Artists move from screens to paper

By William Suiter


We live in an era of self publishing. In one form or another, sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr allow emerging artists, photographers, and other curators to make their content available on platforms that are free and accessible. These tools are indispensable for anyone who creates content, allowing an easy way to put work out there and get noticed. Gaining exposure is extremely important for artists, as it is essentially the only way that they can grow in their work and be able to advance their craft.  

As online mediums become more saturated, it can be hard to get one’s work noticed, and it is becoming harder to find meaningful and high quality work in a setting that can often feel disconnected from the real world.

In order to float their work through the swamp of online photo galleries, accounts, and other digital media, many artists and content creators are turning to self-published and produced printed work in order to distribute their work in a tactile and high quality format that is still easily accessible and can allow their work to be showcased and discovered.

These self published works, often referred to as “zines” (short for magazine), are becoming increasingly popular as a way to share one’s own work as well as to collect others. A zine is a small book, often only 10-20 pages long, that is has no rules as to what it can contain, or what format or theme it can take. They can be designed on a computer or simply by cutting and pasting onto paper and then photocopying, scrapbook style. Artists are encouraged to take total creative license with their work. Zines can be made to different quality standards, with some being printed on cheap paper with a Xerox machine in black and white, and some made with high quality full color digital offset on thick art paper.

Unlike traditionally published books, start-up costs for producing a zine are relatively low. This provides a low barrier to entry for someone looking to publish their work. Instead of having to find a gallery to display an art piece or a photo, an artist can simply print and publish their own work. Zines are usually sold directly by the artist or traded at “zine fests.” Several galleries such as Seeing Things Gallery in downtown San Jose also sell zines and hold several zine fests every year.

Zines are just one way that self-published work has become more accessible. As art and photography become more available to produce and share, more artists will be able to gain recognition for themselves and sustain their work.

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