this gorgeous magazine will school you in the beauty of diversity
Ahead of the release of its sophomore edition, we open the pages of Niijournal.
Kelsey Lu. Photography Tyler Mitchell. Hair Peter Matteliano Make-up Yohnny Peña. Models Sjournee CQ, Sasha Che Allen
A pivotal magazine editor before he'd even graduated, you have to admire the hustle of Campbell Addy. The 24-year-old photographer, who hails from London, is the brains behind Niijournal: a publication that exists as a platform for the discussion of racial diversity, celebrating and encouraging it with a unique and progressive visual language.
"Everyone is saying print is dead but it isn't," Campbell reminds me, as we chat about the release of Niijournal's eagerly-anticipated second edition. "You just need to make sure it's worthwhile." The worth that Campbell mentions runs through the seams of Niijournal, a magazine that exists not as a flashy showcase of someone's indelibly beautiful work, but as a bible of sorts, schooling everybody who sees it in the rarely appreciated beauty of diversity.
As Campbell himself says, the magazine tries to "educate, not irritate". He's a passionate supporter for the rights of people of colour, so much so that some of his peers became peeved by it. "Some of those who were close to me, those who weren't people of colour, became irritated [by my discussion of my heritage], like a 'Here we go again' thing. But unless these issues directly affect you, you always feel as though people will be ramming them down your throat."
Campbell's words are filled with a feverish passion for his heritage that manifests delicately in his work. Once, he heard a war photographer say that he didn't want his images to scream, but to whisper; he set out to create a magazine that reflected that mantra. The first issue of Niijournal was a solo project of Campbell's, made in his bedroom in the final year of his Fashion Communication degree at Central Saint Martins. This time around, the circumstances were slightly different.
"It was soul crushing," he says. "I've never had 'sophomore syndrome' before because I'm so used to photoshoots, where you never do the same thing twice. The topics we touch on and the way we approach it had to change this time around. Now, it's much more [collaborative]."
With a cover shot by visual art it-boy Tyler Mitchell, the second issue of Niijournal features interviews with musical talents like Kelsey Lu and Kelela, and is rich in photography, and intimate poetry written by the editor himself. It may look like a publication that could have been created by a dozen-strong team, but the topics it discusses could only come from the heart of its helmer. Mental health, something that Campbell said he's dealt with strongly since the last issue, is at its core. "It needed to be spoken about in a different way," he stresses. "Whenever people hear you have mental health issues issues they think that you're a schizo or you're struggling, but I'm 20% more likely to have a mental illness because I'm black -- that's just fact."
In an industry that often feels rather insular, the issue's successful Kickstarter campaign has helped spread the word about Niijournal's cool, culturally significant work further. To celebrate its release this month, the magazine will be holding an exhibition at Shoreditch's Protein Studios. There, readers will have the chance to see shoot outtakes and mesmerising poems presented with moving visuals; an experience Campbell compares to "coming into the mind of Niijournal".
"I wanted to do something a bit more than the first one," he tells me, "to break out of the student magazine realm. This issue [needed to be] something more than just a part two."
Grab a copy of Niijournal Issue II by heading to their Kickstarter page. The Niijournal exhibition runs at Protein Studios (31 New Inn Yard, EC2A 3EY) from 28 to 30 July.
Text Douglas Greenwood