The Story of Creating a Zine from Crowdsourcing Images

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 3

We created a team at speed on Friday 9th June to deliver a zine via a crowd sourcing method.  The team was made up of Rita Rodner, Katie Watson, Simon Fremont and myself.  We immediately created a WhatsApp group for all our communications as it allowed us to discuss and keep a record as the team time alliances flowed in and out of the discussion and images could be shared with ease.  Due to commitments we launched our appeal for images ahead of absorbing the research, information and videos which constituted the week 3 learning.  This created a naivety for our project as none of the team had delivered this form of working practice previously.

We were pleased that we had a balanced debate about how to make the project public and develop a theme.  We veered from a conceptual approach, such as showing through self made imagery what home means to you through to the more literal, what is on your window sill?  We were of course aware that consciously or subconsciously people could be making images that were metaphors for their lives, for example, looking out, looking in, the poetical for remediating imagery with icons of lives shown on sills.

We decided to promote on various social media platforms because we each had preferences for different modes and we were keen to engage with our networks.

Our mutually agreed positioning of the project was noted thus “The objective is to explore the domesticity of place via a specific point of reference, we will remediate imagery received by invitation”   

The theme to be broadcast “you’re invited to share pictures you take of your window sills, at home or work or wherever you are as part of a group photo zine project at Falmouth University, take part by putting your photos on FB, Twitter or Instagram by Monday 12th June using this hashtag #windowsilltoday”

We debated keeping the project private from our cohort, as recommended in the project guidance but this was thought difficult or time consuming (for example excluding friends on Facebook by listing out all other friends, then posting).  We were relatively relaxed and confinement in our ability to source and work together to manage the project and it was not wholly competitive.

Having allowed the weekend for people to think about the proposition and create images we were pleased that we were able too gather, primarily from use of directly received images and those that had used the hashtag #windowsilltoday some 83 images.  The images were of great variety and were sent from around the globe.

We began at this point to open up a fertile debate about our role, collectively, having received a series of images ‘gifted’ to the project.  We discussed the implicit rather than explicit obligations to the images and their photographers; should we include them all, what any editing may imply, should we apply a monochrome equalisation, should we include the authors, where known as a list within the zine; were we hosts or manipulators.  We realised that we were remediating the images regardless of the degree of change we may choose to apply, simply because we were altering the context from the social space they had been deported onto and transformed into a new collective space managed by us – the zine.  In fact we had not discussed at the commencement the purpose, style and technical nature of the zine, other than what software we may use.

We pondered points like ‘people have handed over the images with no preconception over what we might do with them and in that sense they have also given up certain rights?’ which led to ‘In which case should we also keep them in colour? If we are trying to be inclusive/provide equal status? Or should we work as pic editors and make a selection/crop and desaturate?’ and

‘We didn’t discuss or indeed state that there would be a ‘filter’ at the point of launch and external communication. No ones’ fault. Useful retrospective learning’.  We effectively empowered people to look, think and see. What they saw is what they produced as images. ‘Definitely we need to decide on our collective approach. And if we decide to put in a list of credits that’s also a choice’.  We realised  that decisions and choices were littered across our pathway to progress ‘Perhaps our role is to look for complementarity in placing images next to each other. As groups. That is a level of secondary judgement. As picture editors and compositors’…..’are we applying photographic discernment or is this a project – community based – that invites all grades of talent into the zine and thus provide equal status to all?’  This discussion enabled us to mutually challenge our assumptions that are innately built into the way we ‘think and do’ work.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 07.46.10

Drafting began production drafts to share.  Adobe Indesign was used and pairing was suggested by one of us then layouts by another, all for comment.  We quite quickly began to agree on gatherings of images and the use of a grey band to ‘rest’ the images, much like a virtual window sill.  Titles are important and we again grasped one which was agreeable from a short list and this was ‘Window Stills’.

We discussed the possibility of printing on simple paper and that remains a choice each of us can make from the zine file.

The whole group presented at the webinar on 15th June 2017, led by David Ellison.  This video (43 seconds) was played to the group;

https://vimeo.com/221766361

We verbally presented the journey we had pursued based on the notes presented above.  A useful discussion ensued based on these questions,

Could the project go on?  We agreed it could have a life beyond the moment in time production of the zine file, provided we are committed to either creating a further or expanded zine or simply realising that the hashtag is not ‘owned’ and could be used continuously.

What templates had we pursued? We had assessed both of these typical magazine layout sites, https://issuu.com/ and https://madmagz.com/ for templates which would suit the landscape spread format that we were determined to grasp given the type of work.  There were few temples that suited and those that did came with monthly fees which the group thought inappropriate for what was deemed to be a one-off exercise

Had we created a photobook?  Effectively we had.  We had produced a series of images and the only text was the title page (using our own design and background image) and the final page which set out the team and all of the contributors.

As a team we have discussed if it would be possible to share the zine with the contributors and whilst this has a few logistical issues we will endeavour to do that as a responsibility we believe  we hold to people who made the content.

Brief reflection on the two other zines presented during the seminar;

Another group had produced a very fulsome zine with 230 contributions and extensive texts and quotations.  The team was larger and this would have aided wider networks to gather more images,  All images submitted were used and cleverly an ongoing dialogue was created via a closed Facebook page.  The theme was footwear and it was interesting to see how place, gender, wealth and style could all be reflected through the relatively anonymous method of just submitting images of footwear.  The format was a typical portrait zine template.  One interesting observation I made was to pose the question, was there a slight gender bias in the images submitted? This was a point that there group were going to research more deeply.

The other zine was on the theme of ‘tea’ – partly based on the fact that the group was internationally positioned and tea was a common drink globally.  The zine appeared much more commercial, with all images of a high production value, by which I mean it wasn’t clear whether the team had spread out image making beyond its own cohort, thus I questioned whether it was actually a cord sourced gathering of work.

At the commencement of the webinar, David Ellison cited the evolving zine produced by Adam Murray and Robert Parkinson http://prestonismyparis.co.uk/category/publications/ (accessed 18th June 2017) which has blossomed, quoting from the website “Preston is my Paris began in July 2009 as a photocopied zine with the intention of encouraging the exploration of Preston as a subject for creative practice.  It is now a multi-faceted project rooted in photography that includes publications, site-specific installations, live events, digital applications, education and writing.  Work is held in the Tate Library, Fotomuseum Winterthur Collection, Artists’ Books Special Collections at Manchester Metropolitan University and Special Collections at London College of Communication”

Final word

I will be posting the advice of Anthony Luvera following on from a conference presentation he gave on participation on my next CRJ entry.

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