Thursday, July 6, 2023

Zines Saved My Life

Larry Wolf, First Zine (2021)
Zines became a source of joy for me in the middle days of the COVID pandemic when it looked like this would go on forever. January 2021. The depths of winter. My photo buddy Shawn Rowe was teaching an online class on making photo zines. Other photo friends were going to be there. I was psyched. Little did I know it would be more than just another photo class. It would change my life.

Zines answered that impossibly awkward question: “What do I do with my photographs?” Frame them and put on a wall? In an album to be forgotten on a shelf? A few more bits of flotsam and jetsam in the flood of social media? 

The thrill of something to hold. Something to pass around. Very tangible. A great way to connect with one Forever stamp during the isolation of COVID. Something beyond the virtual. No big deal. Just do it.

The whole thing engaged me. The challenge of the layout and folding. The challenge of what images to use. The constraints of working with a single sheet. The challenge of the printer not always printing the same (color shifts, front-back alignment). Challenges and constraints that resonated with how I think and how I work.

Sojourner Truth,
I Sell the Shadow (1864-65)
One of my art buddies started saying that the single-sheet mini-zines I make are my calling card, that everyone should have a zine calling card. What an idea! It echoes to the early days of photography when cartes de visite were all the rage, some personal, some political (check out Sojourner Truth and her phrase “I sell the shadow to support the substance” -- including filing for copyright to protect her sales, though now public domain).

And then finding other zine makers!!! Chicago Zine Club, Zine Party, Quimby’s and Zine Mercado became my opening to others, people I exchange with, people I’ve become friends with. Now, as the in-person indoor events pick up, a whole world.

Zines are how I express the random movements that catch my eye, the deep grief of a friend whose wife has died or the life-affirming energy that my cancer diagnosis and treatment unleashed. Conceptual. Emotional. Rough and ready.

I am drawn into the magic of these paper objects, learning from origami, from mathematics (hyperbolic paraboloids are nested squares), from my childhood (fortune tellers/cootie catchers), and from other artists. It’s all marvelous and amazing. 

Things I love to make and love to share.

To be published in Behind the Zines, Billy McCall (Summer 2023)  

My zine related blog posts (includes this one and several others). 

No comments:

Post a Comment