Remembering Ag / by Graham Dew

A couple of nights ago, after more than an hour of churning guts and thumping heart, I gave up trying to get to sleep and wandered downstairs to find something to read. On seeing my collection of Ag journals on one shelf I took a couple down and read a few articles. It made me remember how wonderful this small quarterly journal was, and how no other magazine quite ‘hit the right buttons’ as this did.

Ag was a beautifully produced, 100 page 8 inch square magazine, advert free, and apart from some outlets in the London galleries, only available by subscription. Its focus was squarely on the art and craft of photography. Born as an off-shoot of the BJP, it really found its voice when it became the early retirement project of former BJP editor Chris Dickie. As is often the case with niche photography magazine, Ag was a one-man-band production, with Dickie writing editorial, design and general management of the journal.

Photo by Robert and Shana ParkHarrison
Over the years I’ve seen several fine-art photography magazines come and go, and they have usually failed because they too closely matched the opinion and interests of their owner/authors, and as a consequence became stale and dull. Not so with Ag; Dickie regularly invited great writers including AD Coleman, Bill Jay and David Lee whose scripts kept Ag vital, entertaining and challenging. If there was one common theme linking all the writing in Ag it was the complete absence of pretentious arty clap trap talk. It was a journal that you could actually read.

Ag was a show case of excellent photography, and would feature short portfolios of work from many well-known and up and coming photographers: Michael Kenna, Mark Power, Branka Djukic, Noel Myles, John Claridge, Keith Carter, Beth Dow, Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison, John Davies; I could go on many times over. My little little library has many books that were purchased after seeing the artist’s work in Ag.  It was the springboard for many photographers’ careers, including Arena’s Colin Summers. Chris Dickie clearly was a man with a wide appreciation of photography, and the work presented ranged from the traditional to the very modern, but was always of a very high standard. Maybe I’m getting old, but there does seem to be a lot of photography these days, especially on the webzines and in the art house photography magazines that make me wince at its craft-less and point-less uselessness.

Photo by John Stezaker

Chris Dickie died early and unexpectedly in July 2011 from cancer, and Ag along with him. I never met the man other than brief telephone conversations when ordering back numbers, but I certainly miss my quarterly copy of Ag. There is nothing available today that matches it for quality, interest and plain good taste.