Maggie Huber is a mix between the determined Elle Woods character of Legally Blonde and the bohemian spirit of Kate Hudson. She is a local photojournalist that works for the Courier-Journal for a paycheck, but has found that her passion is capturing real peoples’ lives through pictures. A few months ago with the aid of the funding platform for creatives, Kickstarter, she turned her passion into an actual magazine and titled it THIS…is Louisville. I met with Maggie and one of her fellow photographers, Aaron Borton, for lunch at the Main Eatery to talk about this new endeavor. We chatted over vegan vegetable soup and side salads.
Julie Gross: Where did the idea for THIS...is Louisville magazine come from?
Maggie Huber: I have a friend that’s an artist and he was always asking why I wasn’t working on my own personal projects. He was always pushing me and I was always making excuses then one day he just asked me to come up with just one idea for a project. The lay offs were happening at the Courier-Journal and the Neighborhood section began dwindling off and I thought this would pick up where that stopped.
I started thinking about the idea in July and I bought the LLC at the end of September and sent out emails to everybody saying, “Hey guys, I’ve got this idea you want to help me?”
J.G.: Who are the guys you emailed?
M.H.: My friends who went to Western (WKU). We all went to school together and this work is a lot like what we did back in school.
J.G.: What are your goals with this publication?
M.H.: The three goals of the magazine are to help people if we can, to showcase Louisville’s hidden gems and we believe everyone has a story to tell. I told the photographers what the goals were and then told them you can shoot whatever you want to. Everyone comes up with their own ideas. We meet once a week and if someone doesn’t have an idea we may share ideas but I never give assignments. Giving out assignments will make it feel like a job and I don’t want it be something where I’m asking them to do it for free and it’s something they don’t want to do. I feel like the more that they want to do a project the more passionate they will be about it and it will show in their photos. The second you take that away from them, that sincerity disappears.
J.G.: Why is it free?
M.H.: A friend of mine who publishes a free magazine told me “If you start charging for the magazine you’ll loose about 80% of your viewers.” I didn’t want to risk losing potential viewers because what we’re doing is important and the stories that we’re telling are important and I want to reach as many people as possible, even if we’re not making any money off of it.
J.G.: You offer paid subscriptions. Why, if I can get it for free?
M.H.: It’s been really hard to keep it stocked. There’s been such a buzz about it that copies disappear very quickly. The subscription will guarantee that you get it and some people are paying for a subscription to support us.
J.G.: How important is social media to you?
M.H.: Social media is super important. Kickstarter is how it all began and before the first issue even came out we had 300 Facebook followers. Now we have over 600. It’s crazy to me. We also have 400 Twitter followers. The buzz created from this is incredibly helpful. Because we’re sincere about what we’re doing people respect it and they want to tell people about it. I hope this is something that people like and support.
J.G.: Are you the one in charge or is this a collaborative effort?
M.H.: I may be the head organizer but everyone plays a lead role. Everyone has input but I have the final say. There are story ideas that I’ve said “no” to because it doesn’t really fit our goals.
J.G.: Can other photographers apply?
M.H.: We accept outside photographers. There is an application process of looking at their portfolios and an ethical questionnaire to answer. We already have a trust amongst us now because we’re friends so it is a different process when it’s someone we don’t know.
J.G.: Who does the editing?
M.H.: The photographers edit the shots down and then I take a look and see if the shots are the best for the story. I ask the photographers, “Why is this photo so important to the story?” At the same time, we don’t want to misrepresent the story. We’ll look at the shots next to each other and think will the reader misunderstand the story? What if the reader never reads the text, what kind of assumptions will they come up with?
J.G.: Will it always be in black and white?
M.H.: Yes, more than likely.
J.G.: How do you choose the cover photo?
M.H.: We go through all the photos and pick which is the most visually appealing.
J.G.: How has your photojournalism experience helped?
M.H.: Almost all of us work for the Courier-Journal so we’re used to having the paper's name behind us. The contacts are set up, the story is set up and the people know we’re coming, but with this publication we have to step back to our college days of making cold calls. The Courier has given us the confidence to be able to do that. When you tell people that you’re doing this for a photo story you try to explain what a photo story is to them, but it’s when they see it (the publication) that they finally understand what you’re trying to do. I always say, “The pictures are going to do the talking.”
J.G.: What kind of camera do you use?
M.H.: I use a Nikon D200.
A.B.: I use a Canon 5D Mark II. A lot of people look at the camera I use and say, “I bet that takes great photos,” but it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you use, it’s about the composition. One story was shot completely on a point and shoot.
J.G.: What’s your favorite picture story in the second issue?
M.H.: My favorite story in the February issue is by Dana Rieber. Her story is about the Raptor Rehab. I like that it’s different. We normally shoot people and this is about birds. People didn’t even know we had owls in Louisville.
J.G.: How would you describe Louisville?
M.H.: It’s a little big city. We have major events and at the same time lots of hidden gems. The best way to learn about Louisville is to talk to the people and as photographers we’re not really talkers, so we're still learning how to do this.
Maggie Huber will be a presenter at the next Louisville Pecha Kucha Night, Metro Hall, 7 pm doors, 8 pm presentations. The second issue of THIS will be released the first weekend of February. Find THIS  on Facebook.
THIS (Feb. issue)
photo: photographers Aaron Borton and Maggie Huber