Between the years of 2006 – 2013, I was buying every single skate magazine I could get my hands on. Be it from skateshops, online, any newsagents I passed, even searching every corner of the towns I was holidaying in for skateshops or anywhere that I thought could stock skate mags! Living local to a couple of Borders stores (remember them? Went into administration in 2010) I also had easy access to every major U.K. and U.S. magazine.
The demise began in 2008, with the print arm of Slap Magazine folding due to dwindling ad sales (although the website, though never updated, is still live today, and the infamous Slap forum is still as lively as ever), with the second U.K. magazine, Document, ceasing print shortly afterwards. Skateboarder, my personal favourite U.S. magazine folded a while later in October 2013. The next mags to lose their print editions were Sidewalk and Kingpin, in March and April ’15 respectively.
Alongside these, a number of free publications began to be published, including North, Grey and Free. Relying heavily on ad sales, these magazine have circumvented the problems of relying on print sales and being stocked in non-core stockists, but are of course filled with adverts!
With the collapse of many of these magazines and the ever-increasing proliferance of social media, there has been a rise in the number of self-published / DIY media initiatives. We spoke to a couple of guys who are consciously making the effort to continue to create print media. Be sure to have a click through the guys' websites / Insta profiles to see if you can get a copy of these publications!
Hey Josh, could you give us a little background on yourself and your photography? You have a very unique style, shooting more incidentals than most, and only in black and white if I've got that right? Which is definitely good to see!
I grew up in Essex and have lived here for the majority of my life and teenage years. Skateboarding definitely exposed me to photography; if I didn't skate I doubt I'd have any interest in taking photos. I got into skating when I was about 12 or 13 and then I just got into photography because I wanted to document me and my friends skating. Studying art in school definitely made an impact too, I was always into painting and drawing from a young age. I started to take photography seriously after I was done with secondary school, I started to travel more and meet new people and see new things. I'm not quite sure how I can describe my style of shooting, I guess a lot of the time people describe my work as 'candid' which is how I like it to be, It just feels natural to me. I usually shoot photos of my friends and random people in the street and whatever catches my eye really. I like being able to 'freeze' a moment in time that you'll probably never be able to recreate again or get the same shot - it feels pure. I do tend to shoot black and white most of the time, I do shoot colour too but again black and white just feels natural to me. I love the way it looks and whenever I setup for a shot or I'm out shooting or I see something that catches my eye I always think how it'll look in black and white. Colour is just too distracting; black and white is the og. Everything I know about photography and everything I do to date is all self-taught too.
You've got a bit of background in self-publishing already, could you go into this a little? What made you want to start your own publications?
Yeah! Pretty much all of my zines and books are self-published. I think it’s because I'm so used to doing everything on my own and teaching myself everything I currently know. I think self-publishing is so sick! But people who self-publish don't get enough recognition or coverage, It's really difficult, frustrating and takes a lot of time. The main reason I started to make publications and zines is because I would build up bodies of work and I hate sitting on a big body of work, I always want to make something of it whether that’s a zine, book or exhibition. I love tangible things, being able to hold your own work in your hand your own creation. That’s why I hate mainstream photography too, it's all shot on a digital camera in the studio straight onto a computer and that’s it, there’s no physical aspect about it, it’s all fake. Having your work in a tangible form is a great way to share it with others too, make a zine or a print, trade them with other people, it’s sick.
You've just finished your latest publication, am I right in thinking it's more of a book than a zine this time? What prompted this change, and do you intend to experiment with what forms your publications take?
Yeah I've just finished my latest publication! Although I think I've finished it. I'm really not sure yet, it’s currently 4 months in the making and I've already made 3 test prints and still gone back and made changes. It’s 90 pages in total so it’s pretty big and a nice size too! Slightly smaller than A4 so it definitely feels like a book in your hands. Originally I wanted it to be a hardback book with a few more pages but I wasn't able to do this because of the main problem which I'm sure every self-publishing individual can relate to, and that is cost. I decided to make this one into a book purely because of the amount of photos I shot, I wanted to make it into a large zine/book anyway but I shot a lot photos and built up a nice body of work. My last publication was only 40 pages and was small in size, A5 to be exact. I love to experiment with publication ideas, I always have new ideas in my head and I love to try out new sizes and formats, I already have a new publication planned before I've even finished my most recent one. I also really like the idea of making collab publications and working with other artists and photographers to make physical creations. My latest publication will be finished and ready in under a month hopefully, I'm planning to do an exhibition featuring photos in the book and throw a book launch on the same night, If all goes to plan it should be sometime in July!
