Exposure: Collection of Documentaries

Art Director Gem Fletcher examines the world of photography, with a focus on new talent, photobooks and exhibitions from around the globe. In the latest instalment she looks at photography magazine Collection of Documentaries.

Collection of Documentaries (COD) is a photography journal intent on celebrating the essence of youth culture. It’s a mash up of rebellion, violence, sex and nostalgia, founded in December 2014. COD is a community built magazine, a collaboration between Winter Vandenbrink, Erika Symonds, Adam Evans Pringle, Elizabeth Gregory and founder & Editor Lee Crichton. Born over Winter’s kitchen table and out of Lee’s bedroom, the first issue was meant to be the last, a creative test to see what they could achieve. Support from fans, press and distribution came quickly and the team committed to make Collection of Documentaries a ten-part series.

This illusive title opted for a counter intuitive strategy from day one. Discovery is central to the ethos of the magazine, whether that’s discovering new talent and perspectives, or even discovering the magazine itself. COD is offline venture, the only way to find it is through recommendations or stumbling across it in an independent bookshop. They have limited web and zero social presence, and Editor Lee Crichton doesn’t even own a smart phone. ‘If you think of rave culture – real rave culture – there were no mobile phones; people lived in the moment. Whereas nowadays people are too bothered about taking a picture and writing a good caption when they should be losing control. Its these moments that I really want to celebrate and document.’

In addition, the team rejected the traditional idea of cover art. Each cover is a block tone, which gradually gets darker. If you collect all ten it will form a gradient from white to black. Likewise, while advertising isn’t something they are ruling out for future issues, it’s a concept they’re having fun with. Each issue of COD repeats one image multiple times in the opening and closing of the book as a tongue in cheek reference to mags swamped with advertising.

Jack Davison for Collection of Documentaries #2

Design rather than photography was the starting point for COD and everything about the magazine looks different from the moment you see it on the shelf. The approach goes back to basics. A streamlined aesthetic creates space for the work, while the weight and physicality of the publication makes it feel more coffee table book than magazine. It’s as collectable for the design, as much as it is for the content.

COD focuses on youth culture, specifically exploring the old, the new, the unseen and the overlooked. It set out to challenge what people think of as ‘real Britain’ through photo essays about Sunday football, Gabba, street fashion, sexuality and relationships. Winter Vandenbrink has curated an exciting group of contributors including Jack Davison, Fanny Schlicter, Dennis Duijnhouwer, Tom Sloan, Nico Young, Michal Solarski, Thomas Liboska and Doug Dubois. As the magazine evolved they broadened the subject matter to focus on the impact of British youth culture around the globe. There is no prescribed narrative in the issues, any themes come from the viewer’s collective experience of the work. Lee states “We are not trying to make a political statement – just trying to enjoy beautiful work.”

Philip Tsapaliras for Collection of Documentaries #3

For me, Collection of Documentaries is also a welcome exploration of the spectrum of modern masculinity, explored from a variety of gazes crossing gender, sexuality, ethnicity and age. Successfully seeking out stories that subvert and confound boilerplate narratives, the magazine broadens the discussion of identity and the politics of youth in a raw and authentic way.

Nico Young for Collection of Documentaries #4

Collection of Documentaries Issue 5 is out in June.

Issue 4 is available from Boutique Mags

gemfletcher.com; @gemfletcher

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