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Zines, Scenes and Cross-Creatives, or: Polymathy, Everyone’s Doing It

Matt Martin is a photographer, curator, artist and zine publisher from London. He chats to us about the idea of cross-creatives in an industry, where the zine industry is going and how he works with images in any medium that is the best match for his preferred practice.

I grew up down in Devon”, he told me. “I got into photography through the punk and graffiti scene I was in. I started it in college and just fell in love with it.” He then got a job in a photo lab and started to make more zines and do shoots with his mates. “I was lucky I had great access to film and printing. I put on group exhibitions in disused spaces and put a lot of my photography on the street through wheat paste and photocopies.”

After getting a job as a fashion photographer in Brighton and working at a gallery down there for about a year, he moved to london to join Ken at Doomed Gallery and continue his work.

Doomed is a DIY art gallery in Dalston, East London. They support up and coming artists and students with a gallery space that is affordable. They also host talks and lectures as well as our curate their own projects.

One of the project they’re currently working on, alongside planning future zines for book fairs, is, ‘Zines of the world 2’, which is an open submission zine exhibition, which received over 300 zines when they exhibited ‘zines of world 1’ a few years ago. Matt tells me how they also have a new unmanned digital project space for showing video work at the front of the gallery, displayed when the gallery is closed.

Matt said he wouldn’t really call doomed gallery a publishing house, he says they make a small run of black and white zines of artists work that they like. “It’s pretty much just me and a photocopier in my bedroom making zines.”

Matt Martin, ‘L.O.S.A.N.G.E.L.E.S’, courtesy of Matt Martin

But why zines? “I like zines because I like to collect, and I also like to own stuff by artists that they have physically made rather then just a book of theirs by a publisher.” He says that zines are accessible and affordable, “I get a kick out of knowing they made this in their studio or bedroom. The subjects are always kinda punk and raw – I think that’s what people like about them.

Matt has been making zines for the last 12 years, he said: “I think the zine boom is over for me personally. There was a time in those early days where zines just seemed to be everywhere and people were making great little publications and shooting loads of fun, great work.”  Matt blames the loss of excitement on the fact he’s older now. But he continues, “I mean, I still make zines nearly everyday and I love finding new ways to print and bind them but content wise I’m a bit bored of most photography zines.”

Despite his lackluster approach to the content of some photography zines, the medium he’s worked with over a decade, Matt said, “self publishing will always be around and continue to grow – it’s the grass roots of DIY.”

Many creatives nowadays don’t stick to one medium of creativity. There’s musicians making fashion, there’s designers making music. There’s photographers becoming models and vice versa. When I asked matt why he used varying creative mediums, and why he thought other people did, he said “I think people get bored of making one type of work”. He then mentions how the skill level needed for a job is much higher than it used to be, “you kind of need to be able to cover all aspects. Most photographers now also do video and aspects of design but I think it’s good that you don’t just have to stick to one thing.”

He continued: “I’m a bit bored with a lot of new photography. Fashion photography a few years back seemed really exciting but now there are just so many fashion photographers all shooting in the same style, it’s hard to tell who’s work is who’s.” perhaps it’s time for creatives to switch it up even more.

Matt classes himself as a photographer, curator, artist and zine publisher, “but all these parts use photography in some way,” he said. “I love working with images so I find this the best medium for my practice. I like doing some design work but that’s all done on the photocopier and working more in a cut and paste style. I’m trying to spend as little time on the computer as possible.”

I don’t no when you are meant to find your way as an artist. I hope I’m still trying out different things when I’m old and grey.”

Matt Martin, ‘American Xerography’, courtesy of Matt Martin

Words by Eliza Frost

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