Q&A With Danie Sprague

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Picture Editor for The Sunday Age.

In brief, as Picture Editor, my role is to conceive the visuals, to work with journalists and have an understanding of their story ideas in order to develop angles & ideas for pictorial representation and in turn, hash out with editors what the photos will be and how they will compliment the copy/text and to assign the right photographer for the job and to brief them well. To visualize photographs in scale, and understand about fitting photographs, headlines, body type and captions into a page’s space.

My other office is at home where my husband Harry and I work together as publishers and producers of our own bespoke print publications, which include The Dura and Large Magazine.

What inspired you to become a professional Picture Editor?

I never set out to become a professional Picture Editor. In fact I really wanted to fly big planes when I grew up. I've been visually inspired by all kinds of images, photography and artworks for as long as I can remember. My dad says when I was about five years old he remembers me getting my grandfather's newspapers, spreading them out across the floor and copying all the day's big headlines out on paper.

I have a love and appreciation of print publishing and have been a collector of books and magazines for many years.

I feel more like my profession found me and I guess I'm lucky to be able to say that I get paid to do something I love. Being a Picture Editor inspires me every day.

How did you get your first break?

My first real break in the industry was almost 20 years ago when my partner at the time (who happens to now be my husband) introduced me to a friend of his who owned a production company based in Sydney. He was in Melbourne promoting his stable of talented photographers to the art directors and creative directors in advertising agencies.

We all had a night out on the town and upon his return to Sydney, he told my partner that he believed I'd make a great addition to his company and asked whether I'd be interested in working with him.

After being flown to Sydney and shown around his offices with a few enlightening peeks into what his company did, I felt ready to take a chance on a career move and accepted his offer as Melbourne Booking Agent for his creative & production talent (photographers, hair & makeup artists and stylists)

It wasn't long before I learned all about photographic stills production and honed my skills moving into the role of Producer for editorial and advertising stills campaigns for both local and international advertising clients and I loved every minute of it.

What paths have you taken to get to where you are today?

The paths I've chosen in my career have tended to be those I had least travelled. I love a challenge and have always loved working at bringing the right teams together to produce the best creative results.

I feel that the industry is very much about building professional relationships. Understanding photographers strengths, knowing what your clients want, putting the right teams together and delivering above and beyond client expectations. In turn comes trust, respect, reputation, referrals and job offers!

After living and working in Europe for a few years, I was offered a job at The Age upon returning to Melbourne. The newspaper publishing industry was a new and exciting area to me so I jumped at the chance and started there as a Deputy Picture Editor for The Age Features in 2005. I love my profession as a Picture Editor and am still excited to be a part of an ever changing and always challenging media landscape.

What advice about the 'do's and don'ts would you give to 
an aspiring Picture Editor?

DO be a good communicator and have a strong visual sensibility in order to tell a story with images. DO know your teams well and know their strengths and weaknesses so you in turn, can assign the right people to the right assignments and get the best results. DO be creative and a generator of fresh ideas. DO be prepared to expect the unexpected. DO have the passion and conviction and a genuine love, understanding and appreciation of photography, print and digital media. DON’T be afraid to try new things and share and collaborate ideas. DON’T underestimate the power of pictures. DON’T be afraid to give new upcoming photographers a break. DON’T expect everyone to like what you like. DON’T join other editors, with story’s text in hand, who may judge photographs by what they have read. The reader sees before he ever reads and may never read if there’s nothing interesting to see.

Tell us about the articles you're currently working on and what sets The Age/ Sunday Age apart from the rest of the magazines/papers...

Over the last 100 years, there have been more than 500 different newspapers published in Melbourne alone. Today's newsrooms have evolved and changed significantly in more recent times with Fairfax Media mastheads such as The Age being one of only a few to still stand strong in a media landscape that has moved into digital and online publishing as well as it's print media.

This is a pretty damn good survival story of the daily challenge to inspire, inform, enlighten, enrage and be relevant and reflective of a culture and larger society whilst still meeting the changing demands of its readership.

Right now I'm working with our team at launching the exciting, new look 'compact format' Sunday Age after saying farewell to our big and beautiful broadsheet formats. Articles include live, moving news stories, breaking world news, local news as well as longer form feature articles. So more exciting times ahead.

Ricky Mutsaers