on the cover

On the Cover of New York Magazine: 74 Marriages

Photographs by New York Magazine, based on photographer Ted Spagna’s “Sleep” series

For New York’s April 1-14, 2019 issue, which marks Adam Moss’s last as editor-in-chief, the magazine spoke to 74 couples (and one throuple) about what makes a marriage work. With an introductory essay by Heather Havrilesky on whether the institution itself is obsolete, the couples that New York spoke to weighed in on everything from the secrets they keep from their spouses, to infidelity, infertility, losing a child, cancer, and more.

Of the decision to make his last issue an issue about marriage, Moss says: “When somebody asked me what I was going to do for my last issue, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t think of this as my last issue,’ I just thought of it as another issue of New York Magazine, but if other people are going to look at it as my last issue, then, fine, let’s do something that feels a little out of the ordinary.” The result, Moss says, is “dark sometimes and invasive and fun. People are going to either like it or hate it. Sort of like how people think about marriage.”

The images featured on the cover were shot at New York Magazine’s offices, and were inspired by a series from the ‘70s, a photographic sleep study of couples shot on a timer throughout the night, by the late photographer Ted Spagna. This inspired New York to invite real married couples from all ages and backgrounds to spend a half hour of private time in the photo studio. “Our camera was set to a timer at one-second intervals, and each couple was left alone in the room for a half hour to do as they pleased, while loosely following a set of prompts that we laid out nearby the bed,” says photography director Jody Quon. “The goal was for this issue to feel like an invasion of privacy at every turn, but in a tasteful and elegant manner. The cover needed to evoke this intimacy, have a sense of humor, and remain tasteful.”

Elsewhere in the issue, writer-at-large Frank Rich looks at Oklahoma!, and how a new production exposes the darkness that’s always been at the heart of the musical — and the American experiment. “The experience I had with Adam on my final piece for him was uncannily reminiscent of my first experience writing for him at Esquire 32 years ago,” Rich says. “At every step, from the conception of the essay to the moments of authorial doubt and panic along the way to the fine tuning of the finished manuscript, he asks questions. Gentle questions, curious questions, wise questions, difficult questions, all with a single mission: to help you say what you intend to say as effectively as you can. But the sense of loss I felt as this final collaboration came to an end was overwhelming.”

On the Cover of New York Magazine: 74 Marriages