Support the printed medium – oh yes another article about printing and why you should buy a zine! Well, it’s more about the need to buy a zine than anything else. As we are going to delve into this unique area of printed publications that is perfect for the amateur and professional photographer. We are going to discuss the mechanics of what a zine is, what’s changed and provide some example publishers too. A couple of these are based in the UK and provide a service to photographers in essence, so worth checking out, though we also consider the possibility of doing it yourself.
What is a zine
My only memory of zines was from the 1980s and as it was a cheap way to print a small newspaper type of thing. But these were mainly text-based and the odd poor photo (as they were dot matrix impact printers back then). Unfortunately, I was not a creative person at this point in life but still enjoyed looking at this type of work.
We tend to think a zine is a smaller version of a book, so it’s designed to have fewer pages (you don’t see many with more than 20) and will be inferior quality to a book. A zine is often produced in small numbers and has a more personal/home feel to it as there may be no editors or anyone involved. A zine is either self-published or printed by a publisher who might assist with the layout and even choose what photos to use
To keep it simple, it’s a low cost printed booklet, quite often centred around a certain project or theme. Another point is that zines are normally printed in limited numbers. However, do not lose focus on arguments about defining what it is, some people call them a book, booklets or zines. That bit is not important, it’s more about the author, the product and the way its put together.
Why are zines are important?
Although I’ve not been in photography decades like some I really appreciate the importance of showcasing your work. We’ve become this society of drones and addicted to pixels rather than print. Photography used to be about the printed reward, a physical piece of paper (or tin/metal/wood etc) that you could touch.
Because of the change in the temperant of society, the end product of photography had to change. It’s part of the paradox of evolution and we’ve moved along with it at such force its been incredible. Just think photography has been around since the 1800s but digital is 3 decades, maybe 4 at the most. This effect on the community has moved people away from the analogue darkroom to the digital darkroom environment. When you join this world of digital photography it’s normal to share with social media and send files to people you worked with.
Now it feels like the element of printing is reduced to weddings, a tabletop book or the commercial worlds like banners and declining magazine industry. But what happened to the physical touch of your work, looking back at it and holding that pulp in your hands? Can you remember when you last looked at a printed image by yourself or a friend?
By buying a zine, you are helping a fellow creative, recognising their skill and their future. Maybe you want to do this to support someone but either way it’s a lovely humane thing to do. This may have a bonus effect of supporting their confidence and raising their profile.
If you are the sort of person stuck on low budgets then zines are perfect for you anyway, due to their low cost, just be careful as you may get hooked. Realistically they range from free to £10, yes some people give away their work! I tend to purchase anything under £10 delivered if possible otherwise you are moving into the price of a book (Hoxton Mini Press sell beautiful examples from £10 delivered).
They are normally printed in low numbers though, so you often have to be quick not to miss out. My advice is to sign up to people’s newsletters so hopefully, you get a warning when they are being released. I have to say I’ve been incredibly lucky and had a few people forward me their work, which I’m ever so grateful for. However, I’m a big believer in acts of random kindness where possible, so I purposely purchase something new each month (funds permitting).
You may find some clarity and inspiration to print your own work after looking at other people’s. It’s been one of the approaches I’ve had in my life, due to the limited creativity locked away in my subconscious. Once you have an idea, theme or collection of images you might try reaching out to a publisher.
Run by Pete Falkous is one such publisher I came across late last year. Pete proudly finds the photographer’s himself and works with people he likes, which is a really good idea. He is careful with his selection and prints in small numbers to work around his day job. There is a variety of work on show from Michael Behlen aka Analog Forever and has exciting people coming this year like Jason Connelly and Dan Caroll.
My first purchase from Static was a zine about the Atacama Desert in Chile by Francesca DeLuca and I adored it. One point that resonates is that the photographers’ world and experience is so far removed from my own. It can open your eyes to new countries, culture and society you were not aware of.
Each piece of work by Static age has something unique about it (including the size too) and Pete often puts in stickers or badges too – which is really kind.
