meet the 16-year-old editor fighting for a borderless generation
We spoke to Elise By Olsen, the founder of 'Recens Paper' made by and for young people.
16-year-old Elise By Olsen is lighting the way for a generation who makes its own rules, rejects conventional stereotypes, and embraces individuality. The Norwegian teen, who grew up just outside Oslo, started blogging when she was just eight-years-old, before going on to launch Recens Paper in 2014. Four issues in, Recens Paper is challenging the print magazine status quo, offering a space for young people to showcase their work while breaking down stereotypes of gender and race. Showing no sign of slowing down, this month Elise gave her first Ted Talk. We caught up with her to discuss the future of publishing and her experiences running an international fashion magazine.
What motivated you to start Recens Paper?
I wanted to give a voice to young people and create a platform for talent who haven't had a fair chance to expose their work yet, because of their age and lack of experience. At the time, the only options for youth were conventional magazines covering the topics of celebrities, beauty products, and puberty with a Disney-like approach. I wanted Recens to be made for and by young people, reporting the latest influences moving inside the youth environment and covering essential and relevant topics. I wanted Recens to be in print in order to enforce the value of visible materialism — the physical and present object. Through Recens I have the responsibility and power in raising a whole generation.
Can you tell us more about the theme of your most recent issue, Invent?
Recens' themes have a very conceptual approach; they're created as steps in a cycle, cycles that I believe make our adolescence and life as a whole. The first issue was titled Identify and was about seeking the growth of one's identity. Explore, issue 2, was about exploring and challenging our personal foundations. Observe, issue 3, was about studying and researching the context one lives in. Followed by the next imperative and vital step of the cycle, Invent, because the youth generation is imaginative. They lack real world experience and predict future outcomes. This issue is therefore focused on a wide spectrum of young talents running global organizations, groups and concepts, as well as influencing trends and creative processes. Design-wise we decided that even the content should generate and invent its own background. Each page ended up with a unique pattern that grows from the photos placed on top of it, challenging the typical principle of a portfolio-like layout. The issue therefore connects tradition and innovation; manifesting a relation to the urban environment through progressive photo series, confident political essays, and a diverse interview section with youth talent.
We're part of an age where it's a natural instinct to produce and "invent" new content at a fast pace. Do you think this is a positive thing?
It's not because of it being a natural instinct but because the research, production, and documentation process is simpler — probably ten times the speed with internet access which prior generations never had. It's about having that opportunity. Therefore we all become creative directors in a way, covering not only one but several directions of the creative process, because of the fact that we have access to knowledge, content, and experiences so fast and so easy.
What do you think the future of publishing will be like?
I think my generation disagrees with the predicted print death. I think we want something substantial, something to keep us company, something predictable, which is the keywords of paper publications. Physical, visible, and material objects you can emotionally connect with: smell, touch and study. Independent magazines are the future, especially ones that explore and challenge the physical format itself. Limited print run, authentic content, not bound to commercial actors. Print and online are two completely different mediums so the content needs to be adapted differently to each of them. It is about exploiting each of them fully for what they are good at. The print and the digital format are not competing but corroborating each other.
Is there a strong creative scene in Oslo? What is it like as a city to grow up in?
No, there isn't. It is a very conventional, very backwards city. But Norway is also a state of welfare and wealth and it's financially easy to be an artist and creative here, compared to many other cities in Europe. For instance, there is a lot of funding one can apply for. Despite the boring creative scene, growing up in a suburb outside Oslo has been great. Fresh air, silence, nature. I guess being bored makes one more creative. But luckily it is not far to the airport…
What do you enjoy most about running Recens Paper?
I'm basically working as a talent scout. I feel privileged to be in touch with all these über young talents, pushing them out and showcasing them to the world. Giving them a voice, a platform, and uniting them with other like-minded people in the industry, using Recens as a resource to talent spot and discover new, upcoming artists. Apart from this, I feel honored to be working with such an amazing team on Recens — graphic designer/art director Morteza Vaseghi, copy editor Felicia Granath, and in-house photographer Maria Pasenau. Lastly, being able to travel to so many places, connecting with amazing people and taking on all these rewarding projects.
What could older generations learn from the younger ones?
Our generation has been provided with a means of chatting and working together internationally online. So because we now work borderless and genderless, it's the time to work ageless, too. Older generations carry knowledge and experiences that the youth don't, and vice versa. Therefore, valuing and treating young creatives and bright minds as equally as the older ones is extremely important. Everyone's capability should be judged on their delivery and results rather than age. My work relation with graphic designer/art director Morteza Vaseghi illustrates this situation perfectly. He is surrounded by young contributors and an Editor-in-Chief half of his age. As he puts it, one needs to be able to work trans-age. Otherwise, you are limited to a certain era and with that comes an expiry date.
Text Lula Ososki