In the first of a series of reports about independent magazines from China, Nelson Ng, editor of Lost, introduces the pilot issue of bilingual photography magazine Genda.
There aren’t many independent magazines in China, let alone bilingual ones, so when I first heard about Genda from Silvia Ponzoni, the publication’s editor-in-chief, I was thrilled to meet a ‘partner in crime’. Like Lost, it offers the Chinese market something different and unconventional in a gushing sea of mainstream magazines, starting right from its text-only cover, a move not often seen on magazine stands in China.
Genda is a magazine intersecting Western and Eastern culture. This intersection runs through from its editorial staff — one in Italy and one in China — to its selection of photographers and to the translated texts in the magazine. Every issue has a theme – for issue zero it’s ‘Landscape As Abandon’ – and the selection of content revolves around it.
What’s beautiful about the magazine is its format and choice of paper (above). It’s made in a nice small page size which you can read without having to put on a table, and the texture of the cover has a really nice grainy feel to it. The greenish wraparound cover is made with eco-friendly Crush Kiwi paper from Favini (and you can see black dots in the paper which I suspect are crushed Kiwi seeds) which unfolds into a large monotone poster (above).
It’s not a magazine with a lot of text, because the main heroes are its images. Most of the pages are stark with a full-bleed image (above) and sometimes a page number, and each series begins with a statement from the photographer (above). The magazine features the work of 18 photographers, and it does so in a sequential order in the first two thirds of the magazine. But it’s the last third of the magazine when things get really exciting.
The words Genda in Chinese actually mean ‘Really?’, which alludes to a misunderstanding from this cultural exchange. The last 55 pages of the magazine is a shuffle of all the imagery, creating interesting and unexpected connections between them (above). You can’t help but try to relate the two images on each spread, sometimes ending up with totally weird and random ideas. Like the one with three passers-by juxtaposed against the three Chinese deities of Fortune, Prosperity and Longevity on the next page (below).
As Genda has proved, misunderstandings can be a beautiful thing.