David James looks back on 10 years at AnOther

Launching today is Everything That Matters, an online exhibition by David James, celebrating ten years of his work as creative director of AnOther magazine. We talked to James about his collaborations with photographers including Craig McDean and Nick Knight, his love of type, and why he has decided to move on from the mag after a decade…

Launching today is Everything That Matters, an online exhibition by David James, celebrating ten years of his work as creative director of AnOther magazine. We talked to James about his collaborations with photographers including Craig McDean and Nick Knight, his love of type, and why he has decided to move on from the mag after a decade…

Everything That Matters, which can be found online at everythingthatmatters.com, includes a selection of James’ favourite spreads from his time at AnOther and AnOther Man magazines, and features photoshoots with the likes of Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix and Courtney Love. “I decided to really focus on the editorial stories that I’d been very directly involved in,” says James of the work he has chosen to include, “because I wasn’t directly involved in every single thing in the magazine. I tended to focus on the big picture, the general direction, but very specifically on certain stories, usually the cover story and then one or two editorials. I would attend those shoots and be very involved in the creative direction of those.”

Shown top: spread from AnOther Man 7, photography by Richard Burbridge; Above: from AnOther Man 1, photography by Craig McDean

From AnOther 15, photography by Craig McDean

The work in the exhibition is displayed in a chronological timeline, so begins with the first issue of AnOther Man. It includes James’ selections from over the years, with at least one story featured from most editions of AnOther and AnOther Man (both magazines are published bi-annually). Looking back over the decade’s work, James feels that the design of the titles holds up well. “The good thing about these titles, and the people I’ve collaborated with, is they’re quite forward thinking. It’s quite experimental – we’re always working with the fashion of the moment but not specifically big trends. In a sense it’s about creating and reinventing fashion. So I think a lot of the stories have stood the test of time, I like that.”

One trend that James is conscious of starting himself in his work at AnOther has come through his innovative use of type. Experimentation with type has been a consistent theme in his work throughout his career, and he has collaborated with type designer Gareth Hague since 1990, with the duo particularly bringing these skills to bear in AnOther Man.

“I suppose the type for AnOther Man now does look a bit dated,” he says, “insofar as it’s been quite widely mimicked elsewhere. It seemed like quite a radical idea at the time, the idea of the font and the font system, whereas interestingly AnOther magazine, the way that design evolved, it was so pared-back to absolutely nothing – a single point size, 8.5 point throughout the magazine – it was so reduced. That was really the idea, it was so opposite to AnOther Man which was so expressively graphic and abstract… AnOther magazine’s design might look more timeless because there’s nothing to it.”

From AnOther Man 8, photography by Glen Luchford

From AnOther 17, photography by Craig McDean

The list of photographic collaborators that James has worked with at AnOther reads like a roll-call of some of the biggest names in fashion: Nick Knight, Craig McDean, Willy Vanderperre, Glen Luchford and Richard Burbridge were regular contributors, along with stylists Olivier Rizzo and Alister Mackie. James has close relationships with many of the photographers and stylists, and cites this as key in forming the magazines’ particular look.

“Craig [McDean] was there at the beginning,” he says, “with AnOther Man, and right throughout my whole time, he pretty much shot for every issue. We kind of grew up together professionally so it made a lot of sense – we’re friends, we see each other a lot, there’s always a lot of dialogue. It does work like that in fashion, you tend to form teams … you have an understanding with each other, and yet still the ability to surprise one another…. I think that’s part of the role of an art director or a creative director, to understand the strengths of the individuals you work with, and bring out the best in them.”

Both spreads from AnOther 17, photography by Craig McDean

This is James’ second digital exhibition, having previously exhibited online in 2010 with Out of Print, a show that looked back over 20 years of his work (appropriately perhaps, this exhibition is now out of print itself and no longer exists on the web). There will be a brief pop-up version of the new show at his studio in Hackney, London, though really this is to drive traffic to the site, which he feels is the best place for the exhibition to sit. “I wouldn’t want to be pretentious about the idea of putting images intended for the magazine on the wall of a gallery space, that doesn’t feel right to me,” he explains. “I think that can be right, but with this volume of imagery and specifically about this magazine, that kind of approach didn’t feel right.”

Looking back over the past decade, the role of fashion magazines has changed significantly, as the internet has really begun to impact on print publications. Reflecting on this, James feels that the mag industry currently remains very alive, but is uncertain whether it will continue at this level forever. “It’s very interesting how there has been an incredible proliferation of independent fashion magazines,” he says. “It’s quite remarkable, to even keep up with the amount. So there must be a demand for print still, but I do know there are generations now who don’t look at magazines at all, they look at everything online, that’s where they get their information…. But to me [print] is still relevant – digital’s another medium, print’s a medium, it’s still all relevant but I can’t help wondering for how long.”

From AnOther 14, photography by Craig McDean

From AnOther 23, photography by Craig McDean

As well as celebrating his work for the magazine, this exhibition marks the end of James’ collaboration with AnOther, as he turns his attention elsewhere. He is already renowned for his design work with Prada, Chloé, Dior and other major fashion brands, and is keen to also spend time on his own projects. “It’s ten years and I thought that’s a good amount of time, it felt like I’ve reached a point with it as a project, and felt like it was time to consider something else,” he says. “I want to focus on my own publishing projects from now on, to do pure creative publishing.”

James says that his future projects will be “fashion related, but not exclusively … this exhibition is called Everything That Matters and it will be the starting point for this publishing project – one thing finishes and a new thing starts.” He isn’t clear yet what form the new venture will take, though comments that “knowing me, it will be a hybrid of different formats. I always like to combine things, so it could be a book, a magazine, it’ll be print, digital, it could be an event, it could be a performance – it could be all kinds of things really.”

Everything That Matters will be online until April 19.

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