The world of zines and self-publishing has seen a strong resurgence in the last few years. These unashamedly low-quality, handmade xerox publications played a pivotal role in the punk and underground movements of the ’70s, offering an uncensored outlet for strong views and opinions as well as access into the subcultures that would otherwise go unnoticed.
But in the years that followed, their popularity fell sharply first in the face of glossy magazines and then the booming internet. Until recently, that is.
These days, small publishers are popping up all over the world, eschewing the grip of major printing corporations in favor of the increased personal freedom offered by the DIY approach. Meanwhile, zine-trading fairs have found a whole new level of popularity among a booming class of people looking for culture that shies away from the mainstream.
Could such a turn represent a bite-back against the modern digital age? After all, being able to hold a real photograph in your hands has become something of a romantic novelty, and artists and photographers are returning to this famously amateur medium as both an affordable and unusual method of promoting their work.
With that in mind, here’s five that we’ve been enjoying recently.
Gosha Rubchinskiy — Crimea/Kids
The first publication from Gosha Rubchinsiky (pre-dating his recent Youth Hotel photo book), Crimea/Kids follows a group of young boys and girls in the Crimean Peninsula who are brought together through a common love of skateboarding.
This highly topical zine raises many pertinent issues surrounding the Russia-Ukraine crisis, yet does so by focusing on the human element and less on the politics. The striking series of images shot by Rubchinskiy shows the fresh faces of Crimea’s new generation, all the while paying homage to Gosha’s beloved underground skate culture that brought them together.
Published by London’s Idea Books and limited to just 300 copies, the zine sold out completely in three days — no surprise, given the designer’s meteoric rise in popularity of late. While his ’80s youth-inspired designs have become the new face of streetwear hype, publications like Crimea/Kids prove that Gosha is far from someone simply cashing in on niche subculture, and that he genuinely harbors a fascination with the youth of the former Soviet block in all its many guises.
Chloe Sevigny — No Time For Love
Since taking one of the leading roles in Larry Clark’s cult movie Kids (and being crowned the “coolest girl in the world” by The New Yorker back in 1994), Chloe Sevigny has been an unshakeable icon in modern street culture.
With No Time For Love, the notorious one-time “it” girl presents a unique zine concept, gathering together intimate photographs of her and the men she has loved throughout her life. Published by Hungary’s Innen Zines earlier this year, the images range from ex-lovers and old boyfriends, to pictures of her father, all featuring added stickers to retain anonymity.
Whereas most people usually kick past relationships under the carpet, No Time For Love holds them up to scrutiny and honors Sevigny’s past in the form of a candid 28-page zine. A must-have for serious fans of the Downtown style icon.
Daniel Arnold — Photos
For anyone interested in street photography, the name Daniel Arnold is sure to have popped up on your radar. Shooting a combination of 35mm film and iPhone images, the New York-based street photographer had just $90 in his bank account in May 2014 when he decided to sell prints from his captivating Instagram archive to avoid eviction.
The results were phenomenal. He made $15k in just 24 hours, and still has a huge backlog of orders. Nowadays he boasts a whopping 119k Instagram followers and his popularity it rising all the time. He even got the opportunity to capture the most candid shots of celebrities we’ve ever seen at NY’s Met Gala.
Collaborating with Los Angeles publisher Hamburger Eyes and New York’s 8 Ball Zines, Arnold released Photos By Daniel Arnold back in August 2013 — a 40-page zine shot over just three days, jam-packed with his uniquely personal style of candid street snaps.
What makes Daniel Arnold so compelling is his incredible ability to capture aspects of both the bizarre and the human so effectively — often within the same photograph. Limited to just 100 copies, this zine is incredibly sought-after, and you’d be very lucky to get your hands on one.
Hamburger Eyes — Celly Brain
Founded in San Francisco by Ray and David Potes, with a little help from their good friend Stefan Simikich, Hamburger Eyes has come a long way since Ray began photocopying pages for the self-titled publication while on his job at Kinkos.
15 years after its creation, Hamburger Eyes has become one of the leading names in photography publishing, printing zines and collaborating with some of the world’s leading photographers all at once.
Following the widespread introduction of cameraphones, the three saw opportunity to make something of this new style of photography, and began collecting the lo-res, pixellated images taken by themselves and their friends. These were then posted on their website under a diary, dubbed Celly Brain.
The blog quickly gained in popularity, and developed its own character through the increasingly obscure and humorous archive of images. Everything from the streets and cities of the participant photographers, to their friends, family and random everyday encounters are captured through a similar low-quality lens.
Now based in LA, Celly Brain has since evolved into an established zine publication and is currently in its 14th edition. It features work from unknown artists to recognised photographers, and if you can’t get hold of the printed version then there is also an active Flickr group guided by the same principles.
Ari Marcopolous — Directory
Relocating to New York in 1980, Amsterdam-born photographer Ari Marcopolous quickly made a name for himself as one of the key documentarians of NY’s hip-hop, skateboard and underground scenes after he nabbed a job as one of Andy Warhol’s printers at the height of the city’s most vibrant cultural period.
Marcopolous’ work has been exhibited in famous institutions such as SFMOMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as being printed in countless publications. Even today his output shows now signs of slowing down, with regular zine releases from Zurich-based publishers Nieves. In fact, Marcopolous is widely credited for playing a large part in the resurgence of zine culture.
Today, Marcopolous’ gritty and honest style of shooting hasn’t drifted far from its roots — something renowned publisher Rizzoli wanted to celebrate with the release of the 1,200-page zine Directory. Reminiscent of an old-style phonebook, complete with grainy xeroxed pages and a signed print by the artist himself, the zine drifts between intimate family portraits, graffiti and NY street scenes with ease.
In fact, even with so much work included, each page feels like a fresh example of why he has gone down in history as one of the best photographers of American and youth subculture the world has ever known.
Shop for more books and magazines over at What Drops Now.
- Words: Ed Phillips