Catarina de Almeida Brito, editor, Migrant Journal
We start the week off by chatting with editor Catarina de Almeida Brito of Migrant Journal, the publication that explores the migration of everything from people and goods to information, flowers and fauna. Since it was published last November, the title has garnered a lot of attention in magazine circles because of its timely theme and beautiful design, so much so that the issue is being reprinted. Catarina fills us in on issue one’s reception and plans for issue two.
How was your weekend?
My weekend was great. I recently moved to Bergen, a small Norwegian fjord city. This weekend I discovered a new wine bar, and for a bit of weekend meditation I walked up Fløyen mountain, the beating heart of the city where people go to for socialising and exercising. I walked up 400 mts to its peak in the rain, embracing the Norwegian culture that ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’.
Tell us about your journey to work.
In my new life here I have a swift 10 minute walk to work a little down the mountain. I lead a double life working in architecture by day and editing by night (well, the working day here finishes at 4:30!).
Describe the state of your desk.
My desk is tidy and has a minimal amount of things as most of my superfluous possessions stayed behind in London. What travelled with me was an auxiliary screen, a postcard of Nadav Kander’s Dust from his recent exhibition in Flowers Gallery in Shoreditch, some books and my loyal A5 Muji dotted notebook — a perfect compromise between architectural doodling and writing.
Which magazine do you first remember?
The first magazine I remember is NME. I grew up in Brussels and the only place where I could acquire it was in the only Waterstones in town, in the city centre. Reading NME made me feel part of a culture that I didn’t think really existed in my surroundings, a certain kind of ‘underground’ music scene I wanted to know about. Every time I read the magazine it felt like a special experience — it’s quite incredible how a simple weekly magazine can have such an impact in your upcoming.
Which magazine matters to you the most today?
If I am to give you an honest but perhaps not my proudest answer, the magazine which I enjoy reading the most is Vanity Fair. Its mix of long reportages, portrait photography, personal profiles, intriguing polls and round up of things mixing glamour with intellectual pieces hooks me right in.
The magazine that matters the most to me however would probably be something like Le Courrier Internationale, or Portuguese weekly newspaper Expresso — these are publications that curate the important weekly news in highly visual ways.
It’s great to hear that issue one is reprinting! Tell us about the response you’ve had to the magazine.
Migrant Journal’s first issue, Across Country, sold out in less that five weeks of launch — this was as surprising as it was exciting. When deciding the print run, we settled on 800 copies, having pre-sold 220 in our crowdfunding campaign back in June. We felt unsure about this decision as we were a ‘new’ publication, none of us had much experience in such matters and we were very tight on budget.
The fact that we sold out so quickly showed us how important Migrant Journal actually was — for us and for our existing and prospective readers. We decided to do a second print run despite financial insecurity, due to overwhelming demand for it and our own endeavour to get the content presented in the journal to as wide a public as possible.
So yeah, it’s out now, and we’ve sold almost half of the new stock already, this is great momentum as we are preparing our next issue, Wired Capital, due out in June.
When you started Migrant Journal last year, the political landscape was very different from how it is now. You also founded with a strict plan about how you’ll organize each of the six issues. Will you be shifting tone or making any significant changes with issue two to reflect what is now taking place under Trump?
Our endeavour with Migrant Journal has been from the start to look at the world through the lens of its migratory processes — dealing with questions of belonging, national identity, cultural shifts, financial systems, but also landscape transformation, the weather, movement of animals, global food networks. We devised this idea in 2015 when the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean was in the news, however the motivation to start Migrant Journal came from other end of the spectrum — wanting to provide a platform for multiple disciplines to talk about an interconnected world, looking at it not from migration as a starting point but from the nature of the world today as a starting point.
We want Migrant Journal to be a temporal but accurate portrait of our current times — so our focus is on various stories and reportages from journalists, artists, academics, architects, photographers, and professionals working in a range of disciplines depicting a picture of the world through its migrations, which is in fact its intrinsic nature. By doing so we hope to challenge small minded and ignorant attitudes such as the Trump delegation.
Since we started the journal the global focus on the migrant crisis especially in the Mediterranean and far-right ideologies has reached an impetus that, in our view, makes Migrant Journal the more important. However, our goal remains to challenge the idea of ‘migration’ presented by prevailing media outlets, and show the full spectrum of the topic.
Migrant Journal looks at the migration and circulation of everything – goods, information, people. What about the circulation of an independent magazine: do you worry that Migrant won’t have a wide enough reach?
This is an issue we discuss a lot. In the early days of Across Country, we made a map of all our sales so far globally. We realised that practically all our readers were in Europe, North America, and some dotted around Asia (and Australia being quite present in this side of the world). What struck us was that we had zero readers in Africa for instance, and very little in South America. This picture hasn’t changed a lot, and we are constantly trying to find ways to communicate about the existence of Migrant Journal beyond typical dissemination channels.
For instance, in future issues we would like to feature more pieces by African and Asian contributors to draw different networks in — despite the difficulty in doing this due to our network reach, funding etc. It’s a work in progress!
T he look of the magazine is especially enticing. Can you tell me about how you worked with art directors Isabel Seiffert and Christoph Miler to ensure the magazine visually reflects the values and ideology behind the written content?
Isabel and Christoph came in with the idea that the theme should be carried through to the design of the magazine — it should be as important as the content itself. Through a typography that grows and shrinks, gets wider and thinner, through a layout that accommodates various types of content within a set frame, and introducing order in what many might see as ‘chaos’, they’ve brought Migrant Journal to life in a way that neither Justinien or I thought would be possible.
In many cases the designers work with contributors from early on, to develop infographics, diagrams, maps and images that are within the journal’s visual language but portray in the best possible way individual contributions. Many contributions have gained a new life in our publication.
Pick a spread from the magazine and tell us what it says about the issue.
It’s very difficult to choose a spread as they vary so much in how they carry information, and also because I love them all — so I’ve chosen the only triple spread we have in the magazine. This is the Journal’s inside cover which unfolds to reveal the contents of the magazine — showing the contributions by region. Since the beginning we’ve wanted it to have an ‘atlas-like’ feel, and this spread shows that quite remarkably but still illustrating countries in a format or context we don’t normally see them in — in a sort of ‘unpuzzled’ whole.
What are you finding most frustrating about your work this week?
From my editor's perspective, the Migrant team is trying to organise a few days in April to physically gather for a final push before sending issue two to print and it is proving to be a challenge as we live in different places across Europe and have busy schedules — but we will manage!
From my architect’s point of view, I am currently working on Bergen’s first underground tram station, and not speaking Norwegian is a frustration I am trying to overcome by having 6 hours of language class a week.
What’s going to be the highlight of this week for you?
This weekend I am putting a pause to fjord life to attend the BAFTA awards in London, as my boyfriend’s film ‘Consumed’ has been nominated for the British Short Film award. The ceremony, dinner and a party at Kensington Palace might become the highlight of the month/year..
What will you be doing after this chat?
I will be walking down the mountain to my day-time office and attack a busy week of work, of Norwegian classes and Migrant Journal issue two editing.