Harper’s Bazaar September 2009: Bigger. Better?

The September issue of Harper's Bazaar dwarfs a regular issue (in front)
The September issue of Harper's Bazaar dwarfs a regular issue (in front)
The Fashion Issue, Harper's Bazaar supersize edition, September 2009
The Fashion Issue, Harper's Bazaar supersize edition, September 2009

I’ve somehow found myself in the position of a Harper’s Bazaar subscriber. My powers to resist an offer to subscribe for £12 a year about 2 years ago were virtually non-existent, so here we are.

I have to admit though, that £12 was probably not money well spent, as most months I either ignore it, recycle it straight away or idly flick through it as a very last resort once everything has been read. And that’s very unlikely given the amount of other mags that I buy.

So it was with some surprise that I found myself actually looking forward to receiving my copy this month, after it was announced that a supersized edition would be hitting the shelves, and would feature a whopping 330 pages. As you can see from the pictures above, when that landed on the doormat (well actually I don’t have one, I have a post-box that’s way too small for that) it was actually quite impressive.

So impressive in fact that I actually took the time to have a flick through for the first time in a while. My feelings towards the bigger sized issue are mixed however. Yes, it was unusual to have a magazine so large that I really needed a table to use it with. Yes, it had novelty value. Yes, it made reading the text ridiculously easy.

And to give them their dues, they’d pulled out the stops somewhat in terms of editorial content. There was a great feature on Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish film-director, a reasonable feature on Stella McCartney (although I will admit it seemed to be mostly saying, she’s great, she’s great, she’s great! and not much else) and some stuff about women which also made for reasonable reading.

That said, given that it was meant to be the “female empowerment” issue, they really could have spoken to someone a bit more revolutionary than a fashion designer and a (male) film director. Where were the politicians, activists, extraordinary artists etc. Perhaps I’m being picky here, but if you’re going to sell the issue on this basis, the features it has just aren’t enough.

But the thing that really let down this supersize issue for me was the photography. The huge pages had some great opportunities for fantastic images, but for me this was a let down. Aside from some (Way too small) pictures by Don McCullin, and a mediocre Stella portrait by Mary McCartney the extra space on the pages is just not used effectively. They could have done so much more.

I cancelled my subscription some time ago, but I still have a few more issues left to go. Although I might attempt not to ignore the next issue, I don’t think I’ll be renewing my subscription. This issue was much better than many of the previous issues, but even then it hasn’t blown me away – and really it feels like too little, too late.

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