Behind the scenes: Froh!
Our current Sampler offer is Froh! – a brilliant German magazine that introduced English translations for the first time in its new issue.
Intelligent and incisive and driven by a fascinatingly conceptual approach to publishing, it’s one of the most exciting magazines I’ve seen for a long time. I caught up with editor Sebastian Pranz to find out more about the project.
I’m very pleased that I can now properly read Froh!, but why did you make the move to English, and why now?
Partly it’s because we have a very good journalist named Ben Knight. I met him two issues ago and we’ve worked more and more closely together, and now I totally trust him on the style and quality of the language. I can’t do that myself because I’m not a native English speaker, but he totally gets the wit and the sound of the language, and that’s really important.
The other thing is we work conceptually, and it’s not a coincidence that we’re thinking about adding another language for the issue that talks about transit and transition and crossing borders.
That’s interesting – tell me more about your conceptual approach.
We’re a very small team and that means we can experiment every time. For example, when we made the issue about games, we decided to make lots of very small pieces of editorial, so there are many ways you can read that issue, with no beginning and no end.
We try to apply this conceptual approach to everything we do on each issue, so it affects the production, the colours, the storytelling, etc. That’s the sort of thing you can do when you’re working in a small team and not in a big editors’ room; it means you can just play with those different things.
I’m a sociologist and Klaus (Neuburg, the art director) is an architect, and I think everything we do is always about creativity. It’s about finding ways to be creative in normal life, in social life, in relationships and politics, and trying to achieve something. And maybe failing along the way, but at least trying.
I didn’t know that about your backgrounds, but it makes a lot of sense. There’s something very distinctive about Froh! that suggests there are structural influences coming from outside the magazine.
We have the German philosopher Robert Spaemann in this issue, and he’s a good example of the mixture of values we are interested in. He’s very scientific, but he also has a theological background, and that all goes into the mixture. He has always been somebody who is trying to change things; he was very active in the debate in Germany about atomic war in the 80s. He has a strong point of view, and we’re fascinated by people like that.
You have fantastically enigmatic covers as well – it’s hard to say what they’re about but there’s something that draws the viewer in.
Each cover has a hidden story, and it takes us a long time to decide on them. We’re looking for pictures that work visually of course, but they also need to have some kind of deeper sense or story to them.
For this one we used Nick DeWolf, which makes him the only photographer we’ve used twice on the cover (we also used him on the cover of the game issue). He’s not a professional photographer – he was an early computer engineer and inventor and he was a fanatical photographer working in the 50s, 60s and 70s. His archive in Flickr now has, like, 70,000 pictures being digitised – it’s great material.
We had the idea that the first frame of the film is always where the illusion starts, with light being converted into information, and then into the picture, so we started looking for pictures in his archive where you could see the first frame from the film roll. I think it works well on the cover – it’s great to be talking about borders and crossing borders, and then show something about the borders between light and information, and analogue and digital.
That sums up what I love about the magazine – there’s so much thought and intent that’s gone into creating that hidden story, and it somehow draws you in.
You don’t necessarily have to explain it all – sometimes that spoils the fun. But the funny thing is that a lot of our readers end up finding things we never put into the magazine! Because they spend so much time with the issue that they end up seeing things in there that I as the editor never thought about, and that means there’s a whole interaction going on between the piece of paper and the reader, and in this age of digital immediacy I really love that slow process.
Find your own stories in Froh! – buy your copy via Sampler and get 10% off, plus free shipping to the UK, Europe and USA, and subsidised shipping everywhere else. But hurry – offer ends 9am on 9 July!