“I love the fine-art side of photography but I think anyone who has really dug around can agree that a lot of it is dry as fuck.”
Ellius Grace and George Voronov are back with their third publication under the Junior Press umbrella. The pair released Junior Magazine Issue 1 in early summer of 2016.
They returned in November with RIP Magazine, a more experimental project. They’re now funding Junior Issue 2 through Kickstarter, and they need your help. Click here to pledge to their valiant cause of promoting young Irish photographers.
We caught up with them to discuss the new issue and whether live music photography is still necessary in 2017.
Firstly, I think you should win some sort of award for your Kickstarter video… What acting background do you have?
George: Well I’d like to thank the academy…
Ellius: We are very happy with that video, yes. When we decided to return to Kickstarter, I knew we had to raise the stakes when it came to the video. I went about thinking of a concept that would be both informative but would still be silly and have that *crappy aesthetic* we have adopted for a lot of our advertising work.
I feel like our acting would not have looked as good if it wasn’t for the production value and Daire Collins who manned the cameras and edited with us. Trying to make the video look as big budget as possible was great fun when in reality we didn’t spend much. Thanks also to Michael McDermott and South Studios for letting us film through the night on the premises.
Junior Magazine has changed to Junior Press, what prompted the subtle change?
Ellius: When we released Issue 1 of Junior we weren’t really looking to the future. We just wanted to bring something out that showcased Irish photography. A few months after the release we had stopped having publishing nightmares so we decided to take a closer look at the Junior brand. We decided that moving forward we needed a wider umbrella than just Junior Magazine. We realised that the magazine was our flagship product but we needed to expand our brand to cover more than just that.
Junior Press allows us to do all sorts of things, and while we have only started our website lately and released one other zine apart from Junior, we have big plans for the coming future. Junior Press is our way of fostering a collective of photographers, where we can release short-run zines and artist editions, experiment on how these can take form and diversify photographic content in Ireland and abroad.
Junior Issue One, RIP, now Issue Two, is there any left field bits that we can expect from JP?
George: I really hope so. As Ellius said, the whole idea of expanding out from just making a magazine was done with the intention of freeing us up to mess around outside the formal structures of a magazine. Publishing RIP was a case of us throwing out the rule book and I found that whole process to be really liberating and fun as hell.
I love the fine-art side of photography but I think anyone who has really dug around can agree that a lot of it is dry as fuck. I think serious and earnest photography projects are amazing but why not carve out some room for different ways of engaging with the medium. I’m not the first person to say this either but why not have more funny projects, silly projects, and projects that are just kind of weird and uncertain.
I think young people (myself included) have a habit of trying to make “serious” work because they think either consciously or subconsciously that working on those sorts of projects is how you get taken seriously in the art world. Once again, sometimes this can be done to great effect but other times the work can feel quite stuffy and not so honest. So much in the same way that I way prefer an amazing, smart comedy to a poorly written and pretentious drama, I want to apply the same approach to photography and zines are a great way of doing that.
Issue One explored youth culture, appropriately because the whole idea of Junior is to celebrate young photographers. What’s the concept of this issue?
Ellius: This issue is based around the theme of Freedom. Freedom is something that is very relevant in today’s society, as well as being relevant to the making of creative work. While some of the stories within the issue deal very closely with freedom of the body, of nationality and free will, others are related simply because they are created with creative freedom. Something we are trying to explore is the idea of what people make when they are free of fear and limitation. The themes in Junior Magazine are a way to loosely curate and link the work together, so each project and editorial feature really has its own place within the whole.
In your Kickstarter video you mention there will be more editorial in this issue. What made you go down that route?
George: When we sat down for our first conversation about “the second issue” we had a look through Junior 1 and really tried to pick it apart. We both love how the first issue came out but we realised that it was very much a product of who we were at that time. It was our first attempt at making a magazine and the entire production schedule was dictated from the onset by Angel setting us a launch-date in the Library Project.
From our very first meeting we had three months to make a magazine so we had to figure out a way of pairing everything down and making things as straightforward as possible. What came out of that first Junior 2 meeting was a desire to have different ways of engaging with photography. It was a case of making Junior more “magazine-ey” while still keeping it recognisably itself. Both myself and Ellius are really interested in the interplay of text and images and in collaborating with different types of creative people so expanding the brief seemed like a no-brainer.
I mean it’s editorial in a very loose sense. Essentially, what we mean is that there will be different features within the magazine and some of those will lean quite heavily on the interplay between text and images.
Is it perhaps easier for non-photographers who pick up the zine to contenxtualise the work with some editorial?
Ellius: I think issue 1 was still easy to pick up from an outside perspective, as we strived to make it a beautiful object at its simplest. Yes, if you know how to read image sequences you begin to gain more but we want to serve this basic instinct that everyone has, to identify something beautiful and appreciate it. With issue 2 we wanted more varied content to appeal to people who are more keen on reading rather than looking.
Our last zine, RIP, was a way for us to experiment with form and content, and we took some of the lessons we learnt then to heart. There will be more interaction between image and text, as well as between the image and the design of the magazine too. We’re working with our new creative director, Joshua Fanning to nail down a design philosophy that serves both the theme and ethos of the magazine, while also providing a great reading experience.
