Interview with Alan Taylor, Creator of Boston Globe's The Big Picture

Alan Taylor, The Big Picture
Photo by Buster McLeod

With its vibrant oversized photographs and minimalist design, the Boston Globe’s The Big Picture weblog launched on June 1 to instant global acclaim. It’s designed, programmed, and written by Alan Taylor, an old-school web programmer and blogger, in his spare time while working on community features at (You might know Alan from his popular MegaPenny Project, Amazon Light, or his other projects.)

The idea’s simple, but extremely effective. Spend a few minutes with the Iowa floods, the faces of Sudan, or the daily life in Sadr City, and you feel like you’ve opened a window to another world.

I interviewed Alan about the inspiration for the site, his methodology, and what it’s like being a programmer in a journalist’s world.

The Big Picture’s become an essential read for me, and I totally agree with Jason Kottke when he called it “the best new blog of the year.” What inspired it?

Alan Taylor: Lots of things — my parents used to always have Life and National Geographic magazines around the house, I fell in love with the visual storytelling way back then. When I was getting my feet wet in the online journalism world as a developer at, I had the good fortune of working alongside Brian Storm and a few others in MSNBC’s photo department, who were just phenomenal as far as selection, editing and presentation.

I wondered why other sites didn’t reach that level. Many have by now, but I was still frustrated by the presentation — either far too small, or trapped in click-after-click interfaces that were in Flash or just acted as ad farms.

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