Friday 18 July 2008

Colophon interview the man behind a 1000 Words Photography Magazine, Tim Clark

COLOPHON:Magazine favourite(s) from your childhood.
TIM CLARK: The Face, Blueprint, Creative Review

Magazine favourite(s) that inspired you in your career.
HotShoe, Europe´s leading contemporary photography magazine. They helped me get my “foot in the door” as the old saying goes.

Magazine favourite(s) now.
FOAM, 032c, Purple and Next Level.

What else inspires and informs you?
People are my true well of inspiration. I take my hat off to anybody who lives a creative life and, needless to say, I really admire all those wonderful people who make art for no other reason than their sheer love of it. Being around and working with other artists and photographers is what makes me feel most alive.

Proudest moment of your career in magazines.
Well it is more of a series of them as opposed to one specific moment really. Just seeing 1000 Words get out there and knowing that it was jostling for attention along side all the other brilliant online photography projects was great for me. The feedback in particular has been nothing short of phenomenal. Receiving so many encouraging e-mails from various people whose opinions I respect enormously has left me in doubt that we have made a big impact, albeit initial. The fact that the website´s Stat Counter is averaging 2000 hits per day from unique visitors is another pretty good indicator that 1000 Words is winning the admiration of a large international audience.

Judging by what I have been told, people like that 1000 Words is as informative as it is innovative. While we have embraced the creative possibilities of what the internet can offer, I think it is fair to say that 1000 Words is more than just your average “website” and, at the same time, more than just your average “magazine”. The lay-out of the interface is refreshingly simple and functional so that the user can view the portfolio features as a smooth transition between the text and images which is quite unique. But more important than its look and feel, at least for me anyway, is that people rate 1000 Words for its quality content. I like to think of it as a treasure trove of information to which our readers come and rummage through in search of something new and alternative to what you would find in mainstream publishing. For instance, in the inaugural issue of 1000 Words we rooted out a remarkable talent called Paola de Grenet whose series on the Albino community living in a small region in Argentina was hitherto unpublished in photography journals. I´m quite frankly amazed she hasn´t had the exposure she deserves. I think the reason for this is either because editors are simply unaware that the work exists or because they tend to over-simplify her motivations for photographing “the other” as voyeuristic. At the other end of the spectrum, we took a look at two masters of the medium, Martin Parr and Candida Hoffer, but again featured their most recent fruits of labour which to many eyes had not been seen before. On the other hand, as a website, there is a wealth of material published on 1000 Words that you could never include in a printed magazine, such as our links section which provides an exhaustive resource for photographers who may be looking for information on say, competitions or funding bodies, as well as other online photography magazines for example. On the blog you can find lots of news on festivals, events and a wide variety of general info where the focus is clearly on emerging photographers.

Most well-known moment.
Given the fact that we haven´t been on the scene for that long I can´t really say to be honest. I don´t know, perhaps the article on 1000 Words that was published Creative Review.

Why is it so well known?
Because it´s Creative Review. Need I say more. It has generated a fair bit of interest in 1000 Words. I know it was only a small piece but it nevertheless made me feel very proud. It is a real honour to have people say such complimentary words about something you have created, especially when they come from somewhere like Creative Review which, for me, as I mentioned in response to one of your earlier questions, was my BIBLE for art and design when I was growing up.

Most important lesson learnt, and from who/where?
The most important lessons come from within, that´s the best form of education if you ask me. I have come to realise that the key to success is believing in your cause, working hard, caring more, wanting it more and sticking at it when the going gets tough. Suffice to say, talent does go along way too of course and a little bit of luck comes in handy but I think that, above all, it is tenacity that will give you the edge. Checking and re-checking the copy before passing it over to the art director is strongly advisable too.

Do you keep old copies of magazines? If so, what is your favourite in your collection?
Of course! Being a photographer means I am a natural hoarder of things. It is nothing compulsive or anything like that, I just think photography is more of a way of collecting things, curiosities and images, rather than a process of making pictures. I guess the same applies to accumulating stuff in my general life. Evidence of this can be found in the way my shelving unit groans under the heavy weight of all my books and magazines.

Choose three words to define your magazine.
Fresh, new,cutting-edge.

Why do you work in magazines?
Photography is my passion and profession and magazines/books form an essential part of its history. A magazine in itself is like a work of art in the sense that is a vehicle for self-expression. We are putting something out there for the whole world to see which is a clear reflection of my taste in photography and a projection of my voice. As for the design direction, anybody who knows me personally will testify that it comes across as very “me”: clean, light and uncluttered.

What is the magazine about?
1000 Words is an online magazine dedicated to highlighting the best work being produced internationally in photography today. Our idea is to encourage critical awareness with photography through engaging articles from widely published arts writers across the world. Furthermore, we are committed to showing portfolios of highly established photographers alongside those of emerging artists with the view to bringing their work to a wider audience. This is something that I cannot stress enough. Often incredibly diverse in terms of subjects, concepts, styles and techniques, yet by covering a wide spectrum of genres 1000 Words intends to make us reconsider the contemporary photograph.

