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 magazines made in our new reality.
Put together by Laurie Jackson, Filip Pomykalo and James Sanderson, Bleached began with the three friends messaging each other quick-fire bits of art to take the edge off isolation. “A collective record of lockdown life”, the lovely thing about Bleached is it’s really funny. One of my favourite pieces features a shirtless hunk with a coronavirus for a head. Another is a postcard of Barnard castle, with the tagline ‘See you soon’. The magazine is also text-free, which makes flicking through it feel like a treat. Loveliest of all: Bleached’s profits go to homelessness charity Crisis.
Adorned with the titles of feminist periodicals from around the world, Feminist Findings charts the history of womxn-run independent publishing. The magazine is made by the L.I.P Collective (short for “Liberation In Print”) who met via Zoom every Wednesday of lockdown to share research. The case studies the collective have unearthed are fascinating: one essay tells the story of how lesbian literary, theory, and art journal Sinister Wisdom has been distributed through the prison industrial complex; another asks why the prominent Lebanese women’s studies journal Al-Raida, founded in 1976, received funding from the The Ford Foundation — was it the US trying to exert soft power to influence the social fabric of the Arab region?
The most delicious publication to emerge in quarantine, Barter Baby is all about illicit exchange. Toilet paper is traded for dried beans; posh chocolate for home-made hand sanitiser — and the whole thing is pictured in heart-stopping detail by London-based food photographer Louise Hagger and the New York food stylist Victoria Granof — who also writes the introduction, and accompanying text. Perhaps you have managed to survive lockdown without banging on about making your own sourdough starter? This zine will change that. The way Granof writes about food will make you fall in love with fermenting.
The brainchild of fashion journalist George Serventi (aka @Skipdin), the Apocalypse Survival Guide satirises fashion and corona. Taglined “Send in the Clowns”, possibly the best thing about this zine is that it comes with a free clown-emblazoned face mask. Also featuring ‘End of the World Bingo’, a flip book and a page of removable stickers, this is a fun — if wildly insensitive — piece of print. The cover star models one of a series of looks that might help you get through the pandemic: a pair of white boxer shorts stuffed with a tiny raw chicken. All proceeds go to FareShare and The Trussell Trust.
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.