from two people who are young and have fresh ideas," says Tom Rankin, director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. "I think it's a great thing."
Rankin, whose work documenting communities along the Mississippi River Delta appeared in Daylight's premiere issue, cites the publication's high standards for photography as one of its strengths. The complexity of the images from Iraq is a perfect example because the different perspectives demonstrate a sophisticated view of photography.
The difficulties inherent in starting a magazine make Daylight's success especially impressive, Rankin says. "I think people are supportive and excited that Taj and his partner are really going at it. It's such a difficult thing to do. If they can get enough momentum, it could be a real important regular quarterly magazine."
Daylight's focus on documentary work sets it apart from other photography-based publications, says Sara Gomez, a Carrboro-based photographer whose work documenting children in India was also featured in Issue 1.
It can be especially difficult for a local artist whose primary occupation isn't photography to get noticed, says Gomez, who works as a health care assistant for Planned Parenthood. The magazine provides adequate space to present multiple photographs (many publications limit an artist to one or two) and does not overedit the images.
Daylight's Issue 3, set for release in October, will feature photographs and text addressing sustainable living, including the production and use of biodiesel fuel.
This activist approach is emphasized in the mission of both the magazine and the community arts organization, which is to bring underexposed social and political issues to the forefront, Forer says.
Daylight Magazine is available at Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill, the Regulator Bookshop in Durham and the Center for Documentary Studies, as well as at select Barnes & Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks.
Back issues and subscriptions can be purchased at www.daylightmagazine.org .
The magazine will also host a launch event for its summer issue on July 15 at Branch Gallery in Carrboro. There will be subscriptions, individual magazines and limited edition prints on sale. The original, uncut press sheets from the magazine will also be on display.