“What we come up against over and over again is young people who have kind of had their natural artistic curiosity beaten out of them in art-school.”
Dublin-based photographers Ellius Grace and George Voronov recently announced Junior Magazine 3: The Empathy Issue. They made their presence known back in 2016 when they released Junior Magazine Issue 1. They returned later that year with RIP Zine, a more experimental project. Then this time last year they shared Issue 2 with the world.
Individually, George and Ellius have worked between London and Dublin for Dazed, Vice, i-D, Huck, District and more, but it’s their tireless efforts to create a community of young Irish photographers that makes Junior Press special.
We catch up with them ahead of the launch of the new issue in Library Project this Thursday.
What was the most stressful moment?
Ellius: This year was particularly stressful due to the fact that we increased the amount of pages and content in this issue, and also had to release a month earlier than usual. We had many, many long FaceTime calls while I was still living in London, and then subsequently many long days and nights when I was back in Dublin.
I think one of the longest days was the Sunday before we handed the file off to print. We were in the office until 9pm, my left sock was wet because I wore old shoes in the rain that day, and I think we must have hit about five huge problems which we had to overcome in the evening.
George: I think I kind of bit off more than I could chew with the production of this issue. We had our Symposium at the end of March and before we could recover from the lead-up to that we were straight into the final stages of magazine production. There was so much to keep track of and I remember I had an assignment due for my masters one of those weeks. After weeks and weeks of working every day––long hours, shit food, too much coffee––I kinda got to a point where I felt that if the tiniest thing were to go wrong I’d just explode. It all built up to a single day when we had to send the final file off to print, pay our printing bill, and film a promo video. I’m pretty sure I was vibrating with stress that entire day.
Happiest/most relieved moment?
Ellius: There were a lot of rewarding moments along the way for this issue, like getting writing from Emmet Kirwan and Kojaque amongst many others, to feature alongside the photography. The biggest leaps in confidence usually came when we received draft designs from our designer Joshua Fanning. We really stepped up the ambition of the design this year and we can’t wait to show it to everyone. I would have to say though, the day we finally had all our files and payment sent in to our printers was the best day. The sun came out and George and I sat outside for a while finally able to relax.
George: This is a bit of a cop-out because it’s not strictly speaking part of the magazine production process but we organised a two-day symposium for emerging photographers in order to raise money for production costs. As much as I love working on the magazine, there was something really special about having a real-world event where people could come together and hang out. There was a great atmosphere across the two days and seeing people get something out of it was honestly, as lame as it might be, one of the most rewarding moments in my life.
What was the most difficult decision to make in the production process?
Ellius: The editing process is always tough, as we both get attached to work but ultimately have to make sacrifices throughout the process to keep the edit congruent an true to Junior. One of the most difficult production decisions we had to make though was about the printing of the cover. We wanted to move to a glossy cover this year, and were given the option of a glossy laminated cover. We knew it would be a real step up for the quality of the magazine but it would cost us extra money. The physicality and object nature of the magazine is something really important to us, but it was a tough call to part with more budget for this. In the end we went with it and we think it’s a huge step up for the feeling of the magazine when you pick it up.
George: Limiting coffee and burrito intake. We went down a dark path.
Favourite thing about this issue?
Ellius: We now have interviews with each project feature in this issue, and I really think they elevate the content to a much higher level than before. I think some of these pages are my favourite, the interplay between the artist’s voice and their work is really strong and striking. Also Florian Thoss’ photographs (one of which is on the cover) are just really amazing.
George: So I came across Oliver Smith’s project ‘Looking for Ghosts’ in which he photographs the mornings-after of raves in rural Ireland and I was instantly brought back to sitting in a theatre and watching a scene from Emmet Kirwan’s ‘Dublin Oldschool’. The scene takes place at a rave in Blessington and it perfectly encapsulates so many of the elusive qualities of music and party culture. I remember feeling like I was hit by lightning, like those two things were destined to be seen side-by-side. It kind of became my mission to put that feature together and when Emmet was kind enough to let us use that scene in the magazine it was like a dream come true. I can’t wait to see it in print. Going to be sticking it under everyone’s noses.
