|After much discussion with my cohort and putting forward several titles including: Little Miss Independence, The Price of Independence, International Independents Inspired and Global independents, the article was christened, FLIPPIN’ GLOBAL INDEPEDENTS
WORDS BY LOU PARDI
IMAGES BY EDDIE ZAMMIT
In Luxembourg, a medieval yet modern city in the country of the same name, independent magazine publishers and other magazine fiends are wandering the cobble stoned streets speaking different languages, but carrying the same recognisable Colophon 2009 yellow bag.
They’ve come from all corners of the earth. With a burgeoning scene of independent magazines in Australia (Sneaker Freaker, Dumbo Feather, pass it on, Poster, and Monster Children to name a few) it’s unsurprising that a duo from T-world have made the 20+ hour flight to attend. They’re not alone in their jetlag either, New Zealanders Ravi and Suchi Pathare from mag nation are there, surrounded by independent publishers keen to get their magazines stocked in one of the world’s most successful magazine stores.
The three day conference featuring speakers, panels and exhibitions is the brainchild of independent publisher Mike Koedinger. “There were many people publishing independent magazines but there was no place to meet to share ideas. I was producing a thing which I wanted to go to myself,” he says.
He knew he wanted to work with designer Jeremy Leslie, and introduced himself at a CMYK conference in Barcelona, which led to dinner and drinking until early in the morning, “Mike turned up with Colophon in his head, he had a flyer and a date but not anything else and by 3am we had agreed that we were going to do it.” Jeremy recalls.
Mike wanted to put together a catalogue for the conference and Jeremy suggested editor Andrew Losowsky who he had worked with at John Brown. Andrew had other ideas, “I said to Jeremy we don’t want to have a catalogue, we want to have a book. Even though the conversation was supposed to be about the book I kept throwing in other ideas and Mike just said look, there are three curators here not two so we should just put your name on the team as well.” says Andrew. The conference books, 2007’s We Love Magazines and 2009’s We Make Magazines are now edited by Andrew.
The diverse trio make a good team, says Mike, “We might have different tastes when we start a discussion but we agree and the exchange is very very interesting. Jeremy has a strong international and UK background and mine is more French or German based and Andrew is from the States so it’s very good to have input from different markets.”
The three also represent different disciplines, shares Andrew, the morning after a classic Colophon party night, “This is one of the things I said last night, and I’m glad I could remember this morning. That is, the event has kind of ended up being like a physical version of a magazine. What that means is we invited lots of contributors, we’ve brought so many things together and the sum of it is so much bigger than the parts. The fact that I’m an editor, Jeremy’s a designer and Mike’s a publisher – it’s kind of not surprising that what we’ve created is a kind of magazine feel to the whole thing,” says Andrew.
Each of the curators is passionate about magazines. One of Jeremy and Andrew’s first projects together was a Finnish publication (untitled, but known as M-real Magazine), which was about magazines “The title that we started working on together was actually about editorial design and trends, so what was a side-interest that I had been keeping an eye on, suddenly exploded into the fanaticism that I have now,” says Andrew.
Mike is one of the world’s most successful independent publishers, but faces the same challenges as all independent publishers, “I’m publishing several guidebooks and magazines, and we have one international title nico, where we are losing so much money we can really do what we want, no problem,” he says.
Jeremy has made a career out of creating commercial magazines, but can see himself returning to an independent project, one day. “I see the exhibition and I see what people are doing, and I wish, I still hope, one day maybe I will find that time to do it. I suppose I think that if I am going to do it I have to do it so bloody well,” he says.
The rooms are packed with creators who have been sucked in by the not-as-glam-as-you’d-think allure of magazine publishing. Jeremy describes the cycle, “The key part of the process is that it’s never finished, you always finish an issue and then you think, ‘oh I’m going to do the next one it’s going to be better.’ It’s not like when you do a book or a singular project like that. A magazine, more often than not, is published regularly. When it comes back you always see the faults and you try and correct them next time. That’s the process, it’s always up and down, up and down.” he says.
Editor Andrew puts the addiction succinctly, “We’re trying to make the perfect magazine, even though it doesn’t exist. If it did exist it doesn’t matter, you’d have to do it from scratch again next month.” With his new fiction book The Doorbells of Florence just hitting the shelves, he’s also come to appreciate the process of working with others on magazines, “The great thing about doing magazines for most people is that it’s a collaborative creation and they need to have the art direction interacting with the editing, interacting with the advertising, interacting with the publishing – and then you’ve got the readers… It’s not the same as writing a book. I could name 20 people here who I would love to make a magazine with one day.”
Like the magazines it celebrates, Colophon itself remains independent, “We don’t run this as a huge profit-making, everybody-has-a-stand kind of thing. Everybody’s here to enjoy themselves and to meet inspiring people. It doesn’t feel like an anonymous corporate event with product placement. We had enquiries from organisations to do that and we said that isn’t what we do. We don’t make money,” jokes Andrew.
In fact, the curators have pulled together Colophon 2009 on less than the budget than they had for 2007. For Mike, postponing the event was not an option, “People are waiting for it. The goal is very strict, it’s every two years and it’s March and it’s Luxembourg and we have to stick with that,” he says.
Andrew has been surprised by how far people have come to attend, “People have come from Australia, I was chatting with a guy who flew in from Brazil, there are two people here from Venezuela, there’s a guy from New Zealand.” Whilst there have been discussions about taking Colophon to another country, for the moment at least, Luxembourg is its home, explains Andrew, “We think that Luxembourg is a big part of why it’s successful. One of the things about the city is that it’s very small, so it’s manageable and you can walk around and you will run into people carrying the yellow bags and wearing the passes. One of the reasons you have this feeling of community, is hardly anyone has friends here. The idea is everyone comes to this space and networks and goes out partying together.”
With the second successful Colophon coming to a close, does Andrew know how they’re going to reinvent it for 2011? “Not a clue. But it will happen. People are already planning to come back. First of all we need to finish this one, have a drink, have a lie down and then wake up and say ok, now we can do it all again.” Like any good independent magazine edition though, it’s sure to be another step closer to perfection.
TOP 5 INTERNATIONAL INDIE MAG FINDS
Australian Colophon attendee, Eddie Zammit from T-world shares his top 5 independent magazine finds:
Subject matter: Art-in-progress magazine
Title: SANG BLEU
Subject matter: Tattoo culture
Country: United Kingdom
Subject matter: Made out of the ordinary
Country: United Kingdom
Title: Little White Lies
Subject matter: Lateral pop culture
Country: United States
Subject matter: Pushing the world forward
BREAK OUT QUOTE
“Our magazine is built on blood, sweat and tears. If we weren’t totally committed and prepared to make sacrifices, it wouldn’t exist.” – Matthew Bochenski, Little White Lies