This new magazine from Istanbul, launched following a successful Kickstarter campaign, is only the second magazine to celebrate baths and bathing I’ve ever known. The first one, Wet, published at the end of the 1970s, remains a publishing benchmark for many – a tough act to follow.
It’s too early to elect a winner between the two, but there’s obviously something about baths that inspires real passion. Wet has its history, its key cultural references that extend way beyond simply washing in a tub (‘Gourmet Bathing’), but Hamam uses the same enthusiasm as a starting point for its own diversions.
Its central concern is the act of ‘Letting go,’ declaring that the point where water meets the skin is one where ‘nobody is the same, but everyone is equal and welcome.’
The issue opens with a look at the post-bath feeling of contentedness, asking how we might describe it, and introducing the Japanese word ‘Toto-no-tta,’ used for just that purpose. This easy, culturally diverse approach continues throughout the issue.
We hear of an ego-killing rewilding trip into the hinterlands of southern Oregan, and meet water-obsessed artist James Mortimer (above). Swimming club members in Palau introduce us to their health regime in Max Pinckers’ photo report (below). The tone is serious but not overly earnest, with space for humour – the issue ends with a final page titled ‘Rinse,’ which promises a work by a different artist each issue, ‘to rinse and leave Hamam with.’
Between the longer stories there’s fiction, poetry and a fairytale. Other features are less bathing, more letting go: Mongolian end-of-life rituals for instance (above). But then it’s back to bathing – the UK’s Victorian bath houses, the challenge facing the sauna addict when travelling, and we circle back to Japan with a photo report about outdoor bathing at hot spring hotels (below).
There’s little sense of a clear design language – headline fonts change, grids vary – but there is control (see intro letter, below). Together, it all looks smart, its cover doing a nice, shiny job of introducing itself to the reader.
The launch issue of Hamam is a really impressive magazine that, although brand new, arrives with all the confidence of a long-established publication. Which marks it out as our first Magazine of the Week for some time.
Founders: Ekin Balcıoğlu and Steve Weiner
Editor-in-chief: Ekin Balcıoğlu
Art direction: Okay Karadayilar, Onagore