Just something I noticed, District and Junior issues seem to be a little synced in release schedules… Stars tend to align…
George: Hey baby, what’s your sign? I mean we love what you guys do and we’re into our little publication friendship thing we got going.
Working with both of you guys over the last year or so on various projects it’s clear you have an interest in music. Would you consider a music zine, or are you happy working with other publications to explore this interest?
Ellius: As I mentioned before, we have lots of plans for the coming months and years, which include a whole host of zines and published pieces. While our focus is still firmly on documentary and project photography we are always on the lookout for more and varied work. A zine about a music sub-culture could definitely be on the cards if we find the right photographer and project. I am also working on maybe bringing out something with an amazing musician who has been photographing for years. Still in early discussions but watch this space.
George: I think part of our ethos at Junior is that we’re willing to consider pretty much anything. For us the question is just basically “is there an interesting story here?” and, if so, can we tell that story in an interesting way? Both of us are definitely into music so there’s definitely scope there for interesting ideas.
How do you see the landscape of Irish music right now? What are your favourite aspects?
George: Not trying to suck up too much Eric, but District’s been doing a bang-up job of championing the amazing hip hop coming out of Ireland recently. There’s so much young talent out there which is amazing to see. Nightlife-wise, Discotekken consistently puts on the best nights. It’s really nice to see the slightly more out-there sides of dance music getting a look-in too. DJ Sotofett was here in October and I’m still kicking myself for missing it.
The other thing is that my girlfriend moved up to Belfast last year so I’ve been up and down a lot over the last while. She’s a musician herself as Fears so through her I’ve been exposed to some amazing bands coming out of Belfast. There’s an interesting interplay going on up there between music and visual art with nights like Neo Neo so watching her shows and the people she plays with is always super interesting. There’s also Robocobra Quartet who are one of my favourite things at the moment. They’re doing something that’s very much their own which I really love.
Ellius: I think the Irish music scene is as strong as ever. Many of the major cities in Ireland have been fostering brilliant talent and vibrant scenes for years, but now Irish music is spreading farther and in more varied ways than ever before. From the new wave of hip hop with Rejjie Snow and Rusangano Family, to the more ethereal work of Come On Live Long and New Jackson, there is so much coming out of Ireland.
I used to gig around Dublin in a band myself and there are so many people you find busting their asses to put on live acts. Organisers like Word Up Collective and Diskotekken, venues like The Sugar Club, Tengu and Whelans, and festivals like Higher Vision and Knockanstockan all give me high hopes for Irish music in the future.
What music are you guys listening to at the moment?
Do you think the role of the live music photographer is as important in 2017, when everyone thinks they’re a photographer now?
Ellius: I’m not very involved in the world of live music photography but I think there’s a comparison to be drawn between this and photo journalism. The news is now so often told through the cameras and phones of witnesses to scenes, rather than photographers themselves. What you get with a by-stander’s recording is immediacy and a certain amount of authenticity, but it takes a trained photographer to create a story rather than simply cover it.
This is the same for music photography I think. Someone with a trained eye can show a new side to anything, and honestly the less hour-long recordings of live concerts there are on YouTube the better. One last thought actually: if you are going to take a photo of a concert on your phone, please don’t use your flash. Unless you’re trying to create a beautiful shine off the heads of the people in front of you there Literally. Is. No. Use for it. Plus it’s rude and annoying.
George: Honestly, to me, not so much. Pre-internet, photographs of live-music served a very concrete purpose of disseminating information about a far-off musical culture. The whole phenomenon of fan-zines played into that. If you look at America, people from Boise, Idaho could see a photo of Henry Rollins freaking out in a club in LA and that could be their portal into an entire scene. They also served a purpose of deifying these iconic musicians. They elevated people like Bowie by putting them on a pedestal. Now there’s so much information available that things just don’t work in that way anymore. People in Boise, Idaho can listen to a Novelist record because it’s streamed online. You can follow him on Twitter and see what he ate for breakfast.
I do think there’s a really interesting space within music photography to look at things from a documentary and sociological perspective and try pick out what these cultures are about. Music is a great mirror for society both on a thematic and aesthetic level so picking apart a specific culture can be a great way of picking apart aspects of society as a whole.
You have the Library Project for a week in May. What diabolical schemes do you have planned?
George: Well we open the Junior Extravaganza on May 22 at which point we will be exhibiting works from the Junior family. The plan is to plaster the walls of The Library Project with amazing photography and create a really engaging space. Our whole philosophy with Junior is to try get photography out there so we will be selling photographs as posters at very reasonable prices to facilitate that. Then on Thursday 25 we’ll be launching Junior 2. We’re hoping the launch night will be a serious hootenanny but we also have some more things in store which we’ll be announcing as time goes on. If we get enough money on our Kickstarter we’ll try summon the devil.
Ellius: George and I will be in The Library Project almost every day to chat to anyone who comes by, so pop in any time, we might even have spot prizes and the odd mariachi band. Only time will tell. Apart from the launch of Issue 2 on the 25th we are planning two other events in the space. We will be releasing full details on these once we have it fully sorted out!
Click here to pledge to the Junior Magazine Issue 2 Kickstarter.