Keeping it Honest: An Interview About a New Film Photo Quarterly

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It isn’t often that you hear about a new photography magazine starting up. It’s much rarer than that to hear about a new photography magazine dedicated solely to film photography, but that is the case with Honest. Born of a shared passion between three friends, Honest. is a quarterly magazine dedicated to all things film. It’s another sign that the medium isn’t dead, and it had a successful launch earlier this year. Here, we talk with the three folks behind the magazine: Kaveh Tabatabaie, Luca-Mercedes Stemer and Stefanie Neunteufl.

For more about Honest., you can check out the website, and you can order the inaugural issue here. They had their launch on January 22 in Gowanus, and will start an Indiegogo campaign soon. Their Vienna launch will be at Heurer/Kunsthallencafe on June 17.

Phoblographer: How did the idea for Honest. come about, and what was the planning process like?

Kav: HONEST. grew out of a conversation between the three of us about what we looked forward to seeing in photography, the type of photos that got us excited, and how important it was for us to be able to connect with photography on a personal level. That sounds a bit serious, but it was actually us just gushing about what we loved, and when we realized how much we had in common – all of us being obsessed with the look and depth of analog, of the special feeling of having a physical photograph to view in detail and get lost in – we pushed each other to do something to get more of that out into the world.

The process of translating this shared passion into something real started the night we had that conversation – we all spontaneously took on a set of duties, gave ourselves jobs and titles, and started exploring our networks to see what we could put together. We thought finding the right people interested in sending us their analog photography – negatives and all – would be the hardest part, and we were totally wrong. The response we got from people, the enthusiasm, was amazing – and in the end we got more great quality content than we knew what to do with. The hardest parts, the things that set us back in time, money, and effort were all difficulties most small businesses face, like distribution and costs and all the details and fine print that go into a new venture. The creative aspect of it, it was all love, nothing but fun and pure excitement. All in all, it took us less than 3 months from the birth of the concept to having it go to print.

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Phoblographer: Many photographers make small magazines as a way to connect with others and market their work. What purpose will Honest serve, and what kind of work will grace its pages?

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© Stefanie Neunteufl

Kav: The original purpose was just to make this thing for ourselves, to put together a collection of photos that we love in a medium we love, and kind of just hope other people would dig it too. But the more we reached out, the more we saw positive reactions to the concept and the photos we had, and it brought out the same sort of excitement in people. Our main purpose now is to get the work of our photographers out there – work we love – and to create and grow a platform for contemporary analog photography that isn’t campy or snobby. People who love analog are often made out to be Luddites, as if we’re at war with digital. This couldn’t be further from the truth. All we want is to get great analog work out there in the medium and quality it deserves to be seen in.

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© Hans Jürgen Hein

Phoblographer: What’s the idea behind the name Honest.?

Kav: Speaking for all of us, finding a name or a title has always been a particularly time-consuming and frustrating part of any creative endeavor. Luckily for us, Luca nailed it the night of our first meeting. It wasn’t brought to a vote or anything, she just had this name for the project and it fit, it felt right from the first time she said it. From the concept, to the minimalist style of the magazine itself, and the untouched nature of the photographs we published, it sort of fit everything perfectly – the name wrapped the project up in a really neat and satisfying way. Of course, we also saw the irony pretty early on in calling a publication devoted to photography “Honest”, given the tendency of photographs to present only a very limited glimpse into the reality of a scene or subject, but really anything creative or artistic in nature can carry that stigma. Still, what we see in these photos, for us, it’s as honest as it gets.

Phoblographer: Starting a film photography magazine these days is a risky move. What are some the ways in which you’ll keep Honest. afloat?

Kav: We knew that and accepted that from the start. The world of print is constantly anxious, just waiting to become completely obsolete. We needed to get out from under that cloud of wariness before we did anything else, and once we accepted that it simply had to be in print to do the photographs justice, and to do our photographers justice, there wasn’t any hesitation to continue in that way. We’ve got a considerable amount of money invested personally from the partners, and our supporters have kept us going through pre-orders and magazine and merchandise purchases. For the time being, a Kickstarter campaign is in the works, and through it we hope to build a larger subscriber base. We’re also looking into selling ad space in our next issue, but any ads we run would have to conform with tone and style of the issue, which is set by the photo series we feature. Looking forward, ads are gonna play a considerable role, and with ads we might be able to reduce the price of the magazine and make it more accessible, but we’re being very cautious in not letting advertisements take anything away from our content.

Phoblographer: Are there any magazines that inspired the creation of Honest?

Kav: Not necessarily, no. Luca sort of knew from the beginning how she would want it to look, or more importantly, feel. In the process we had to adjust a bit here and there, we had to cut one big idea in particular due to costs, for example. We all had a pretty clear and similar vision in mind after the night when HONEST. was born.

Phoblographer: How long have you been practicing photography, and what is it about film photography that drives you?

Luca: I started with photography when I was 12 years old after finding my dads old Leica camera, Since the first roll of film my heart beats for photography all along the way, I knew I had found the one thing I really loved and that inspires me to this day.

Kav: I couldn’t call myself a photographer, but the one thing that attracts me to photography more than all else is the feeling of having captured a moment, stolen it back from being lost to time, and preserving it. Film photography is unparalleled in its ability to do this.

Stef: It was only a couple years ago when I started to bring single use cameras with me wherever I went and it became exciting for me to wait and see the outcome of my adventures a couple weeks later. It is that excitement that kept my love for analog photography growing. I am not interested in taking perfect shots, I find beauty in the imperfections of a photo.

For more about Honest., check out their website, or follow them on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

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