These crossover artists might make the occasional splash in a magazine, but it's the veteran editorial photographers who keep us coming back month after month. The best of them are not just consistent, they're consistently inspired. Look at Irving Penn's startling spread in the July American Vogue: An alarmingly bloodshot eye stares out from beneath two competing mascara wands like a sea creature under attack. His shot of fried eggs and exotic salts later in the same issue packs an equally visceral punch. In Details, where the photography has never been better, Bruce Weber brings his patented cool to casually heroic studies of tattooed surf legend Matt Archibald and gives us another weathered dude as Chuck Baker-esque style icon. Dana Lixenberg takes on another sort of aged beef with her knockout portraits of ultimate fighters in Flaunt, their bruised, bulky bodies a jolt of dirty realism in the land of make-believe. And Vincent Peters, who has been turning out some drop-dead fashion spreads lately, does his best to outdo Steven Klein on the volatile subject of David Beckham. For The Face, Peters shoots Beckham sweaty, bare-chested, smudged with dirt, and dripping with stage blood: the theatrical embodiment of sports agony and ecstasy, right down to the Christlike final image. But Peters has tough competition within that same issue from Miles Aldridge's Pop Art spreads of glazed, disembodied lips guzzling beer, chowing down on pasta, or meeting in a full-tongued kiss, each with a careful makeup credit and an implicit nod to Tom Wesselman.
Magazines offer up these passing pleasures as a matter of course, so it's easy to take them for granted. But there's no legal substitute for the regular fix of great photography they provide. Don't take my word for it; I'm obviously besotted beyond all reason. Just pick up an issue and look. And keep looking.