the future will be in print: meet the kids changing australian publishing
From DIY zines to conceptual glossies — these are the curators making sure young voices are heard, diverse opinions celebrated and censorship challenged.
Collages by Ben Thomson
Since the first printing press, independent publishing has been a tool, a weapon and a platform. From penny dreadfuls to punk zines, fashion fan offerings to homemade Riot Grrrl manifestoes, the ability to put your own — or your friend's — words on paper is a pleasure and a privilege.
During a time in national and global politics where it feels like there's little to believe in, indie publishers are making sure young voices are heard, diverse opinions celebrated and censorship challenged. Australia has an impressive history of radical and rebellious editors fostering homes for writers who don't want to fit in. We're celebrating the current generation fuelling our desires for something true, honest and new. These are the minds, and red pens, behind the publications changing the way we think about modern media.
What is the message behind Gusher?
Juliette: The magazine is about carving out physical space in a culture and industry that has historically been dominated by men. As female fans, who have found ourselves at the receiving end of sexism in the music scene, we wanted to create something that respected the voices and ideas of women and non-men, and treated them as the experts that they are.
How do you feel it's unique?
Isabella: Gusher differs from a lot of publications because of how specific it is: it's all about rock music. It's also a publication where women are at the helm of the entire process. We offer an alternative to what's often found in rock music publications; we give a voice to the female fan experience and amplify their ideas.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
Juliette: The best things are meeting all the amazing people that helped us create our first issue, interviewing artists we admire, and seeing hard work translated into a publication we're proud of. The worst thing would be money, or more specifically, a lack thereof. We're students and also work part-time. It's especially dire considering the cuts to arts funding in Australia. But we're determined to do anything we can to keep the magazine running.
Do you have any advice for aspiring publishers?
Isabella: Find your niche. The print industry is by no means a lucrative market, and printing and publishing is financially strenuous. To pull it off you've got to offer something new. Don't be afraid to be specific — Gusher caters to a very select pocket of consumers; but I think it's to our advantage.
Why start a magazine in the age of the internet?
Zac Bayly: Getting into publishing was not an informed decision, and neither was starting FFF. We just thought it would be fun.
Stacia: Plus with social media you can find contributors and an audience. In a way the thing that was supposed to destroy magazines - the internet - is actually helping to revive them.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility when controlling the voice of a publication?
Zac: There's responsibility in anything you do, whether you're a lawyer, a postal worker, a magazine editor or a delivery boy. The responsibilities we feel are to create a publication that positions our contributors well. They're donating time and money to help us realise the project after all.
Stacia: Since we're combining food and fashion we also want to be careful with what message we're putting out. We don't want to diet or body shame anyone; we want our magazine to feel celebratory of different ways of eating, dressing and being.
What's the best piece of advice you could give to aspiring publishers?
Zac: Get out while you can! Kidding.
Stacia: Have a strong, unique concept and go for it before someone else does it! Don't be afraid to reach out to your heroes — you might be surprised at how generous people can be when you invite them to be involved in something you're passionate about!
Portrait by Rene Vaile
You guys are still in your teens, why take on a magazine?
Underground self publishing has always been a form of political activism — a way of delivering information, art, fashion and fighting censorship. As a young white cis woman I was provided the resources to create a platform for speaking out against racism, sexism bigotry and ableism, so it's my responsibility to use it.
How do you work to insure diversity in your pages?
The first issues primarily featured the voices of my friends — cis white women — it was not something I wanted the publication to be. As we grew, so did the voices. At the end of the third publication, I went through and questioned, have I been able to provide a platform to as many different voices as I can? My aim is to continuously promote that we're a platform for all.
Why take on this role of collator rather than writer?
I've always been a better curator than writer, so it made sense to thread works together rather than write them myself. It's the best feeling in the world: being able to collect the work of others and provide a space to let them flourish.
You guys are such print fans, do you ever feel it's really doomed?
We were never disheartened by print-media-doomsayers; we believe paper is a luxury commodity. Museum began because we were always buying magazines that originated from elsewhere. We were a little disheartened by the state of publishing locally—few independent magazines we found stimulating, others all product pages, press shots and syndicated content. We wanted to produce a title that united contemporary art and fashion in a way that others didn't.
What's it like behind the scenes?
Sometimes I microwave a coffee in its cardboard cup hours after buying it, which I realise is disgusting. Sometimes we're in the office for 24 hours straight. Sometimes there's a dog.
Do you have any advice for aspiring publishers?
Think carefully about your audience—and publish because you owe it to them, not as a vanity project for self-glorification. It's easier to self-publish than it used to be, but that doesn't mean you should. Make sure you actually have something to say, that the work is worthwhile, rigorously researched and executed. Don't waste precious paper because you can. Also read and write every day and get used to carrying heavy boxes.
Portrait by Daniel Gurton
Do you feel Fracture has an ultimate message?
We're about inclusion and representation. Growing up I had this idea that women couldn't really write, because of how little of women's work I was exposed to in school. I remember discovering writers at university—Aphra Behn, Marguerite Duras, Joan Didion, Zadie Smith, Clarice Lispector—countless exceptional writers, from all eras—and I felt cheated. I loved writing but had never felt it was my tradition to add to — reading all these writers made me realise I had a place there, too.
Everyone who has contributed to Fracture said similar things; it's about feeling included, finding voices you recognise and feeling compelled to underline the words on a page that resonate with you the most.
Tell us about the responsibility behind you job.
As a zine that deals with something so broad and inexhaustible as "the female experience", we wanted to showcase a diversity of voices. But as a small, first-time publication, we were limited editorial-wise to who we already had on board or knew through friends. In future issues, I would really like to feature a greater variety of women's voices and works; if we want to convey snapshots of women's lived experience, we have a duty to honour the huge variety of perspectives that fall within that category.
How do you feel about the local publishing scene?
I asked my friend and Fracture writer Kim about this one. She's in publishing full-time and mentioned that writing and publishing in Australia is slowly losing its sense of cultural cringe and is seeking to speak its own unique language, without creating caricatures and stereotypes. We're trying to understand, in an increasingly unfiltered way, what makes the country tick.
Collages by Ben Thomson