Huck issue 29
Delivered to Stack subscribers in Feb 2012
Renowned for its dramatic documentary photography and its dedication to a life outside the mainstream, Huck magazine is as likely to cover artists, activists and musicians as it is surfers and skaters. Motivated by the desire for a freer, more equal and open world, it’s an optimistic, overwhelmingly positive read.
Publishing Director, The Church of London Publishing
What is Huck?
Huck is a youth culture magazine. It has its roots in surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding – activities that have historically challenged dominant culture. Based on that radical heritage, Huck documents culture, activism, emerging scenes, action sports and whatever we think is novel and cool and interesting. It has beautiful design and some of the best documentary photography around. The writing prioritises in-depth profiles and reportage with a high emphasis on narrative storytelling.
The title is inspired by Huck Finn, from Mark Twain’s novel. His unwillingness to ‘be civilized’ as he travelled with runaway slave Jim down the Mississippi was the key thing we picked up on. It was just a really good metaphor for what we were trying to do: avoiding the mainstream, rejecting prescriptive notions of journalism, and so and so on – it summed up the mag really well.
In more general terms, the mag was my personal response to being bored with surf magazines, which are great but focus on the action side of things, as if action sports existed in a vacuum. To me, they exist in a context that is interesting, influential and super engaging, full of radical people doing radical stuff in a totally dynamic world. So to me, writing about yet another surf contest made no sense. Huck surfaced as a personal response to that – always with the hope that there were more people out there who felt the same way I did.
What makes it different to the rest?
I would say the lens through which we see the world is key. It really takes that heritage seriously. And the criteria we apply to material is crucial as well: it needs to be original, beautiful and fun. People are too busy and the world clearly does not need another magazine. So if a magazine is gonna make it and be relevant, every single piece of the puzzle – from punctuation to narrative to photography, everything – needs to help make it an amazing mag. That same principle applies across the board. More specifically:
Writing: Intelligent but also fun, engaging and simple. Complex language and excessive use of adjectives obfuscates the story, creates additional mediation in a medium that is nothing but mediation, if you see what I’m saying. Whatever the opposite of pretentious is. Show not tell. Radical.
Photography: Beautiful documentary and arresting portraiture photography. Action that is the opposite of traditional action.
Illustration: Not my game but always good to break up a series of photo-led and copy-heavy pieces.
People: Thinkers, radical actors, people who are shaping youth culture, the arts, activism, sport and life as a whole.
Who makes Huck?
The Church of London. As for individual players, we have: Andrea Kurland (Editor), Shelley Jones (Associate Editor), Ed Andrews (Online Editor), some insanely talented interns, the sales team that kills it on a regular basis, etc, etc.
Who reads it?
Everyone. The idea is that great storytelling and photography can engage anyone, no matter how young or old. Whether that’s actually the case… well, you be the judge!
Why do you work in magazines?
Magazines are unique in that they can potentially combine great literary journalism with beautiful photography. And I’m a sucker for text and images. When beautifully combined, it’s pure magic! Plus, I think a genuinely free media that illuminates and challenges authority is key to any functioning democracy. That has certainly been a personal motivation…
Aside from the print magazine, what else are you involved in?
Documentary filmmaking. I co-produced and wrote Rio Breaks, a feature-length doc about two best friends from a Rio de Janeiro favela who are bound together by their love of surfing. We spent a whole year with them and they took us on this incredible journey. I am currently looking for new projects and ideas in film.
What would you change about Huck if you could?
I would give it more pages and get it out more often!
Can you pick a favourite issue of Huck?
I think the Counter Culture Issue (Huck 22) is probably the magazine that best sums up the magazine’s ethos and take on the world. It was also truly original, with a stickered cover that invited readers to peel off the commercial cover, thus ‘de-branding’ the magazine. Underneath the cover lay a simple, blank page with the words ‘The Counter Culture Issue’ in small type. People were then invited to engage with the cover, re-designing it and making it their own. The issue featuring Spike Jonze (Huck 18) on the cover is also one of my all-time favourites.
Where do you see Huck in five years?
It would be great to see its content and values appear in different media, across various platforms, both digital but also via events, books, film, etc.
I would also like the mag to be a player in the new type of media that’s emerging… Way I see it, the internet and higher levels of awareness, and Wikileaks and Twitter, are slowly replacing that one-way top-down way of making journalism. People know better, have access to myriad sources of information and can themselves act as filters of good, bad, reliable and unreliable media. I think Huck and the other mags we make can help reinvent what journalism and the media in general are and represent. It’s a bottom-up time. It’s a time where community journalism and citizen journalism and blogging and people communicating and disseminating ideas in a way that isn’t filtered by dominant discourse and commercial interests is growing – and we’re a part of this, which is like a really empowering thing. I’m a fan of removing – to the extent that’s possible – the ideological filter behind stories. Let people speak, in a transparent way. Remove the framing and the filter. Get all interviews online and unedited. Traditional journalism has failed as a guardian of democracy. Just look at the media’s role in the lead up to Iraq. Enough said. We need a new model. I hope that Huck and the people who make it can be actors in this process – and help build this new media of the future.
Long term, if we continue to engage people and contribute to the culture, then we’re doing our job and the magazine has a place. Once that ceases to be the case, then we should stop. But I hope and expect that to be a long way away.