Zines—short run and independently produced miniature magazines—have been a staple tool in various underground communities for decades. While traces of the zine aesthetic can be followed back throughout history, the true imagery of the contemporary zine was fathered back in the 1980s with punk rock culture being the topic of choice. Early punks would take their Xeroxed sketches, photos, literary musings—and whatever else their bleeding hearts desired—and compile them into small booklets, transforming the way information and knowledge was dispersed throughout the culture.
This aesthetic of the punk rock zine has since been adopted by other subcultures such as the skateboard and graffiti communities. Now, the notion of what a zine can encompass is for all intents and purposes, endless.
Luckily for a millennial like myself, zines are as powerful and relevant as ever. In celebration, here are 5 zine publishers who have produced titles that make me jealous I had nothing to do with them:
Cover of We Got Power! By David Markey and Jordan Schwartz
When hardcore punk hit LA—overflowing out of hubs like the iconic Roxy and Whiskey a Go Go—there were two (barely post-pubescent) high-schoolers ready to stay out way too late on school nights and concoct fake press presses to photograph and interview the up and coming bands. David Markey and Jordan Schwartz, the two main players in this venture, managed to produce six zines between 1981 and 1983 consisting of some of the earliest coverage of iconic hardcore punk bands such as Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Minor Threat and so much more. They're the only zine makers on my list not publishing today, but their influence and interest in the work is as potent as ever. That is way, way more than I accomplished by the age of 18.
From Hazardous Conditions and Unmasked Obstacles by Peter Sutherland; Co-Published by Nieves and Innen.
Cover art for Ed Templeton's The Debasing of Juanita; Published by Nieves
From Devils and Babies by Harmony Korine; Published by Nieves
Nieves, based out of Switzerland, is a publishing house to pay attention to for a few reasons—particularly because they tackle the craft of zine publishing by utilizing the crème de la crème of contemporary art. Not every zine publishing company simply has titles laying around from a chunk of my favorite modern day muses including Harmony Korine, Chris Johanson, and Ed Templeton. Because of this, they earn themselves a 100% guaranteed fresh seal of approval.
From Cash Only by AIGHTY; Published by NIGHTED
From The Sorrows of Young by Matthew Eloy; Published by NIGHTED
Ever since I was exposed to NIGHTED, my perception of the execution of the photozine has been altered. Gritty imagery aligning with photojournalistic undertones make this Bay Area-based collective one of my favorites. What also earns notable brownie points is the relentless grind of the camp. Only on its third year (est. 2012) NIGHTED has dropped dozens of titles and extended its reach to represent the brand at fests far and near. The camp will soon be releasing its 6th installment of NIGHTED Life—the collective’s signature group zine—with a release party/photo show to be held on October 30. More info here.
From Hamburger Eyes No. 3
From Hamburger Eyes No. 16(2)
Cover of Romance Warrior; Published by Hamburger Eyes
To talk photozines, one must never forget the contributions of Hamburger Eyes to the game. With 13 years of producing zines under its belt, HE has honed its look by continuously dropping that signature monochromatic, collage-filled style. Volume after volume, the series continues with images that entice the reader, invoke curiosity, and paint a much appreciated awkward and honest portrayal of the human experience.
Page from Broken Fingaz, Sex Picnic Vol.1
I still don’t really understand how exactly Broken Fingaz Crew do what they do. Their release “Sex Picnic, Vol 1” has earned them status in my mind as a collective that could literally draw anything, and I’m sure I will be dazzled beyond belief just as much as I’m appalled. Based out of Israel the crew is known for its risqué imagery, but more importantly, its strenuous attention to detail. If you’re ever in Berlin or Tokyo—or basically anywhere ever—sniff around for a BF mural and witness the craft firsthand. They have also released a series of zines titled "Suck on Titties."
In subcultural fashion—with major headlines foreshadowing the eventual demise of tangible printed literature and art—the underground responds tenfold. Hundreds of annual zine fests are held throughout the nation yearly—I went to three in Los Angeles this year alone—so it is evident that these small scale books hold major value to those who indulge in them.
(Image on top: Issue #5 of We Got Power! released in 1983 featuring Los Crudos [cover])
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