‘Fine art photography’ mag Ordinary needs no introduction – which is probably why it doesn’t have one.
If it did, I reckon this issue’s intro would go something like this: what could be more ordinary than a tampon? After all, a menstruating person can use up to 14,000 tampons in their lifetime. And yet I’m sure there are people who will balk at this issue, or feel awkward in the face of such brazen nonchalance.
For those unfamiliar with the mag, its concept is simple. Over 20 artists from around the world are sent an ‘ordinary object’ and respond accordingly. Along with the photographs, the item in question comes stapled as a freebie on the front cover of the mag, as an extra – making it ‘extra-ordinary’. Many of their chosen objects are cheap items that resolve a world of human bodily issues, little inventions that can be surprisingly versatile.
With single-use products rapidly going out of fashion, Ordinary is – whether intentionally or not – documenting their proliferation and demise. The Straw, the subject of issue seven, was published just before a wave of plastic-straw-rejection gripped the West. In 2020, plastic straws will actually be banned in England, along with plastic cotton buds – the extra-ordinary item featured in the now sold-out issue three.
As these previously common objects have been increasingly politicised, their actual worth is regularly debated in the public sphere. After years of protest, the EU recently removed the controversial ‘tampon tax’ that deemed the product a ‘luxury item’ in the UK, rather than a necessity. Though with the rise of the more sustainable mooncup, one wonders how long the tampon has left. The perfect subject then, for this issue of Ordinary.
Despite the political undertones, the magazine is always a lot of fun. I am impressed with the relentlessly inventive ways the artists and photographers have integrated the tampon into their work. One of my favourite photographs is the double-page spread in the centre of the mag, in which the artist has successfully grown cress on a damp tampon. It is this conbination of the serious and the silly that makes it our latest Magazine of the Week.
Elsewhere you’ll find everything from the more obvious fruit-based visual analogies to the downright bizarre – the thieving squirrels on page two were an unexpected delight.
There is even a collage of how-to guides, comparing instructions for using tampons with those for other items. See, it’s not that bad!
Ordinary is such a multifaceted publication. With such intense focus on the banal, we are forced to really look – though whether we celebrate or criticise what we see is left up to us.
Editor: Max Siedentopf
Designer: Yuki Kappes