Posted: Motley, Karen, Fire & Knives, Oh Comely and Popshot

Here’s a round-up of five recent arrivals at magCulture. They highlight the variety and inventiveness in current independent publishing, starting with photography magazine Motley.

Motley presents nine stories by young photographers without captions in a random (motley) run of pages, each story mixed with the others. There’s an element of natural continuity through recognition, but to provide some guidance the front cover (above) carries a grid that reveals each story takes its own position on the pages, measured by its top left corner. You can see the stories as seperate entities on the website, but the printed navigation technique is an interesting idea that adds something to the images, although some pairings work better than others. It’s reminiscent of the lucky dip image combinations found through online searches and on Flickr and tumbler blogs. A good debut, one to watch.

I’ve already featured the latest Karen here, but having now had a chance to read it cover to cover I can agree with other comments that this is the best issue yet. For those that don’t know it, each issue is a collection of stories sourced from friends and neighbours of editor Karen that build up to a detailed reflection of ordinary life. It revels in this ordinariness.

Karen is not overtly designed – unlike other magazines in this post – but uses simple black and white helvetica to let the stories and images dominate.

As well as shorter pieces and lists, the issue has a first person profile by an an unnamed dentist, above, as well as their first foray into fiction and a piece about missing home. Really engaging, subtley toned content. And don’t forget you can buy a copy from the magCulture shop.

It’s about time we had another issue of Fire & Knives, and issue four does not disappoint, continuing its investigation of food culture beyond the normal glossy magazine, as I hope these pictures show.

Fast food is an easy target for food snobbery – the backlash starts.

I’m used to seeing images of ‘ghost signs’ from other countries – Martell in France etc – but this set of UK painted signs is just as strong and equally evocative.

A lovely personal piece about life at the rougher end of the restaurant business.

Fire & Knives is a magazine I would really miss if it stopped appearing, and there’s one plaintive spread in the issue that announces ‘Goodbye’ that gave me a jolt. An intended jolt, as it goes on to paint a picture of life after its demise. It reminds the reader to that the magazine-reader relationship is a two-way one, and that ‘if only I’d been a little more glossy… if only you’d renewed your subscription…’ Whether or not changes are afoot – not too glossy please! – it’s a clever call for support. Subscribe here.

I’ve had my copy of On Comely for a while, unsure how to deal with it. I like the name and the handwritten cover design is really appealing, as is much of the content. Steven’s already written about how it’s a response to the usual women’s magazine fare, and he’s right about the visual tone and pace being calm and gentle. It’s got everything going for it, a unique outlook covering music, illustration, friendship. It has a feminine feel yet isn’t exclusively female, and has space for a piece like that below – testing the charm and willingness of the Royal mail by posting various items (banana, sponge, packet of crisps, umbrella) unpacked and seeing if they arrive safely.

All of which is good. But the page design lets it down, the type is rather flat and unengaging. That doesn’t mean it should be loud and shouty – Karen is working in a similar space but achieves a reccessive design without sacrificing legibility. Improve the design and this could be a great magazine.

Lastly, the latest edition of PopShot is here, the Modern Living issue. Sometimes it’s simple ideas that work best, and here the care paid to matching commissioned poetry and illustration continues to make the magazine a highly compelling piece of editorial. Mixing in interviews with poets Paul Farley and Luke Wright with pieces on illustrators Hello Von and David Foldvari, PopShot is going from strength to strength as its supports two easily overlooked forms of art. Recommended.

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