What are you most looking forward to after the stress of publishing the latest issue?
Ellius: I’m looking forward to winding the work down a bit and seeing the issue spread around. I love seeing it move into all these people’s homes and new contexts, not just a file on my computer or a thought in my head at night keeping me awake. I have a few personal projects and editorial pieces I’m working towards too and I think I might take a short holiday in July.
George: Honestly, I can’t wait to get back to my personal art practice. I spent the last six months or so kind of treading water and getting increasingly anxious about where I want to go as an artist. I started a masters last September and it took me the guts of those six months to figure out where I want my project to go. As soon as I felt like I was starting to build up some momentum production season came around and I had to put it on hold. Come summer time I just want to dive straight back in and start making personal work again. It means the world to me and the guilt of not making enough of it has been really eating away at me over the last few weeks.
Any new Junior things on the horizon?
Ellius: We have a number of things in the works, some more imminent than others. We will be releasing a zine in collaboration with Hen’s Teeth and This Greedy Pig during the summer, and are planning a really special and weird event for the launch. We’ll be continuing our work with District Magazine and have a number of other projects which we can’t quite talk about yet. We have really enjoyed the educational and community side of things that we’ve explored with our workshops, we definitely want to continue those too. So expect lots more in the coming year, we’ll be busy boys.
If money were no option, what would you like to do as Junior?
Ellius: We would really like to see Junior turn into a big community, an organisation that can support young photographers but is still connected to the scene on the ground. We want to be able to spread the word farther (and now that we have distribution for the magazine in the UK and Europe, we’re hoping to see that happening soon) and provide more and more opportunities to photographers. We’d love to be able to devote more time to this without worrying about money, but until that time we’ll truck on.
Also it’d be gas to have a float in the Paddy’s Day parade. Or a Junior private jet.
Based on three years of looking at the work of emerging Irish photographers, what’s the most important piece of advice/feedback you can give to practitioners wanting to improve their work and get published?
George: Honestly, this is the biggest cliché of an answer but it actually can’t be reiterated enough. Take more photos. What we come up against over and over again is young people who have kind of had their natural artistic curiosity beaten out of them in art-school. They’re essentially afraid to take pictures because they’ve been taught that art needs to be heavily researched and that images need to be part of a “body of work”. That’s all well and good but it can have the unintended effect of stifling creativity. What we try to do as Junior is celebrate the long-term projects but also embrace the more intuitive and diaristic side of photography. Making pictures for pictures sake. We want to help people fall back in love with their artistic practice. It’s the only way to stay sane.
Why did you settle on ‘empathy’ as the issue’s theme?
George: Myself and Ellius were going back and forth on possible ideas for a while but whatever we came up with always sounded too contrived. It turns out that the perfect theme was sitting under our noses the whole time.
We kind of get into this in the opening of the magazine but it seems that all of our themes have been a reflection of what we want to change in the world. I think empathy is the key to everything. I try to be pretty plugged into news and current affairs and whenever big polarising debates come up, its the lack of empathy between different perspectives that always affects me. With the Repeal referendum happening next month the need to empathise with the female experience is definitely on our minds too. Looking at it now, its the only choice that made sense.
What music were you listening to?
Ellius: I was listening to a lot of King Krule, Sade, Rex Orange County, Daniel Caesar, Kali Uchis, GUM and River Tiber during this one. Also a load of Irish music, namely Loah, Fehdah, Kojaque, Mango, Shookrah and Wyvern Lingo. George also keeps me supplied with weird techno and electronic tunes, Plant Genome by Tropical Interface stands out.
George: So pretty much anyone that has had any contact with me over the last few months knows that I’ve been rinsing the Russian music pretty hard. I feel Ellius has probably suffered a lot of that under my influence.
Click here to find out more about the launch of Junior Issue 3.