Being a generous person he’s also offering a free zine from the wonderful Nils Karlson (podcasting in the near future) with any purchase too. Nils is another great artist who presents his vision in the form of photography.
If you want to learn more about Pete then check out his interview that appeared in Analog forever. Peter also appeared on episode 79 of my podcast.
Fistful of books – a label I came across during a photography event in the city of Hull during 2019. He had a wide variety of products with him on his stall, that included small a6 size up to a4 too, some were colour and colours in mono. Again in the same vein as Pete at Static Age, he provides a service where you can go to him just for printing or he can help you through the full process.
I was like a child in a sweet shop and naturally wanted to buy them all, but tried to focus my attention on documentary-style work. I purchased a zine called “all in a day’s work” by S A Robinson. A mono piece looking at the veterinary world of helping animals in rural Scotland. Please check out his full range on his website (see links section for further info).
One of my favourite photographers from the 35mm film photography group on Facebook is Valentin Rizan. He’s a great talent and always posting beautiful architecture shots using Fuji c200 film. Valentin is very active in the group and very willing to share information on his workflow and equipment. When Valentin decided to print a zine, naturally I was really excited so ordered as soon as I could. It’s always interesting to see what people produce in terms of book/paper quality too and this was full colour.
Valentin’s was a lovely book style affair called clean and limited to 100 copies. The book shows the clean lines he has photographed in urban settings. This includes some beautiful architecture but the mundane settings of everyday life too. He has a natural eye for what works and you really should check out his work. This book/zine sold out so you will have to wait for his next foray into print, in the meantime check out my interview with Valentin and start following his amazing work.
Fraser Yule was a person I’ve recently started to get to know through my podcast friends and he offered to send his final copy to me. As he says its more a book than a zine, since its thick bound affair with quality paper. His work showcases his interest in urban, abstract, portraiture and landscape. So there is something there for everyone and he includes details of what cameras he used. Again it’s worth checking out his website for future projects.
Do it yourself
For those of you wanting to create your own zine, don’t ever be afraid to email. Valentin and Fraser featured are both great people and will share details and advice on how to do it.
Recently Adam Smith wrote a great piece of advice over on Emulsive’s site (link here) so please check that out. But basically lots of people are using the company/website known as “Mixam” to organise their printing for them. They have a great reputation and maybe another one for me to interview for the podcast?
John Hughes produces amazing street photography (one of the best) has even printed his zine himself, so there are many options open to you. Whilst you won’t get the quality of a printed product from the likes of Mixam you have full control yourself.
What is important to remember is that you are looking at the images of someone you usually like. Because John’s work is so good I made sure I purchased this zine, and after meeting John you really appreciate his ability. I’ve written an article about my meet up because John is one of those rare talents that sees light and uses it for his street work. He doesn’t aimlessly wander the streets waiting, he finds spots and waits. During 2019 I was also lucky enough to have him on my podcast, so definitely worth a listen.
Hopefully, this article will entice you to take the plunge and actually buy a zine from a new artist. I posted a message on social media asking for recommendations and left it to the world to answer. Maybe you should try this too, it’s just nice to do this act of kindness to a random person and discover someone new.
In summary, my main points about why you should start buying zines are:
- Discover new artists
- Low cost
- Support the industry
We have talked about the low cost of these so available for many budgets. Remember your photography was meant to print, so let’s get supporting the industry and help each other. My turn will come soon hopefully, I’m just useless at design so let’s see what happens.
Please do check out the artists’ work featured here. Why not message them and tell them to produce more?
Just a quick reminder of the people mentioned above and where to find them:
Fistful of Books – https://fistfulofbooks.com/
John Hughes – https://www.johnhughesphotography.uk/
Mixam printing – https://mixam.co.uk/
Valentin Rizvan – https://www.instagram.com/black_and_bright/
Static Age – https://www.staticage.co.uk/
Fraser Yule – https://www.fraseryulephotography.com/
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