What role do you see print having in the future of UK skateboard media?
Print in skateboard media is so so so important, not only today but in the future too. It’s so sad to see magazines like Sidewalk and Kingpin no longer making printed issues. I remember having a year subscription to Sidewalk mag and I was so stoked every time I got an issue at my door. I'm scared that print will slowly die out and everything will exist online, on the internet. I really hope that doesn't happen but then again I don't think it will. All of these new independent magazines like North magazine for example are being created every day and a lot of people would rather have their image in print than online - I know I would. Same with what you are doing! With Hangup, it’s so so rad to make something and sell it and have people read your work it’s the ultimate stoke. I think that print will always have a role in skateboarding media, not just in skating too but photography, art, graphics whatever. Everything is becoming affiliated with the internet at a really rapid pace but there will always be people who want to break out of that advance and make printed matter.
Hi Danny, could you give us a little background on Fraction?
It began life as a uni project. It was something that I’d wanted to do for quite a while so I figured that doing it for my final major project would give me the kick I needed to get on with it. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have done it anyway but having that deadline as well as knowing that it was the culmination of three years of studying definitely helped me focus.
Reasoning behind the name?
It might sound obvious, but I always think of skate photography as a collaboration between a skater and a photographer. There’s all of this work that goes into it from both sides, all these years of building up knowledge and experience in order to capture this tiny fraction of a second in a photo. I wanted the mag to be very visual, there’s lots of full page shots that let the reader slow down and really just focus on this one moment when this trick was done so I wanted a name that sort of reflects that.
What made you want to start your own publication?
I think it’s been in the back of my mind for almost as long as I’ve been shooting photos, it just seems like a logical thing to want to do. It’s an outlet for my own photography but it also puts me in a position to serve as an outlet for others. I’d love to set up a small publishing house at some point for people wanting to put out zines.
You intend it to be a print publication right? Why is print important to you?
Definitely. I guess that having grown up in a time when magazines and full-length videos were so dominant, there’s probably a nostalgic aspect to it but I genuinely think that it’s the best way to display photographs. Don’t get me wrong, online platforms are great and have only done wonders for the ability to reach an audience but there’s something special about print that gets a bit lost as far as I’m concerned. With so much media being consumed on small smartphone screens it’s nice to have an actual object in your hands that you can take in without distraction. When I was a kid, my walls were covered in pages ripped out of skate mags and it seems a little sad to me that some of that is getting lost. You can’t stick an Instagram post on a wall.
I know you had a prototype printed, were you happy with how it was printed? And will it be printed in the same way as the prototype when it comes to publishing it?
What with it being a uni project, I’d erred on the side of producing something that would (hopefully) get a decent grade. It’s going to be about 90% the same when I come to publish properly but I always knew I would want to tweak it slightly after. It did give me an opportunity to see a real version of it though which makes it a lot easier to see what works and what doesn’t. I was stoked with how it came out though. One major difference is going to be the size. I printed this version at A4 but with it being a small scale, self-funded project I have to take it down to A5. I’d love to print it large but it’s just not feasible at the moment. Hopefully in the future though.
Are you going to be keeping it Cornwall based?
Not necessarily. The first issue has ended up with a bit of a Cornish theme as far as featured skaters but that’s just because I shot so much of it myself. Cornwall is a rad place to skate with loads of really unique spots and plenty of skaters that absolutely kill it but I think a strictly Cornish mag would end up repeating itself quite quickly.
Will you be focusing on street skateboarding in the mag?
The first issue is pretty street heavy but it depends on who’s being featured. I really enjoy shooting transition and it’s a huge part of skateboarding so I think it’s important to include it.
Will it be solely skateboarding in there or will you mix it up with art, music etc?
At the moment, I’m concentrating on skateboarding. That being said, there’s a huge amount of skaters who are really talented artists, photographers, sculptors, musicians etc. so I’m not ruling it out by any means.
There seems to be a really healthy Self-Publishing scene within the UK at the moment, with loads of very different independent efforts popping up, do you have any thoughts on why this is?
There definitely is and it’s really exciting, I get stoked on people making stuff! I think that there’s still a demand for print but it’s just been diluted by digital content. It’s like the whole skate media model has shifted and where large traditional magazines seem to be struggling, the smaller indy publications are filling the void. I suppose it’s only natural that smaller scale, niche publications would thrive in a reduced market. There are fewer people seeking out print than in the past but those that do are passionate about it. That’s just my take on it though.
Hey man, could you take us through why you started Stale Zine?
