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Hugo Berger, The Light Observer
At work with

Hugo Berger, The Light Observer

French designer Hugo Berger lives in Milan, where he works on a wide range of book, exhibition and art projects. He is also Editor-in-chief of The Light Observer, the magazine that uses both art and science to examine our relationship with light. We hear from Hugo about his week and his publishing influences as the second issue of the magazine is published.

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I start the day, after breakfast, by riding my bike to George Sowden’s studio. I work there every morning on various design projects, I also happen to work on projects with the artist Nathalie Du Pasquier who shares the studio, which is always exciting. I usually return home just before 2pm and have lunch with Eleonora, my fiancée and the other half of The Light Observer magazine.

So I can say that my work on the magazine starts after a cup of coffee, patiently made with my lever espresso machine that I’m quite fond of. There is a lot to do on The Light Observer as we deal with everything, from designing, finding contributors, distributing, managing our website and instagram, the list goes on... So it's always quite busy, especially on Monday!

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Our desk is actually our kitchen table, which happens to be a useful thing: we can’t let it become a mess. Yet there is always a pile of books and zines on one side and next to the table stands our bookshelf, which comes handy when working, as we always rely on books.

We also founded a publishing house and are currently working on our first book, for the photographer Irene Fenara, that takes photos from video-surveillance cameras. Thus we constantly split our time between the magazine and the publishing house.

Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
After such a complex year one feels optimistic that 2021 will bring a good outcome. I’m quite resilient and try to adapt myself to any situation.

Our first issue was launched when almost all bookstores were closed in Europe, not the best time to introduce a new magazine! Our second issue was also released in a difficult time so we hope that the situation will be better for our third. Especially because it’s hard to find advertisers and sponsors in that context, yet we definitely need them to continue!

Which magazine do you first remember?
Le Journal de Mickey that I could read at my grandparents’, which belonged to my dad and his brothers, with its worn pages and great comics.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Fulgurances ICC is a magazine that I enjoy a lot for the stories they tell, that I find very inspiring, and it deals with things that I’m always keen to explore: cuisine, traditions, creativity. They haven’t published a new issue for a while but I heard they will this year, with a new design, I’m curious to see it.

Describe your magazine in three words
‘The Light Observer’ sums it up quite well actually.

What inspired you to create a magazine about light?
It comes from the will to create a magazine that would not be focused on a specific subject but could embrace a lot of disciplines and stories. Light is a theme that touches everyone: artists, scientists, architects, both in a practical and poetic manner.

Last year I heard Francis Ford Coppola saying that ‘We can derive from light so much emotion, so much understanding and knowledge that the real importance of light is worthy to think about a lot’. I couldn’t agree more!

Is the magazine simply a celebration of light, or is there a bolder agenda?
The specificity of The Light Observer is to collaborate with an artist, for each issue, in order to create a series of artworks for the magazine. It’s important for us to create original content and let the magazine be a place of creation and experimentation for artists.

We were delighted to have Nathalie Du Pasquier to start with her series of drawings. Caroline Denervaud is featured in the current issue, with beautiful collages (above). Both have been creating artworks using a different approach or technique from the one they are used to. It's very exciting to work with such artists and build the series together.

More generally our goal is to create a sort of thoughtful dialogue by bringing together photography, art, science, philosophy... We also introduced fashion in our second issue. For our third issue we plan to interview a Nobel prize winner, investigate bioluminescent sharks, along with photographic series and our traditional artist collaboration.

You’ve already had an impressive range of contributors and subjects. How do you attract big names to a start-up project?
It was our first experience as such, even if I’ve been working for a year at MoSt in Milan that publishes magazines and Eleonora worked with publishing houses such as GOST or Witty books. We simply tried to explain as clearly as possible our project and editorial line, why we wanted them to be a part of it, and we remained rather impressed that almost everyone answered and with a true interest.

As I quote Francis Ford Coppola before, he is a contributor I would love to have: beyond his body of work, he is such a curious, wise and insightful person, and we both share a passion for wine, which is always a good start for an interview.

What are you excited about for this coming week?
We'll see the first dummy of the photography book we've been working on for months now. Also we'll start discussing more precisely the future contributors and contents for the third issue. It's the most exciting part of making a magazine: when everything is possible and you just can't wait to contact people, share thoughts and work together.

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