Who reads it?
I am proud to say 1000 Words gets visitors from over 100 different countries and, according to our user demographic survey, we have a loyal community of readers that include photographers, collectors, curators, picture editors, art critics, university lecturers and photography students. Apart from that, many young, media savvy individuals who are interested in art, design and culture as well as general photography enthusiasts often drop by too.

How do you find innovative ways to talk to your readers?
We have an open submissions policy whereby all those photographers who send their work my way will have it featured on the blog so long as it meets a certain level of quality and, truth be told, ninety five per cent of it does which is fantastic. Of course, these portfolio “teasers” are occasionally interspersed with what I want to say and share but it is the user who very much dictates the content of the blog. The 1000 Words Blog sets out to act as a platform for up-and-coming talents in contemporary photography.

What do you like about the challenge of working in magazines?
Obviously I would have to say that I like rising to the challenge of improving the magazine from issue to issue, striving for originality and making sure 1000 Words is a distinct title from any other of its kind. Making the magazine different each time but still ensuring it´s signature stays the same is an interesting and fine balance.

What don't you like about the challenge of working in magazines?
Setting up and sustaining 1000 Words has been a tremendous amount of work for me to take on. I have to work evenings, nights, and quite often on the weekend in order to stay on top of everything, the negative upshot of which is this awful feeling of guilt I am burdened with for not being able to balance my professional and personal life. However, you have to push on through and keep telling yourself that all the hard work will pay off in the end. I know it sounds like a cliché but it is true. In the end, it is more than worth it. Also the need to constantly keep your finger on pulse can get a little tiring. Any honest editor will tell you that in order to follow the latest photographic trends one has to always be going to exhibitions, attending photo fairs, keeping an eye out for competition winners and reading other magazines in the sector which can at times make one feel incredibly overwhelmed, if not, slightly agitated.

In five years, what will you be working on?
I have big plans for 1000 Words. For example, I hope that, in five years time, we will have had at least a couple of printed publications under our belt with a world wide distribution to our name. Making a version in Spanish or Catalan is certainly an option as well so that I can communicate this project with the people I live among who don´t speak English and not just the people I left behind. As a side project, the curator, Pedro J Vicente Mullor and myself will be co-organising a string of exhibitions that will show work from the more emerging talents that we have featured in 1000 Words. We also plan to offer a portfolio review service that will operate on a more regular basis than what can normally be found once or twice a year at photography festivals. By taking place over the web it will not only be more affordable since it cancels out any travel expenses or hefty entrance fees but more effective and less stressful as it avoids any uneasy feeling of intimidation that participants usually experience at these events. Ultimately, we hope to become the primary resource for all things for photography on the web.

We are compiling answers from some of the most innovative magazine makers around the world today. Who else should we ask?
Next Level would be a good place to start. They have got an amazing thing going on there.

Finally, please give us a brief outline of your career:
I am a freelance writer and a practising photographer with a background in Photography and Visual Culture from Falmouth College of Arts and the University of Brighton, England. I was an exhibition tour guide at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol for a number of years before moving to Barcelona in 2004 where I have since worked as one of the art critics at the city´s magazine in English, The Metropolitan and collaborated with various photography magazines including Next Level, Foto8, HotShoe, Eyemazing, and Fotograf as their correspondent in Spain. In May 2008 I founded the online photography magazine, 1000 Words.

When and where did you start working in magazines?
Let me think....I suppose it could be traced back to when I was around ten or eleven years old. I remember inventing this dice game wherein I used to write commentaries about football matches for imaginary leagues of teams. I would even design their individual kits etc. Anyway, my point is that I compiled all these stories into what would become a magazine for that particular season, say 1988-89. It was nothing fancy, just a wad of lined paper stapled together that´s all. It sounds crazy I know, but as you can probably imagine, I was an only child and I quickly learnt how to keep myself entertained!

What are the most significant titles you've worked on?
All those listed previously.

What are you working on right now?
We are putting the second issue of 1000 Words together as we speak which, if we stay on schedule, will go live at the end of August. The large majority of time right now is taken up by liaising with the writers, chasing up images, negotiating advertising deals, updating the links section and what not. A new Multi-Media section will be added to the website in the near future which will consist of audio/visual interviews that we have done with different kinds of photographers in addition to some short documentary films too! As if that is not enough, I am currently preparing several presentations and talks that I have been invited to give towards the end of this year. They include, among others, a symposium at the Peace Museum in Guernika as part of the travelling exhibition, The Nuclear Project and also a photo-mag festival held at the University of Valencia where I will be speaking, in Spanish I might add, about 1000 Words and the performativity of the reader/viewer in relation to online magazines.

This interview was originally published on Colophon´s site here.