Top image: ‘Our Strong Brotherhood’ photography by Lola Paprocka and Pani Paul
Launched in 2013, Paper Journal presents a distinct approach towards contemporary photography via its online platform, showcasing new and established photographers. Now in its fifth year, Paper Journal has announced its debut print issue, drawing together the best international image-makers of the moment in tangible form.
Titled Paper Journal 01, the publication offers a fresh insight into themes of identity and representation that lie at Paper Journal’s core. The featured photography emphasises the importance of exploring different forms of imagery – in particular, this issue steers away from the visual tropes and language associated with the Western gaze as a means to frame ‘other’ cultures. Instead, a varied and balanced approach is favoured: “we realised it was more important to share new work; which is something that Paper Journal has always championed,” explains founding editor, Patricia Karallis.
Considering the hyper-digitalised landscape that creatives navigate today, the transition to print is an “opportunity to slow down and absorb the content offered.” Here, we talk to Karallis about the value of diversity, facing the challenges of expanding an established digital platform and collaborating with a vibrant community of photographers.
Aïsha Diomandé: As Paper Journal celebrates its fifth year, why was it important to transition from an online platform to a print edition? In what way do you hope that your readers will interact with the content?
Patricia Karallis: Paper Journal as an online platform has always celebrated printed matter, via photobook reviews, publisher interviews, and inviting photographers to share their own favourite photobooks. To be running an online platform for five years and to continue to stay relevant is demanding and quite a feat, I wanted to celebrate this by turning towards a printed version. All contributing writers, except for Brad Feuerhelm, have previously written for Paper Journal, and a lot of the format is the same, although we have new additions to the printed version such as the spotlight series of interviews where we speak to a selection of our favourite publishers and up-and-coming photographers in separate interviews; also the Portfolio series is another take on our ‘We Love’ section on the site, where we share new projects from up-and-coming photographers.
Because Paper Journal is very image led and especially as it’s so easy for us as consumers to scroll through pages on our devices without any real focus, I hope that by turning to print it will give our readers the opportunity to slow down and absorb the content offered. The mere fact that people are buying the issue means they are investing in Paper Journal, and I don’t mean that in a financial way; more that in doing so, they are investing in the issue as a resource that offers more than just images to scroll through, but also offers analytical and in-depth discussions surrounding photography.
AD: Overall, how was it creating your first physical publication? Were there any difficulties/surprises?
PK: It was definitely a very long, slow process. Planning for the issue began towards the end of last year. I worked closely with our editor Giada to inform the direction of the issue and we’d initially toyed with the idea of it being a kind of retrospective issue, so taking key interviews, features and so on previously published online and putting them into print. After a while our motivation changed and we realised it was more important to share new work; which is something that Paper Journal has always championed.
The whole process – from commissioning writers, requesting images, proof-reading, selecting paper stock, designing the issue and working with our printer – was all done in-house. I had Catalogue studio who came on board in the early stages of the design process to set the tone and style of the issue, and they also stayed on as a consultant. Overall, it felt like a mammoth feat, and was very stressful at times, but I was so excited to get all this amazing work out to our readers, and this is what really drove my ambition to make it succeed.
AD: To you, how important are physical publications to photography? Do you prefer to see photography in print?
PK: On a commercial level, print is very important; I’ve had experiences in the past with certain photographers not wanting to take on a commission as the story was only being published online. I think some see being in print as validation; particularly as an artist trying to break that period between from being a new photographer to becoming an established name.
The sheer amount of book fairs, awards, and small publishers available today is phenomenal, and a reader’s interest or passion is testament to that, as it’s what has fuelled this growth in publishing. To answer your question, I do prefer to see photography in print, it feels like the most natural format for the medium, however it’s also about context and a lot of work produced today is more suited to being viewed on screen.
AD: Can you talk us through the themes explored in Paper Journal Vol. 1?
PK: I didn’t set out with a theme in mind when commissioning content, however once I started looking at all the projects together, I noticed they were based around identity and representation. From Farah Al Qasimi’s More Good News, which looks at decoding representations of masculinity within the US and UAE; Camille Lévêque and her multiple identities that make up the Live Wild Collective; Gilleam Trapenberg’s Big Papi, a series which explores stereotypes surrounding masculinity and representation of men from his home town in Curaçao; and Our Strong Brotherhood, a series of portraits by Lola Paprocka and Pani Paul, depicting a young group of friends living in a small costal town in Australia, who represent a strong counter-culture to the popular view of Australia and its laid back lifestyle.
AD: Considering that you work on an international scale, how does this open up new ideas about visual representations in different cultures?
PK: It is really important to me to that we showcase different types of work and especially from under-represented or minority groups, as well as new and upcoming names. We promote an open submission policy which encourages people to send their work on a regular basis. For example, we received over 400 submissions from a recent call-out for our first photobook.
We also show work from established names, but we try and take a balanced approach to what we publish. Aside from artists already mentioned, we also share an interview with Vietnamese-French fashion photographer Nhu Xuan Hua; as well as a project which was especially produced for us by Singaporean photographer Nguan. These are just two examples of many published in our issue. The overall aim is to steer away from the visual tropes and language associated with the representation of non-Western cultures by Western photographers.
AD: Have you noticed any photography trends crop up this year?
PK: I still feel there’s a strong focus on still life and digital manipulation; however what I keep seeing more and more of is stories of migration, of Trump’s America, of the many water shortages around the globe (South Africa, in particular); so a new shift towards social and environmental experiences.