In the second of our series on young photographers we feature photographer, artist and Zine creator Holly Houlton who writes about Zines in this first blog post.
What exactly are Zines?
Zines are typically identified as self-published, cheaply produced, free publications and are created as mass production. Another contributor to being able to make these at a low cost is due to the typical sizing used of the publication – usually around A5. This also allows them to be easy to pick up, handle and read.
Zine culture was arguably populated and realised significantly from the rise of the punk scene in the 70s and 80s. Music bands within this genre would fit the DIY, grunge aesthetic – allowing artists to get the exposure they needed in a low-cost effect.
Nowadays, many upcoming artists in all different areas of the arts, including photography, use zines to collaborate, promote and expose their work. It’s a really cheap and effective way to get your work published and seen by many.
I’m a soon-to-be graduate, having studied a BA (Hons) Photography degree at Coventry University. It’s been a challenging and intellectually stimulating four years, including one year spent studying a Communications course in Madrid, Spain.
Within my photographic practice, I explore people and place and the effects they have on one another; with a specific attention to detail and light, attempting to draw out the intimate and beauty of the everyday in what I capture. Alongside interpreting the world around me through a lens, I’m also a keen and experienced writer of photography in both the journalistic and academic form.
It was during the second year of my studies that I really came into my first experiences and understanding about how the medium of zines can be used within photography and began experimenting with this myself.
My experience with zines…
My first feature in a zine-type publication was after I had put on my first solo exhibition in December 2017. Native Magazine, an art-promoting independent organisation, contacted me via Instagram to feature in their first Creative Guide after having seen my work. This zine showcased a variety of artists’ works and upcoming events in the Coventry area – a simple and easy way to be informed about the creative happenings in the local region. Check out Native’s work on their Instagram: @wearenativemedia
The first experience I had with creating my own zine, was during my second year at university. We’ve been educated on how this kind of format can be a very useful and successful presentation strategy. For my second solo exhibition: ‘The Past, We Miss’ which explored myself and cousin’s relationship to my grandmother’s old house, part of the chosen presentation strategy was creating zines. I was able to produce an abundance on a cheap budget and be able to distribute them to family members and residences at the home where the work was shown, due to my grandmother also living here – it proved very effective!
Another scenario where I’ve created zines, fitting for a project, was in the following year of study from the previously mentioned; when I studied a Communications course in Madrid during my International Enhancement (Erasmus) year. This body of work involved documenting and capturing the talented street artists’ illustrations within a variety of the capital city’s streets, giving them a more permanent platform in comparison to their semi-permanent one – before getting painted over or washed away. I produced multiple zines on a very low-budget, using a simple staple bind to keep the cost even lower – a method often used with this kind of publication.
I then had the more difficult task of approaching strangers in the streets where I originally took these photos, asking if they would like a copy and telling them a bit about my project. This self-starter methodology definitely challenged my confidence and I often experienced rejection; although, I did manage to distribute them all out within a day. The process allowed me to better understand how difficult it can be to promote your own work, but that the best way is to simply put yourself out there!
My future with zines…
I am in the midst of working with Secret Knock Zine, another Coventry-based organisation producing small-scale, cheaply produced zines with the purpose of promoting and informing the general public about different artists and creative happenings in the area. The current plan is for me to interview some creatives in the local region who run their own creative company and write a feature piece for their next zine. The one they produce is very readable, easy to navigate and has an innovative visual aesthetic to grab readers’ attention. You can check them out on their Instagram: @secretknockzine
As I am currently in the process of completing my final year at university, part of the criteria is to put on a degree show exhibition. I decided to be involved in the ‘Catalogue’ team, due to my strong interests in writing, editing and publishing. Myself and fellow colleagues are in the processes of creating both a zine which will be distributed at the degree show itself; informing people about each body of work and the layout of the exhibition. Alongside this, we are also creating a saleable publication to demonstrate more about ourselves as creative practitioners.
The benefit of making a zine for us is that such a publication can be produced cheaply and, in the masses, meaning we will be able to create an abundance of these without worrying overly
much about cost. In order to keep this cost down, we are carefully considering aspects which can increase a quote or price such as the binding used and how much colour is utilised throughout the layout design.
We are currently looking at the possibility of having the images black and white with only minimal colouring in the text/logo and considering binding options such as an elastic band. These features are all things to consider when thinking of creating a zine to be able to produce as many as needed (hundreds or thousands), however, it is definitely worth doing and worth doing well in order to promote your work and expose yourself as an artist – to the many, far and wide.
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