Exclusive first look

Behind the zine championing the next generation of creatives
Art | 4 August 2017
Text Thalia Chin

Top image: Photography by Rosie Matheson 

Starting as a platform for young artists in Brighton to collaborate and gain feedback on their work, Cortex (formerly Hotbox) is now home to a community of over 300 creatives hosting numerous events including concerts, film screenings and exhibitions to bring their work to the fore.

The collective’s latest project is a new zine, which features several of their rising photographers. Driven by the need to move away from social media as the key platform for emerging artists to display their work, Issue 001 offers a tangible and curated range of photography from both recognised editorial photographers to never-before-published talents.

Here we catch up with the co-founders of Cortex, Benji Reeves and Reuben Selby to learn more about the new project.


“Cortex is all about the next generation; it’s about progression and looking towards the future. “

Thalia Chin: Can you tell us a bit more about Cortex and why you think it is important that platforms like this exist?
Benji Reeves: Cortex is a rising platform for creatives, a place where people can learn, improve on their craft, build connections and be discovered for their talent – whether that be in the music, art, fashion, photography, film or architecture fields. Cortex is designed for creatives to gain credibility and knowledge from other like-minded thinkers. Right now, we have an exclusive Facebook group with around 300 members which amalgamates the above elements, as well as our social medias like Instagram and Twitter to promote the most talented up-and-coming/established minds in the creative industries to the public. The Cortex zine is just one of the branches and forms of exposure that we are using.
Reuben Selby: Cortex is all about the next generation; it’s about progression and looking towards the future. It’s about breaking down the prejudices that Instagram, Twitter and social media have and providing a non-judgemental community that will collectively contribute towards the growth of an individual. If you’re talented you deserve the recognition. I see so many incredible artists, writers, musicians being neglected, so we are here to provide a platform to showcase talent that’s under appreciated.

“It’s about breaking down the prejudices that Instagram, Twitter and social media have and providing a non-judgemental community that will collectively contribute towards the growth of an individual”

Thalia: What do you think are some of the key hurdles faced by young creatives struggling to gain exposure?
Benji: There’s a number of factors, sometimes it’s as simple as timing. Everyone is on their own path and it may seem like others are progressing quicker, but your time will come. Just keep pushing, breaking down those doors and it’ll come, just focus on you. Maybe there’s not an outlet that dedicates solely to upcoming creative, maybe we’ll be the flagship for that in due time…
Reuben: Money. Having to fit into society’s expectations. Who you know or more importantly who you don’t know. People generally don’t want to see something different because they are scared of the unknown, so for the people out there being innovative it can take years for popular culture to catch up. Hence the exposure they receive is delayed. In the time without exposure, individuals begin to question their ability and relevance – some may even give up. As human beings we all need to feel our worth and this is why it’s so important, especially at beginning of our careers to be given confidence through being appreciated.

Photography by William Sheepskin

Thalia: What was your motivation behind producing this zine?
Benji: The motivation was to create something authentic and special to showcase our ethos and the brilliant work created by our group members. We really hope to inspire a generation of creatives with issue 001.
Reuben: Because the contributors deserve it. If the big magazines aren’t making space for the upcoming talent then why not make your own? It’s a stepping stone – for many of the contributors it will be the first time they’ve ever had their work in print and that’s something special. On top of all the logical reasons to why we’re producing this zine is that it brings the community closer together and encourages even more collaboration within the group.

Thalia: What made you decide to take on the zine form?
Benji: Again, it’s that authenticity of having something physical in your hand that you can keep forever. It wouldn’t be the same if everything was displayed online, it all seems very robotic – that’s why we try to have regular meet-ups with our group members through events and shoots. Making a physical product still seems very genuine and it’s something that requires attention, unlike the internet which is ostensibly deteriorating that attention span.
Reuben: It’s timeless. Looking back, this zine will be the beginning of something new. Also, print is not dead.

Thalia: Talk us through the artists whose work has gone into the zine?
Benji: The zine will be split up into sections of art, fashion, photography and a little bit of music – it’ll feature photography contributions from Rosie Matheson, Mia Clark, Polly Rose, Elijah Horne, Woody Rankin, Oleg Koval, Karolina Wybraniec, Hannah Sheridan, Theo Williams, William Sheepskin, Louis Tuakli-Mason and Alf Santos. There are also interview features with musicians New World Ray and Toni Njoku, artists Emmanuel and Lemuel Unaji, Field of Ponies fashion designer Julie Berube and photographer Rosie Matheson. It’s an exciting line-up that highlights how diverse our platform is. We can’t reveal too much because we want people to have their own perspectives on the artists and their work.
Reuben: It’s a real montage of work. We like to mix things up and see what happens. This is not purely a fashion magazine where everything looks super glamorous. It’s real people showing you a glimpse of their own worlds. The photographer I am most excited about is Wybraniec Karolina, a 17 year old photographer from Poland. I randomly stumbled upon her Instagram and thought she was way ahead of her time. Also Woody Rankin will be featuring some incredibly touching images from a charity documentary series he shot in India.

Photography by Oleg Koval

Thalia: I am very excited to see the final product. When and where will I be able to get my hands on a copy?
Benji: It won’t disappoint! You can donate to our Kickstarter campaign which has various rewards and a launch party we intend to host in conjunction late August/early September at Kamio in London – more details to be announced soon. The donation for the Kickstarter is like a pre-order for the zine. It ends on the 18th August, so if we have sufficient funds to make it, print orders will be processed and sent off a week later. So be sure to help us out on that front, it’s literally all or nothing so we need everyone to push and donate as much as they can.

Thalia: What is next for Cortex?
Benji: We really want to progress culture forward. I know that sounds cliche but we really believe the talent the group possesses has the ability to inspire. We want to keep pushing forward with our endeavours like the events, zines, building our website, along with innovative ideas to put our members on a pedestal. We need to do everything possible in our lifetime to spark co-operation and change in our world, why repel each other when we can work together for the betterment of humanity? The zine is just the start of a conglomeration of ideas and techniques that will aid our mission to inspire the next generation of creatives.
Reuben: The unexpected.

Donate to Cortex zine 001 Kickstarter here


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