People unfamiliar with the name commonly ask (in a chuckling tone) something like, “What the hell is a Hamburger Eyes?” or “Huh? Hamburger Eyesss???”
The name attracts attention quickly; you want to know more. The first time I stumbled on an issue was in a friend’s bathroom. It appeared as if it had been violently strangled, with ripped pages and vulgar sayings scribbled on the back cover. It definitely had been rolled to fit in a back pocket. It was issue #7. After examining the contents, I immediately began plotting how to acquire the previous six. I had to have them! But that never happened. I caught on too late and those back issues were history. As for #7-13, they sit proudly on my bookshelf. Over time, Hamburger Eyes has become a respected household name among photographers. What started as a Xeroxed zine unofficially “sponsored” by Kinko’s has evolved into a glossy, black and white, offset magazine of photographic awesomeness. In addition to the magazine the Hamburger Eyes staff has curated a number of large domestic and international group exhibitions, held several benefits and auctions, produced a healthy-sized book, started a professional darkroom facility in a digital era, created an affordable print program, operate an interactive cell phone photo blog, and is currently publishing hoards of zines from an array of talent. Essentially, they continue to find new and creative ways to expand their outlets involving all things photographic. Initially started with his brother, Dave, and friend, Stefan Simikich, Ray Potes holds down the day-to-day operations from the Photo Epicenter in the Mission District of San Francisco. It’s been a while since I’ve caught up with Ray and thought this would be a good excuse to ask him some casual questions about life, Burger World and beyond.
Today is December 21st, 2012 aka The Mayan Apocalypse, my day is about as average as gets. How is yours?
I feel ok too. I was excited about some kind of shift, but personally didn’t experience anything.
What’s a typical day like for a dude name Ray Potes living in the Mission district of San Francisco?
I feel like my job is 95% emails, 3% mail, 1.5% Internet, and 0.5% photography.
Haha. In the beginning you started with zines, which led to a bi-annual, high quality magazine, and eventually a book. Now, you are back to the basics, zines and lots of them.
Yeah, when the economy hit we were promoting our hard cover book and had a bunch of shows lined up for like a year. We were busy and tried not to think about it. But then it came time to do another issue and people stopped advertising, distributors were ordering way less, retailers were closing shop, and printers were charging double. I thought it would be just a weird hiatus for us, but then I randomly needed a new printer for the office and found one on sale at Office Depot. Started making zines off it and it became more fun to put out more stuff more frequently while keeping costs down. Then I started collecting long staplers, paper cutters, and glue machines and now we are a “publishing house.”
With the reputation Hamburger Eyes has built, I wonder if you feel the need to seek out certain photographers anymore or do you rely solely on submissions, friends and affiliates?
Yeah, we get a lot of submissions. It’s awesome and it’s the best part. Often times, someone who submitted their photos would also suggest other photographers and then it snowballs. So, we do still seek out photographers all the time.
How did the idea for Eyeland Editions come about and why are they priced so abnormally affordable?
For the past few years, we would have an annual fundraiser auction where photographers would donate prints and we would auction them, usually starting the bids at 99 cents. Some of the photos would get up to hundreds of dollars. It was super rad. It would take place for 7 days on Ebay, but then people started emailing me about buying prints outside the auction. So we came up with “Eyeland Editions”, selling print editions of some of our favorite photographers for super cheap. I don’t know why we made them so cheap. I just want to get rid of them super fast. We are gonna do it seasonally, and I don’t think the next season will be priced this way. We’ll see.
How is Cellybrain going? Did Instagram buy you guys out yet?
Cellybrain is alive and cracking. The site breaks sometimes because I’m not a super savage on the code stuff, but its still going. We recently have had a bunch of sign-ups, which is why the site is acting up, but I think I know how to fix it. Anyways, people seem to have fun voting up or down on photos. Also, people are loving the king of the week or king of the month status. Working on the application, its not easy at all. In fact, it’s pretty overwhelming, but it will happen!
And with Cellybrain online, a selection of the photos uploaded end up in the CellyBrain printed volumes, correct?
Yes, we take the best ones and make zines out of them. It adds to the fun.
What do you enjoy about living in San Francisco and what keeps you there?
It seems to have everything I could ever want or need without ever having to go too far. If you want chill mode, you can chill easy. If you wanna go beast mode, that’s there too.
I know you’re from San Diego, which in my opinion has the best Mexican food ever, but as far as San Francisco goes who holds it down? I ask because Mexican food plays such an important role in the survival of artists living in San Francisco and everyone has such strong opinions of what to get where.
For me, it depends what I wanna eat. I like tacos and soup at Vallarta, but I like crispy tacos at la Taqueria S.F. Corneta for burritos and La Palma for the basics. The tamale lady for tamales. Fish anything at El Metate. Pupusas and breakfast burritos at Sun Rise Cafe. Dinner styles at San Jalisco. But I agree, San Diego has the best.
I know you’re a big fan of all things extraterrestrial. Why do you think there are so many doubters out there? Are there any book or films on the subject you can suggest?
Well, most people want to ignore stuff until we actually see a walking breathing alien. I agree, but the evidence is sometimes overwhelming. Some good starter books are “Gods of Eden” by William Bramley and “Chariots of the Gods” by Erick von Daniken.
You are roommates with an alien; I believe his name is Gray Gray? What’s his story and does he help with the day-to-day operation at the Photo Epicenter?
He crashed landed here and helps out with security. His birthday is coming up, he will be 4 million years old.
Can you tell me about The Wormholes? It has a cultish vibe.
The wormholes started out as a bunch of dudes sharing various research, but has now grown into a hyperspace brotherhood. It’s fun.
Is there any photographer’s work you are currently excited about?
All of them. Everyone’s killing the game right now.
What kinds of photographs attract your attention?
Ones that communicate quickly.
What does Hamburger eyes have in store for the future? Zine box set by chance?
Yeah, I tried to come up with some kind of set or subscription program, like a 6 pack or a 12 pack, but we have no regular schedule. We might do a specific set of a specific series maybe one day, but I don’t know. As for future stuff, just more of them same. We are gonna try to do a 250 page zine in January. I’m excited about it.