373 reasons why print isn't dead
Words Mark Hooper
A new exhibition at Somerset House, Print! Tearing It Up tells the fascinating story of British independent magazines – and why they are just as important today as ever…
It’s a strange paradox that, while mainstream glossy magazines seem to be going through a crisis of confidence of late, there have seemingly never been more independent titles on the newsstand. So the timing of Print! Tearing It Up at London’s Somerset House (until 22 August) couldn’t be better.
Brilliantly curated by journalist Paul Gorman (author of last year’s intriguing The Story of The Face), Print! takes as its centre point the DIY punk ethos of British fanzine culture – drawing an intriguing line between political and feminist titles such as Private Eye, Spare Rib, OZ and International Times. But its reach is wide and fascinating – incorporating Wyndham Lewis’ 1914 Vorticist journal, Blast, as well as Night and Day (Graham Greene’s short-lived answer to The New Yorker), right up to the more style-orientated magazines of the 80s and 90s, including The Face, i-D, Blitz and Dazed & Confused.
The scope of the show, however, suggests a greater arc – and a joining of the dots from those earlier titles towards a new breed of agenda-setting magazines, celebrating values that truly matter: be it the updated feminism of The Gentlewoman or – dare we say it – Hole & Corner‘s emphasis on the care and attention of craftsmanship.
A giant ‘mind map’ in the main room (which also comes as a pull-out poster in the accompanying catalogue) lists the great and the good of indie magazines – or, as Gorman puts it, ‘traces the roots and interconnections of contemporary British independent magazine publishing across the arts, culture, design and lifestyle.’ Hole & Corner is there, of course (top centre left), alongside design-centric titles such as Eye, Creative Review and Disegno (although, interestingly, a line also directly connects us to Smash Hits, Mixmag and The Face – an acknowledgement of the previous lives of some of our staff and contributors).
As Claire Catterall, Senior Curator at Somerset House, says,
‘The experience of reading a magazine – of picking it up, leafing through the pages, being delighted by the graphics, the photography, the smell of ink and the texture of paper – is one of the great pleasures in life.’
At Hole & Corner, we couldn’t agree more – which is why print remains at the heart of everything we do. It’s informative to note how Nick Logan’s explanation of why he started The Face in 1980 could just as easily be describing today’s landscape: ‘The Face was my escape from a career where I struggled to explain myself to publishers or committees. No focus groups here: I was purely and wholeheartedly following instinct.’
In other words, print thrives when publishers are brave enough to tear it up…