A new genre of print is emerging: quarantine publishing. Magazines are being made in isolation, in strict accordance with social distancing rules; with no physical contact between their editors, writers, and subjects. The results are arresting: from a photography series of New Yorkers shot at a distance, to a look-book inspired by the sartorial possibilities of isolation — we’ve rounded up the first crop of magazines made in our new reality.
Founded during the pandemic, Post-Work is predominantly comprised of first-person pieces, with writers identified by their jobs (audio editor; tech giant worker; warden). The best pieces are a little experimental: a food critic writes a love letter that turns out to be addressed, not to a human lover, but to her kitchen (“You see I’d forgotten how great it was to spend time with you. How good we are together”); There’s also a charming anagram of ‘Lockdown’ written by a seven-year-old poet. But, created 6 weeks into lockdown, the positivity of most of these reflections — which concentrate on working from home, and having more time on our hands — already feels out of date. The magazine documents a very different Covid-19 reality to the one we are living in now.
Islolate Zine invites photographers to share work made during quarantine, with all proceeds going to charity; the magazine just donated £1000 to +HEROES, who support the welfare and wellbeing of NHS workers. The images are strange, and at the same time, horribly familiar: we see empty supermarket shelves and masked strangers; there’s also a still life with an ipad, and a lonely looking man clinging to a shipping container (the accompanying text tells us this was taken by the photographer Kirk Lisaj of his partner, the day before they started isolating in separate houses).
Nineties arts and boardsports magazine Lodown has temporarily changed its name to Lo(ck)down and released an issue themed ‘Paradise’. Paradise might not be the first word that springs to mind when you sift back over the past few months, but no matter. Opening with a slightly mad prose poem about how you can find your bliss anywhere (“Paradise is on Mars. / Paradise is an alien. / Paradise is lonely…”) the focus seems to be on how artists have drawn alternate realities. Available to buy in print, the editorial here can get a bit wordy, but the art is bewitching — one highlight is a Francesca Faccio oil painting of Miss Piggy rising, corpse-like, from a chicken thigh.
A publication from Between Borders, a magazine celebrating the diversity of British identity, National Treasures is a 36-page print-only zine of firsthand accounts from frontline NHS workers. The editor’s letter addresses the tensions implicit in that title: “Held up as heroes, applauded from doorsteps, deemed low skilled… Spare more than a clap for our National Treasures”. The stories collected here are moving, and difficult. Lydia, a student paramedic, writes about caring for patients in their homes: “Sometimes I stand there in a patient’s house wondering if I am witnessing another human being saying their final goodbye.”
Batshit Times — that title is a coronavirus bat reference — has a vampy undertone. Full of naughty little haikus (“I’m horny in the morning/ now that life is really boring”) this is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of where the mind goes when the body is locked inside all day every day. Available to download for free, it’s a scrappy, sexy antidote to the flatness of isolation.
032c has launched a digital publication called “Quarantäne”: photographs of the magazine’s fashion director, Marc Goehring, doing things like smoke Gauloise and pump feebly on an exercise bike, all while wearing clothes from the new 032c Apparel LoveSexDreams collection. In one gem, Marc slumps on a sofa, with a speech bubble snaking out of his head: “It takes stillness to discover the strength that lies within us”. It’s a quote from the Benedictine monk Anselm Grün, the author of more than 300 books on spirituality, who has now applied his considerable wisdom to the experience of isolation. More a look-book than a zine, it could very well be that this shoot was conceived pre-corona and then craftily repurposed to flog clothes in a time of crisis — but no matter. Quarantäne is free to download, and looking at Marc kiss his own mirror image while wearing nothing but 032c monogrammed cycling shorts is one of lockdown’s rare pleasures.
The format of Quarantzine is beautifully simple: different people around the world — including a photographer in Kuwait, a retired couple in Argentina, and a coffee maker in Singapore — are asked the same set of questions about life in a time of coronavirus. The answers are unexpectedly moving. When asked what she’s learnt about herself, for example, a teacher in New York says: “I have always struggled with self-esteem issues and with being myself. Now I realise… I have a lot to offer”. Created remotely with no contact between anyone involved, the cover design was inspired by the international maritime signal flag ‘Lima’, which is flown from ships at sea placed under quarantine. There’s an online version available to download for free, as well as a print edition.
The arts and literature magazine Soft Punk has published an issue about coronavirus that was “produced with love over a quarantined week”. One week may seem a startlingly short amount of time to make a magazine, but it looks rather gorgeous. One feature by Spencer Cotton — photographs of New Yorkers taken at an appropriate social distance — threads through the whole issue. One of my favourite images is of a woman walking down an entirely deserted street, waving a “Jesus Saves” sign.