At some point in the not so distant past, many of my peers predicted the inevitable demise of independent publishing as a direct result of blogs and Tumblrs and, basically, the Internet.
Thankfully, they couldn’t have been more far off. I can confidently say that independent publications are currently being created in record numbers thanks to the presence of the Internet. The reasons why vary from person to person, but several factors have certainly played an impactful role. Distribution methods have become more accessible via free online platforms that connect to one another through the global online community.
And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the artistic urge to have something tactile and physical created a backlash from the always-accessible glowing screen. It’s really a win-win from both angles. In an attempt to gain some sort of personal insight into why people were making zines in a time when online publishing couldn’t be easier, I enlisted the opinions of 18 seasoned veterans. Their combined work represents hundreds, if not thousands, of titles. I asked them all two simple questions: “Why do you create zines and what motivates you to continue?” Hopefully their answers will inspire you to go make your own.
Weirdo Dave –FTL zine
I create zines because it fits the budget. It’s fast. Sexy. You do what you want. I keep going because it’s cool to me. If you don’t keep it sick, who will?
Graff and street culture are always evolving and changing. I was inspired by Twist and his zines. I like how he was able to capture specific moments of San Francisco graffiti and street culture. I also always have had a passion for stickers. After spending 3 years trying to reach the million mark making stickers, I saw the perfect merge of street culture and stickers in the sticker zine. Making the zines, I get to represent graffiti and get my stickers up. Because graffiti gets cleaned up so fast, zines help save the street history. The rougher black and white sticker zines are more accessible and because they are cheap to make you can bomb with them. Making zines is like bombing. You make it and it gets out there. Tags on the stickers turned into photos of spots. I like how a spot, even after it has been buffed, keeps popping up through stickers.
Mark Price – Zine of The Month
Somewhere between compulsion, habit and experimentation is where my motivation comes from to continue producing zines. It’s engaging with the craft of creating an intimate tactile experience that is primarily focused on shape, color, design, typography, photography, text, and written language. Zine making seems immediately archaic in its crude, non-hyper object-ness. In continuing stated production I feel excited about participating in an almost absurdly outmoded form of static, visual cultural expression that easily references any other period over the last 40 years, but is ultimately somehow still an expression of Now.
Benjamin Sommerhalder – Nieves
We started to publish zines because it’s a fast, inexpensive and uncomplicated way to produce great little books. Ever-new talent, our loyal customers, and our curiosity to experiment and cultivate motivates us to continue.
Luke Ramsey – Islands Fold
As teenagers we had a thriving punk community – a true independent DIY culture – all happening pre-“indy,” pre-internet. Punk gigs were the first place I saw zines. One of the first zines I made was called “The Rant.” I’d give it to friends or sell it on the street. I like zines because they can communicate uncensored creativity. They are very inexpensive to make – a “for the people” medium. Zines later became a tool to share collaborations through the Islands Fold residency we ran. I recently took a break from being a zine machine, but I still make them and mail them to friends and artists. I’ll always love the feeling of stapling a zine and holding it in my hands. I also enjoy discovering zines off-line. It’s nice to find something special that isn’t on the Internet.
Rob Collinson – LowCard Mag
I create zines because I’ll have a pile of 35mm photos sitting around and I want to either make fun of or share a story about the photos. What keeps me motivated to make zines is seeing people psyched and seeing people bummed after they read them.
I create zines because it’s one of the last “punk” outlets that hasn’t been wiped out or completely commodified. You can still scam copies for free and therefore give them away for free or through trade correspondence or make the most ornately glossy zine imaginable. The choice is yours and that is what I enjoy most; the sheer freedom to make a zine however I wish. Covering whatever topics or imagery I’m interested in at a particular time and place. What motivates me to keep going is the thrill of reaching that random person somewhere out in the world and showing them a slice of my life and maybe inspiring them to create and explore.
TTC / Telefon Til Chefen
As an art group we create zines and handmade books as an important part of our practice and see them as regular art objects as well as a tool to support and explain ideas. For example, in connection with an exhibition. Since 2003 we have made a wide range of photo and drawing zines. In TTC the thought of exchanging ideas is essential and for us, zines are the most natural form of media to do so. The whole aspect of exchanging zines with others is a big motivation for us. It is a great way to show and to discover new artists and ideas.
Yes, they cost money to print and take up space and require standing in line at the post office, but zines are personal. Zines don’t require a monthly bill for service. Zines from twenty years ago are still interesting and relevant, unlike a tweet from twenty minutes ago. Zines give me an excuse to still have a P.O. Box in 2013. Zines can get folded and bent and dog-eared and stained and still be engaging. Zines are made by hand and viewed in hand, artist-to-audience, without a filter or an advertisement to color the experience. I know my motivations for making and collecting zines are not unique. I like that. I like knowing that other makers and collectors have similar intentions and similar shoeboxes filled with paper and ink.
Andrew Jeffery Wright
The zine is just another legitimate art form for me. It’s as important and relevant as video paintings, net art, web art, conceptual performance, theory critique as art, earth works, dirt works, and Twitter novels. Some art forms and artists are created in institutions and some are born. The zine was born. Creating on paper a self-made stapled collection of drawings is something I’ve been doing since the age of 6. The word zine didn’t exit then and if someone saw it written somewhere they definitely would not have pronounced it “zeen.” I have access to screen printing facilities so most of my zines are screen-printed. The zine is an art form that allows multiple concepts and images to exist sequentially in one piece, like the cinema or a multi-course meal.
