Newsweek's 'Picture Dept.' Tumblr: a second stage for photography

Photo editors will curate the best photography from around the Web and point out worthwhile photo exhibits and books.

Newsweek has added another Tumblr to its collection with Picture Dept., a photo blog that provides a second stage for work published in Newsweek and on The Daily Beast and showcases worthwhile photography around the Web.

Images are of course a big part of Picture Dept., but so are posts about photo exhibits and photo books. "We created this Tumblr to participate in the photo community," said Cara Phillips, a photo editor for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. It's meant to be a single destination "where we can share what we think is great out there and what people should be looking at."

Newsweek has a long history with Tumblr (well, old if you consider that the latter's only five years old). Picture Dept. joins a few siblings in the Newsweek/Daily Beast family of Tumblrs:

It follows The New York Times' innovative "Lively Morgue" Tumblr, which features old Times photos -- the fronts and the backs, which often have interesting notations.

Picture Dept. strikes me as a bit of a hybrid between a typical Tumblr and a destination site. Editors will take part in the sharing and reblogging that is core to the Tumblr experience, and of course its posts appear on its followers' dashboards.

But it also has a basic, tag-based navigation that encourages browsing, even by people who still don't quite understand what Tumblr is for: "Found" (posts that point to content found elsewhere on the Web), "Features" (collections of images, presented in slide shows) and "Recommended."

That's more extensive than the tagging used on the Archivist, which lets users browse covers and content by decade, and the Cheat Sheet, which has a tag for all its "Front Page" posts. And it's not strictly topic-oriented like the original Newsweek Tumblr, which has topics like "News," "Internet" and "Media Musings."

The slide show is unusual, too. Phillips said editors will use the "Features" slide shows for in-depth looks at photographers' work, as a way to publish photos that didn't make the magazine or the main site, and to call attention to images from other sources.

For instance, Newsweek published a selection of photographs discovered by two photographers as they documented Detroit's deteriorating buildings. Another set of photos were published on Picture Dept.

I've spoken with a few professional photographers over the last several months who are wary of how Tumblr's reblogging affects their copyright. (Pinterest, which focuses on collections of images) has dealt with copyright concerns, too.) Phillips said editors would respect the wishes of photographers about whether their work will get posted on Picture Dept. "Anyone whose content would be on this, it would be a situation where they'd be happy to be on there," she said.

Related: Time’s must-see Tumblrs: ProPublica, ShortFormBlog, Newspaper BlackoutJournalists learn what works (& doesn’t work) on TumblrMark Coatney on how Tumblr can help journalists advance their careers

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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