Sunday, 7 October 2012

Sunday Zine Review #48: Shoppinghour

After last week's absence, I'm back with a new feature: interviews. I've decided that it would be interesting to know more about some of the people that send their publications to be reviewed here.

When I was sent these two copies of Shoppinhour Magazine, I knew it was the perfect time to give the interview a try. I messaged Peter Eramian, one of the founders of the magazine, and asked him about the publication and how he sees today's independent magazines sector.

Could you introduce yourself and the magazine? 

Shoppinghour Magazine is composed of a team of writers, artists and designers from different backgrounds and locations (New York, London, Tokyo, Melbourne, Udine, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Nicosia...). Our ‘headquarters’ are in London, a city which we all share a special connection to, but most of our communication is handled online.

From the get go, Shoppinghour has been about bringing the arts, humanities and social sciences together in responding to issues of a more nuanced relevance. Though we may not be directly tackling current political events, our concerns are very much current and politically relevant. Perhaps you might say that we address not the conscious but the subconscious of our time.

We take our design very seriously and want it to be just as relevant and thoughtfully handled as our content. TWO (Think Work Observe) have been incredibly important in understanding and translating our ethos into a bold visual identity that confronts and speaks to a contemporary audience.

Why did you and Yasushi decide to start Shoppinghour? 

Yasushi and I met at Goldsmiths College. I was studying Fine Art and History of Art and he was studying Sociology. We immediately clicked, Yasushi’s like a brother to me. We would take long walks ‘sparring’ ideas, epic 8-hour-long conversations on ethics, resistance, love, violence, sentimentality, empathy, and so on. We were completely unpretentious about this. Thinking and conversing were – and still are – a means for us, never an ends, for unpacking our inspiration, making us receptive to different creative possibilities. Shoppinghour was one such creative possibility that simply made sense, since it translated our conversations into something we could share and open up to others.

Independent fashion and photography magazines are quite common nowadays, but I guess some of the topics that Shoppinghour deals with (philosophy, poetry & critical theory) are more directed to a 'niche' group of readers. How has the people's response to the magazine been?

Definitely very positive. We’re finding that there’s a large audience out there seeking to engage in such challenging, complex and thought-provoking content, outside of academia. Shoppinghour is much more than your average magazine, it offers something you can enjoy over a longer period of time. Neither our form nor our content is disposable. You’re meant to cherish Shoppinghour, lean back and read it slowly, over days, weeks, months, carry it around with you, and reflect on the artworks and ideas presented in it. We’d like to think there’s a timelessness to it, so that if you were to find a copy lying around 10 years from now you would still pick it up and want to read it, like a good novel or poetry collection. 

You’re right, independent fashion and photography magazines are quite common nowadays, and some of them are absolutely beautiful. One in particular “Girls/Boys on Film” has recently caught my attention... ;) Shoppinghour isn’t like these magazines because that’s simply not who we are. Most of us have academic backgrounds in cultural and political theory, fine art and art history, sociology and philosophy. That said, we certainly do have a strong appreciation and awareness of contemporary trends in fashion and photography.

How do you find your contributors? Do you usually approach them or do you receive submissions? 

We usually approach them. Our themes are often quite specific so it’s difficult to add something random to an issue. We are of course always open to ideas and submissions however. The content for each issue comes together after many hours or conversation and individual research. We hold meetings (often online) which last several hours, agreeing and disagreeing, thinking about every decision meticulously. There’s very little editorial hierarchy between us, since we’re all friends after all! Our editorial vision finds its equilibrium through our friendship and love for each other, as cheesy as that may sound!:)

How do you fund the magazine?
The magazine is funded by Yasushi and me, but this is only possible because everyone involved is generous enough to contribute their time without expecting payment. There’s no question that Shoppinghour is a labour of love, which we devote time to separately from our paid jobs and other projects. The first 6 issues cost very little and were printed in very small quantities. Issue 7 was the first properly printed and distributed in retail. Sales are strong. Issue 8 was sold out pretty much everywhere and orders for issue 9 have increased significantly. We have a very specific advertising strategy lined up for the near future and hope that as our distribution supply and sales go up everyone involved will eventually be paid.

The distribution process is, probably, one of key elements in the 'life cycle' of an independent magazine. Can you tell us a little about your distributors and where people can find your magazine? How much has this process grown since you started the magazine? 

Distribution has been an adventure! The first zine issues (back in 2008-2009) were printed, hand-stapled and distributed for free at about 100-200 copies between us and our friends. Issue 5 was distributed in the Don’t Panic packs, again for free. Issue 6, the Secular Religion issue, was published online-only via Issuu. We were never paid sales for issue 7 (our first in retail) because our distributors went bankrupt! The early days of Shoppinghour were very much about making mistakes, learning and sculpting the magazine into what it’s now finally becoming. Eventually, we were able to impress and convince established distributors such as Central Books and Export Press to take us on. Since issue 8 onwards we’ve had excellent UK and international retail distribution. 

You can find Shoppinghour at selected galleries, bookshops and stores, such as Tate Modern, Artwords, Serpentine Gallery, Magma, Foyles, Arnolfini Books, Colette Paris, Galerie Yvon Lambert Paris, Motto Berlin, Do You Read Me?! Berlin, Logos Shibuya Tokyo, and many more. And of course you can buy or subscribe to Shoppinghour online at our website. 

In the last couple of years there's been a boom in the independent magazines market, with lots of well-designed and unique publications taking over. How do you see the future of print publications against online publishing and the growth of iPad and tablets sales? 

I think it’s a very exciting time for independent magazine publishing. Before the web, printed magazine publishing was a necessary disposable means of communicating mostly disposable news and trends. But now such content no longer really needs to be printed. You’ve got your news
websites and blogs online, you can read it all there, scan, link, search, connect... The web is the perfect home for such publishing. More and more magazines are making this transition as it simply costs less, is easier to manage and is more interactive. By default, this means that printed magazine publishing is now becoming more and more defined as a non-disposable medium, which is great for independent magazine publishers producing carefully designed and thoughtful magazines, such as Shoppinghour! :)

Shoppinghour Magazine is celebrating issue 09 - Authentic Human - on October 19th at X Marks The Bökship in London, with a special guest performance by Penny Rimbaud. Everyone is welcome, so have a look at the poster above and find more information about the event here.

Thanks a lot Pete for sending the two issues and spending part of your free time replying to the questions!

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