I started it just for fun to be honest. My dad or brother brought me home a zine from a zine fair and from then I just started buying and reading more. Then with reading them I thought it'd be cool to do something of my own. I enjoy writing, skateboarding and music so thought I'd combine them all into a little zine. I got a few people to send me stuff and did a couple of bits of my own and the first issue was put together.
It’s a pretty traditional zine, covering skateboarding, but also music and politics. What place do you think this type of zine has in today's climate?
That's a tricky one! I guess there are loads of people that skate and I wanted to show our little part of that in a zine. With music, there's a good number of UK punk bands coming up today and it's cool to have some interviews with them and contribute to the scene. Hopefully I can do more of this in future issues. There'll always be political issues to discuss and share our views on so I hope with the zine I can spread a message to even just a few people. At my age, there's still 2 years until I can vote so this is a way of having a small say. Regardless of where they fit in with today's climate, I'll always have an interest in these things so will continue to write about them.
Why is print important to you?
It's pretty cliche but I prefer having a physical copy of things that you can hold on to and flick through. Having a box of zines is always cooler than some files on a computer. I feel if you've read something in print, you kind of remember it more and are more likely to go back to it than if you'd seen it online. I got a kindle once and could never finish a book on it! Online’s great for reaching a larger audience but it's always more satisfying to produce something that you can hold and see in front of you afterwards.
There seems to be a really healthy Self-Publishing scene within the UK at the moment, with loads of very different independent efforts popping up, I easily counted fifteen off the top of my head. Do you have any thoughts on why this is?
Yeah there are a huge number of people creating zines. It's sick to see. I guess, similar to before, as social media grows, there'll always be people taking it back to the basics of spreading a message through print. It just seems to mean more than when it's on the web. Getting a zine through the post is the best. With Theresa May trying to reduce our privacy on the internet and increasing guidelines on what we post, I like the idea of spreading information in a more anarchist fashion - posters, pamphlets etc. where it's anonymous and it's hard to be tracked. The idea of an uprising started by a leaflet posted through a letter box or left in a newspaper stand is appealing. I've gone a bit off the topic of zines here aha. In short, zines are rad and people are always going to have a love for print!
When are we going to see a new issue?
Currently in the process of making issue 2. Nearly wrapped it up, just looking for somewhere affordable to get it all printed. Hopefully should be out in the not too distant future, but I'm not very quick at getting stuff done so who knows. I'll have it posted on @thestalezine on Instagram when it's up so you can check it there (shameless plug).
Hey Tom, been a while since we last spoke to you, has your approach to Varial changed at all since last year's interview?
Hey Paul! I'm still approaching Varial in the same way - I got issue 5 finished and released for December last year, and I've begun thinking about issue 6 now that we're into the beginning of summer. I'm working on some other projects as well, but it'll be great to see what submissions come in from the East Midlands with the good weather!
What role do you think print publications play in the UK in the current climate?
I think print publications still stand as the main creative inspiration for skate photographers, designers, writers & artists, as well as the gnar inspiration that lights a fire under skaters reading these mags. We all spend a lot of time looking at incredible photography online, or reading articles on our phones, but there's nothing better than chilling at a spot, passing around a magazine you just picked up from your local skater-owned second home, and expressing a shared disbelief in the gnarliest photos presented in print. They're the visuals that stick in your head, and immediately get you off your arse to try those big tricks, or shoot that big photo. They are also going to be good documents of this time in UK skateboarding, showcasing a wide array of current goings-on that will be remembered fondly when looked back on, or discovered by new generations if they're lucky enough to get their hands on copies.
There seems to be a really healthy Self-Publishing scene within the UK at the moment, with loads of very different independent efforts popping up. Do you have any thoughts on why this is?
I can only assume more people are growing up with that "go out and create" attitude, and it's fucking rad. It helps that there's been so much inspiration in skateboarding media over the years. Also, the internet era has made it so much easier to get things done - whether that's finding ways to produce publications, making worldwide connections with other creatives, or simply sharing the fruits of your labour. I can only imagine what it was like pre-millennium, to get things like a magazine organised...I guess you really had to have the confidence, skills, knowledge, to try something like starting Sidewalk Surfer, not knowing whether it would be a success or not!
What are your upcoming plans for Varial?
I'll be working on issue 6 this year, waiting 'til all the photos are in, and 'til all the features are looking just right. I find it's a slow process getting an issue of Varial together (around the day job and normal life...), but I'm always really happy with each issue as a solid document of various eras in the East Mids' history, both recent and historical. I'm also planning a new film photography exhibition of my work that I'd like to have organised before 2017 is out!