Ghislain Pascal, Boys! Boys! Boys!
Ghislain Pascal has been promoting and supporting photographers and their work since the nineties, as agent, publicist, gallerist and now magazine publisher.
In 2008 he co-founded The Little Black Gallery, one of London’s leading photography galleries, and last year he launched the magazine Boys! Boys! Boys!, dedicated to queer and gay photography. We hear form him as the third issue of the rainbow-covered magazine lands in shops.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
I am sitting at my desk in my library at home in south west France. I live in the middle of nowhere on a farm surrounded by vineyards and countryside. It is very chilled, just me and all the wildlife that inhabit my property: hares, rabbits, deer, ragondin, and my owls.
My daily routine is pretty consistent this time of the year: I get up with the dawn chorus, work a couple of hours before heading out for my hour long morning walk through the stunning French countryside.
I religiously listen to Monocle24 Radio and their ‘Globalist’ show. It’s my bit of peace and quiet whilst connecting with world affairs. I love Monocle as they give such an international perspective on the news. I am so bored of the UK-centric and Francophobic media. I then get home and have lunch with the obligatory bottle of wine (I am French after all!) before my afternoon siesta in front of the roaring fire.
I’m a huge fan of an afternoon nap to recharge the batteries, as later in the afternoon I am back at my desk as the majority of my clients are in the USA. My summer routine is pretty much the same except the daytime is occupied by swimming and kayaking.
I was lucky with corona that living in the middle of nowhere it didn’t change my routine, just curbed all exhibitions and travel. It has been a very tough time for artists and galleries.
Describe your desk and your work space.
I have two work-spaces. One at my dining room table looking out on the garden and fields. The other in my library which I only built last year which is in the roof of my barn which is connected via the house. It has no view but lots of natural light from all the skylights. This room is where I can escape if I have visitors if I don’t want to be found. I live and work alone so there are normally few distractions. I generally only have friends come stay in the summer when life is all about sun, swimming, kayaking, eating & drinking!
Which magazine do you first remember?
The first magazine I bought on a regular basis was Smash Hits as I was a massive pop fan. Then as a teenager I religiously bought every issue of Sky Magazine.
I also remember getting my brother to buy me the first issue of Arena—which I thought was very grown up.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
This morning it is the FT’s How To Spend It. Every Monday morning I pick up the Weekend Financial Times from my nearest town. It is the only English newspaper I buy once a week. For me How To Spend It is just unadulterated luxury and class. It is of course pure fantasy. Whilst the Life & Arts section in the paper simply has the best global arts section. It normally takes me all week to read it.
Describe Boys! Boys! Boys! in three words.
BOYS! BOYS! BOYS!
It’s a truly international project—photographers and subjects are from across the globe. How do you source them?
BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! is a project by my gallery The Little Black Gallery to promote queer and gay photography.
We now represent more than 65 photographers from 30 countries—including China, India, Iran, Poland, Russia and Turkey—where gay rights are repressed and gay lives under constant threat. The programme includes an online art platform, exhibitions, education, and publishing.
We have published two BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! books, one self-published in 2019, the other with Mendo/teNeues in 2020. The third is out this May with Mendo. The magazine came as a result of the books. The books are designed as the ‘Best of’ all our photographers, whilst the magazine gives us the chance to showcase bodies of works or series by our photographers.
I’ve always wanted the BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! project to be truly global and not just photographers from the UK and USA, so I am really pleased that we have photographers from over 30 countries giving them a platform to a global audience.
The process for being in the books and magazines is very democratic - every photographer that we represent is included in the books, and every photographer has the opportunity to be in the magazines. We don’t accept work from photographers that are not represented by BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! or The Little Black Gallery, so photographers have to commit to the whole project.
The proposition is a very simple one at one level—naked boys!—but there’s more to the magazine than that. Explain!
LOL it is not all naked boys! There are enough dick magazines out there already! We are the world’s first fine art photography magazine dedicated to queer and gay photography.
The magazine is really a marketing tool for our BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! project, our photographers, and my gallery. It is incredibly difficult to generate any mainstream media for queer and gay photography, or indeed now on social media (we recently had our Instagram account @queer_art_photography deleted by Instagram. We are fighting this with our campaign INSTAGRAM BRING BACK BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! which people can join via our gallery account @tlbgallery. The censorship of art and homophobia by Instagram and Meta has to stop).
We have an amazing distributor Ra & Olly who have managed to get our magazine stocked in over 100 stockists around the world, including Barnes & Noble in the USA. It is great to see our magazine sitting alongside publishing giants. Although the majority of our sales are online via our website.
I am firm believer in giving something back so we donate $1 from the sale of every magazine to charities supporting the LGBTQ+ community and fighting the HIV / AIDS epidemic. From the books, magazines and other promotions on BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! we have been able to support Frontline AIDS, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Wear It Purple and the Peter Tatchell Foundation. We also use the platform for advocacy work with our ‘Hate Homophobia’ campaign with the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
The covers are very distinctive; how does your working relationship with creative director Jeremy Kunze work?
I have worked with Jeremy on many books with my artists Anja Niemi, Bob Carlos Clarke and Mona Kuhn. I was slightly concerned that as a hetrosexual man it might not work, but I couldn’t do the magazine without him. I give him all the images and he creates the magazine. I very rarely need to make any changes as he is almost always spot on. He has the most amazing eye for design and lay-outs. However much I try to change things I always come back to his original design.
I did not want to put any image on the cover of either our books or magazines as it would upset all but one of the photographers! So having different colours or the rainbow was the obvious choice!
What has one year of magazine publishing taught you?
That there is a market for queer and gay fine art photography. Everybody said I was mad but issue one sold out, issue two has almost sold out, whilst issue three is out now.
At the moment we are advertisement-free, which I would like to maintain, since we want people to collect the magazines like our books. But it would be nice to find a suitable brand to sponsor the magazines, or find some arts funding, as the costs of publishing put a huge strain on our gallery finances.
Please share one piece of advice for somebody wanting to launch their own publication
Don’t do it for the money! But don’t be put off. I was shocked how easy it was to publish a magazine but then I’ve never been very good with budgets!
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
I am going on holiday to Namibia.