I’ve been making zines since high school as a way of assembling many ideas into one bigger picture. I began in the pre-internet era when zines were the source of all things real and secret. I still view my publications this way today. Zines are free from the confines of advertising, distributers and censorship, allowing the author the freedom to publish whatever content in whatever format and edition size desired. Zines exemplify the original motives of publishing, before the influence of money and becoming a regulated industry. Ben Franklin was a zine maker! There are no rules and no one to tell you what is or isn’t a zine. In an art context zines play a unique role in leveling the playing field; the rich collector and the broke art student are offered the same product at the same price. Zine culture is based on love and creativity rather than commerce, making zines both worthless and priceless. Zines are a beautiful and appropriate offering in this temporary, material world.
Growing up and taking part in the punk scene you either played in a band, booked shows or made zines. I couldn’t play an instrument and didn’t have a show space so I started making zines. It was my way to contribute – interviewing bands and making photos of them. I interviewed who I wanted to and wrote about the things that were important to me. There was no one else saying what could or couldn’t be included. That freedom carried over to other ideas that I wanted to share as I got involved in the art/photography world. Doing a zine is a true way of being your own editor, your own art director, and doing something completely your way. I started doing zines in 1991 and am currently working on another issue of Three Records. Can’t see that stopping any time soon.
I make zines to see my work, understand it better and see what I’m doing wrong. I also like to see what people think of it. I often curate zines with other people’s work, but that’s more to play with pictures or show stuff that I like. I love the feeling of having a piece of paper in my hands, and I’m bored of looking at images on my screen. All of this motivates me to make more work, so to make more zines.
I grew up in Colorado Springs and was very into skateboarding in the late ‘80s / early ‘90s. I hope I’m getting these details right. There was a skater in my town named Wes who made a zine called “Skate Among Us.” It was a Xerox zine and he gave some copies of it and some stickers to Tony Hawk when he came to Colorado to do a demo. A few months later there was a shot of Hawk in Thrasher with the “Skate Among Us” sticker on his board. The zine was immortalized forever and I saw the power and reach of zines. I started making zines when I was about 22 and have been into it ever since. I consider it to be its own art from and a really good way to look at photography. I guess the beat poets were the first zine guys pre-Internet.
I have always loved the energy that self-published/photocopied syntax, text and images give off. It is hard to describe it, but there are qualities that one can achieve on a copier that are not possible to obtain any other way. A large part of that to me has been about the grainy, raw, blown out, distorted, almost wood grain-like textures and patterns that can happen when one gets creative with how to use and exploit the medium. Doing smears, pulls, or stretches with the images and lens. The itchy, warm, weird, chemical smell and feeling you get on your fingers when you pick up the copy paper as it finishes coming out of the machine. There is nothing else that compares. Seeing what you may have spent hours, days and weeks working on laying out now in your hands in a reproduced state. Hopefully most of the information or feel of the art traces of photographs, text, or your idea is there, but also hopefully something else has happened that you would have never, ever expected as well. Let’s call it an accident for now. These are the magic moments of printing yourself. Discovering the odd, the new and unexpected. This is where the learning goes on. This is where the addiction to print comes from in many ways for me. I have never felt bored at all and every time I make a zine I get about ten or fifteen other ideas I want to do immediately afterwards. Remember I mentioned the word addiction? Hopefully things like your passions, interests, obsessions, pastimes, hobbies, opinions, ideas, documentations, fleeting creative nuggets of information/knowledge are included or entertained within each or every issue, or perhaps just something that is absurd, ridiculous, insane or perversely funny to you. I hope consideration for the aesthetics has been carefully and meticulously considered in every possible way or blown off completely for reasons of total lack of respect, control and regard for such notions, and traded for freedom and easier flow. Last estimation I made, I think I have made about 60 or 70 zines to date. The first at age 12. Most were about skateboarding, drawing, raw music(s), life, and teenage angst. There is no end in sight.
I have been buying and reading zines and independent/homemade publications since I was a kid. It has always been an honest way to communicate with your friends and it continues to be. For me, they can be very powerful signifiers of a certain time and location.
Remio – Sleepner
The search for truth and the excitement of discovering the unknown and the new is what motivates me to create zines. I create zines because it’s something I can do anytime I want to do it, in any way I want to do it. There are no rules and there are never any expectations, so it’s always fun! I could make 500 copies of a zine with the same image in it repeated 1000 times and send it to 500 strangers, or I could hand draw an edition of 1, and then burn it as soon as I’m finished. I could fold a single sheet of paper in half and call it a zine. I could edit some video together and post it to YouTube and call it a video zine. They can be anonymous. They can be high profile. They can be anything I want them to be. Zines are the most perfect way I have found of sharing something with someone else. Zines are my way of sharing my perspective on the world I live in.
I MAKE ZINES CUS I’M AN INSANE PERSON AND IF I DIDNT MY HEART MIGHT EXPLODE. THERE IS A LOT OF SEXIST BULLSHIT STILL TRYING TO PASS ITSELF OFF AS SOMETHING THATS COOL AND IF I DIDNT MAKE ART OR ZINES OR MUSIC I’D BASICALLY BE A TOTAL LONER OR BE SUCKING CORPORATE DICK MY WHOLE LIFE AND FUCK THAT, ID RATHER DIE. THE MAINSTREAM MAGAZINES JUST CANT KEEP UP WITH WHATS REAL SO FUCK ‘EM, I’LL JUST MAKE EVERYTHING MYSELF. BUT THANKS TO THEM I GET ANGRY ENOUGH TO KEEP MAKING ZINES SO IT’S KIND OF A WEIRD THING YOU KNOW. FUEL IS PRETTY FUCKED UP SOMETIMES.
*Article by Austin McManus