Alternative Realities: Co-Curate Magazine
What would compel a photographer to create his own magazine?
Founder of Musée, Andrea Blanch, herself a photographer felt curious to investigate the drive behind fellow like-minded photographers turned magazine publishers.
Interview by Baylee McKeel
Founded by Isabelle Evertse, Co-Curate Magazine is a limited edition print magazine, capped at ten issues, that invites guest curators to each issue. Together, the guest curators help put together a magazine featuring photographs, essays and more, creating a unique product every time.
The idea behind your magazine is quite interesting, having different curators for each issue. Can you talk about what inspired this and why you felt driven to create a publication?
Isabelle Evertse: I started the magazine adventure with piK magazine in 2012. At the time I was living in Grenoble, France, a city best known for its scientific research centres, the photography field is very minimal. I had just moved there after an internship in New York, and suddenly having no access to photography bookstores or exhibitions became a major frustration. I have always loved books and magazines so I decided to start my own to keep in close contact with what was happening online and elsewhere, it made me feel more involved and up to date.
I had a great time working on piK, but it was an immense workload on my own, I did everything from A to Z, selecting photographers, writing texts, translations, mapping the layout, distribution …etc. I decided at the 8th issue that the 10th would be the last one. I felt relieved, yet I knew I still wanted to stay in the magazine industry. I had to find a way to pursue my ideas with a little extra help, hence the idea to co-curate a magazine. It was always a great moment when photographers featured in piK would get involved and tell me about their series, we would exchange on their layout and collaborate closely, and I enjoyed the fact that they felt as implicated as me on their segment of the issue. This made me think of what it could be like to collaborate with someone on the whole issue rather than short segments, and I started picturing inviting curators to work with me. This would of course lighten my workload in some sense as there would two of us carrying the issue, but it would mainly open to a whole new diversity, something which can be tricky to always supply alone. I became obsessed with the project, already desperate to find out who I was going to work with, what I was going to learn, how we were going to share our ideas. I guess I was mainly driven by a thirst for knowledge and images, and I really enjoy teamwork, it’s always a great experience!
What does the process of putting together an issue look like? Does it ever feel strange handing over control, so to speak, to your guest curators or is it a collaborative effort?
IE: It starts by contacting a curator, explaining the project and exchanging on themes of interest for both of us. We may have ongoing projects that we can lean on to start off with, it usually takes a couple of back and forth emails to find subject matter that we are both passionate about. In the beginning we work separately, researching photographers and projects and we simply share website links or single images to start setting the tone of the issue. We then circle back, and I have usually put together various spreads with extracts from our emails, so that we can really get a feel for the issue and its direction. From there the layout moves pretty smoothly, we select 10 photographers within the suggestions and so far it has always fallen into place very naturally. In the beginning it did feel a little strange handing control of the issue over, almost like I was a student again waiting for the co-curator’s approval to move forward. He would send back his ideas and I would get really nervous before opening the files - “What if it’s not at all what I had imagined…?” - but it was always even better than in my mind, always in the movement of the issue and I was never disappointed, it was really exciting to see the issue move up to the next level and to get to share it that with someone else! I think this mainly comes from the long start off process, we get to know each other and we have already agreed on the subject, so we easily grow off each other’s ideas to mould the layout. In many ways, neither of us are ever really “alone” with the layout, it’s always a constructive collaboration.
How do you decide who to feature in your magazine, or which guest curators to invite?
IE: Concerning the curators, so far it just came naturally to me. As soon as I thought of Co-Curate#01, I immediately thought if Aaron Schuman and I knew that I wanted to work with him. We had collaborated on piK magazine#07 and I really enjoyed our energy, I knew he would be excellent company for the inaugural issue. For Co-Curate#02, I met Frédérique Destribats at Unseen Amsterdam just before the launch of Co-Curate#01 and we started talking about our ongoing projects, she immediately showed her interest and we just connected effortlessly. Over the following months, we became more than collaborators, we became good friends and I am really grateful for the relationship that our collaboration lead to professionally and personally. These two issues have been an incredible learning and life experience!
Concerning the photographers, it all depends on the theme obviously and then how their works connect between each other. It’s vital to have a good balance in the selection as too many powerful projects can cancel each other out, too much variety in imagery style can lose the reader, yet too many similarities can turn dull… etc, it’s quite a juggling act really! I am always on the look out for new images, blogs, books, exhibitions…. etc.
A lot of magazines are offering digital platforms these days, why decide to do print? On the same note, why decide to do a limited edition series with only 10 issues?
IE: Originally my main desire to print is an attachment to all the steps that come after finishing a layout. With print, the magazine is never finished until you sell them all. There are book fairs to attend, distributors and bookstores to contact, collectors to email…etc. I like that follow up process of sharing the magazines in person and discovering the printing together.
For Co-Curate print plays a crucial role, as the main goal of the magazine is to bring an exhibition on paper. The whole concept of page turning is the basis of the layout, everything is thought out so that you experience the magazine as though you were in a gallery, bringing that space to your living room, accessible anywhere.
I announced 10 issues straight away to keep to a form of collection. I like the rarity of the project and I find it even more encouraging, it makes the selection all the more precious as I know that ultimately I can only feature so many photographers.
How, if at all, do you feel that starting the publication has influenced your own artwork?
IE: Editing made me understand how important a selection of images really is. I am a lot harder on my work now than before, and I find it a little easier to remove/add images to a series. I can take a step back from my work with more confidence today even though it’s still one of the hardest processes in the creating of a series or a book, but I experience it differently now and I honestly appreciate the moment rather than dreading it as I used to.
Has being a photographer given you any advantages in running the magazine?
IE: I think it gave me an advantage in the first issue as I featured my work amongst the other photographers. This was mainly as a show of faith, seeming that I didn’t have any previous issues to demonstrate the project, I was taking as much of a chance as the others and I wanted all the photographers who trusted me with their images to know that I was just as implicated as them.
On another level, it gives me a different kind of understanding of how the images are shown. I know what it can mean when an editor decides to remove a certain image, yet for the photographer that image held information and was essential to the series, it can be disarming. I do my best to hold a firm editors position to ensure a powerful magazine, yet listen to the photographer’s series and make sure I don’t lose their message.
What have been some favorite, or bizarre moments, in working with Co-Curate?
IE: My favorite moment was the launch for the first issue at The Photographers Gallery in London. I was extremely nervous, Aaron and I had not shared the project with anyone else and the moment felt very official suddenly! The café was packed and as people crowded in, I got even more stage fright! The lights dimmed, the slideshow of featured images started and Martin Steininger introduced us. Aaron, Melinda Gibson, Esther Teichmann and Christopher Stewart (all featured in the issue) and myself spoke about the project and we got more compliments than I had ever imagined, some really interesting questions and I got lost in the moment, forgetting that I was talking to a room full of people, it was a great feeling, really rewarding after so many months of hard work!
What can we expect from your upcoming issue?
IE: I’m hoping to bring in some more variety on the printing, working with folds or transparency effects maybe, i’ve got a few ideas that I need to run by the printers as everything needs to fit to a budget still and I don’t want to change the price from one issue to the next. You can expect anything really as that is the beauty in a new collaboration every time, you never really know what might happen ! Adventure always awaits!