First, from the desk of Captain Obvious: This issue is full of pictures.

All good. Also, you may be aware that in each issue this page is typically reserved for some form of philosophical waxing about the contents, herein. And with this being a mag full of photographs—and me being a self-professed luddite, despite my holding an unofficial Millennial Generation membership card—I’m inclined to offer some kind of lamentation of the ways in which we consume imagery these days; about the mindlessness of swiping through our Instagram feeds; the passivity of pressing our thumb to a little heart-pictogram; how the sheer number of images—curated by some benevolent algorithm—might make us numb to the real, tangible beauty of the actual, physical world around us.

I’m not gonna do it, though—not going to waste my time or the hallowed space on this page. Because while conversations about our collective relationship to social media are as much a part of our modern existence as our actual use of it, what’s wrong with adding more neat pictures to our lives?

Not even a decade ago, one could only interact with the work of the best photographers on the walls of museums or in the pages of magazines. Today the same, respective crop of photographers, to the benefit of us all—in my opinion, at least—can share their work with a much, much larger audience. And for an audience made up of everyone from budding photographers to full-blown aesthetes, there’s no doubt the new immediacy and approachability of imagery amounts to a net positive.

Sure, bending your neck, burying your face in your iPhone screen, and ignoring the world around you presents a litany of problems. But, at the same time, most of us realize that visual art makes enhances our lives. It makes music sound better. Food taste more delicious.

This new paradigm also presents a contrast. Viewing things in the digital world might actually make the real world better; more stimulating. It might make the real world more real, in other words. I’m thinking back to printed photographs, curated and hung on a wall or laid out in a book or magazine.

The cover (or back, depending on which way you pick it up) of December’s Photo Annual/Holiday Gift Guide. // Surfer: Brian Fleming | Photo: Adam King

That’s the idea behind this issue you hold in your hands, anyway. We love scrolling through photos and images on social media. We find the process to be a deep well of inspiration. But, can’t we also love seeing photos in print?

Our reader seem to think so. One would imagine after four years of asking for your photos, we’d cease to be overwhelmed by the response. Not so. This year we had more than one thousand photos submitted by dozens of North Florida lenspeople. We’ve added portfolios featuring some selected works from photojournalist Walter Coker and street-style photog Toni Smailagić. It’s a stunning selection of photos that captures the beauty of our region—its people and places—printed on paper. Far from being made irrelevant, we feel projects like these are only enhanced by the daily barrage of imagery from our devices.

We hope you agree.

And, as always, we thank you for putting your eyeballs on this magazine. Be sure to flip it over and peep our annual Holiday Gift Guide, as well. Brimming with distinctive products from dozens of local retailers and upstart entrepreneurs, this year’s gift guide may have you questioning whether you’d rather receive than give the items, herein. ‘Tis the season, I suppose.