TIME Picks the Top Photographic Magazine Covers of 2012

M Le magazine du Monde
M Le magazine du Monde, April 28, 2012. Photograph by Toby Melville—Reuters.

As the French election season was in full bloom, our paper decided to write a story revisiting the meetings Elizabeth II, the Queen of England, held with our French presidents in the course of her rein. She is such a highly recognizable iconoclast figure that I knew I could ‘play around’ with her silhouette and try different things. We sadly did not have the possibility of assigning our own photographer so we looked at a number of pictures by wire agencies and freelance photographers.The choice fell on this particular picture of the Queen seen from behind, less classic, and certainly more surprising to our readers then seeing her face.
The crown and royal attributes helped evoke the fact that all our French presidents come and go, yet she lives on, firmly seated on her throne. The blue and red background, along with the queen's white ermine coat and white hair, seemed to reinforce the visual impact of a cover that to some degree needed to include a hint to our French presidential elections since that was the angle of the story. In order to reinforce the French angle and suggest the French flag I also decided to flip, with the agency's consent, Toby Melville’s picture.
-Eric Pillault, Creative Director, M Le magazine du Monde

The best photographs don’t always make the best covers. It takes a smart concept, a meticulously executed image, smoothly integrated typography and the combination of all those factors to create an immediate and lasting impact. Our top ten photographic covers of 2012 show exquisite use of photography.

The most notable is New York Magazine’s magnificent cover by photographer Iwan Baan of a half blacked-out Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. It’s instantly iconic and will become one of the greatest covers of all time. In the mix is also W‘s stunning fashion cover image of Marion Cotillard, ESPN‘s high-concept “Fantasy Football” cover, depicting an NFL player in a magical forest with a unicorn, and a photojournalistic cover, the Economist’s powerful image documenting the personal toll of the conflict in Gaza.

We also decided to include two covers in the mix that were striking photo-based illustrations. An aged Obama on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek as well as a thoughtful commission by the New York Times Magazine for the visual artist Idris Kahn to reinterpret an iconic landmark on their London-themed cover.

A great cover is always a collaborative effort. To caption each of our selected covers, we spoke to a mix of editors, photo directors, art directors and photographers who took part during different stages of the creative process. In our selection, we refrained from choosing any TIME covers, though if we were to choose one, it would be Martin Schoeller’s arresting image of a mother breast-feeding her 4-year-old son, “Are You Mom Enough?”

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

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