Happiness is something Perdiz and recent D&AD Award winner Parterre de Rois have in common, and now Printed Pages is joining in with a series of 14 smiles in their new issue. Commissioned from Martin Parr, Jon Burgerman, James Jarvis and more, the smiles champion what the magazine calls the ‘joy and power of creative endeavour’. Each are dramatically different, imperfect, carefree and ‘a simple pause for a moment of happiness,’ a riposte to the unrelenting state of the news.
The one-word brief ‘Smile’ is perhaps best represented by Ted Parker’s bold, pink, cover (above). Using the same simple elements as the classic ‘smiley’ face, there’s an ambiguity underlying the pink face that suits our times. It is one of the most literal images of the series, a zoomed in close-up of the face all Parker’s characters wear, yet also the most subtle.
Despite editor Owen Pritchard’s claim that the smiles were ‘created in a spirit of of optimism and opportunity,’ with its flat, doll-like gaze, Parker’s cover leaves you wondering whether you’re in on a joke or not. His clumsy, gawking grin strikes a disarming balance between foreign and familiar. In the real world happiness is fleeting, but Parker’s drawings are always suspended in bliss, mask-like, hiding the truth.
Printed Pages has run a series of strong, iconic covers recently. With the exception of the last one — a curious post-Halloween image of a pair of young boys holding toy skeletons — they’ve latched onto the need for a face on the cover, the idea that eye contact is essential for a succesful magazine cover. Erik Yahnker’s deconstructed Kanye and Neil Bedford’s shots of the Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared puppets adopted this traditional route, and Parker’s peculiar smile follows the same direction, striping it down for a starker, graphic look.
Inside, the other smiles all either melancholy, worn or weird. It’s hard to imagine any of them running on the cover but they make a strong set inside the issue. Braulio Amado’s appears to have just been thrown at, and slipped down, a wall. Ryan Lowry’s balloons, Nadine Redlich’s braces and Mrzyk & Moriceau’s bum all celebrate the ordinary (all above).
Lowry’s stands out for me (above). The familiar yellow smiley printed on a pair of balloons, full to burst and about to float away, is the only smile here that truly captures happiness — shot at night it captures a fleeting, drunken, party moment.
Published by the It’s Nice That team, Printed Pages has been through many iterations. Essentially the ultimate ‘platform’ magazine, an outlet for a largely uncritical exposure of creative work, the smiles series in this 13th issue suggests a shift. As well as the familiar work of young creatives, repurposed from the website, perhaps we’re seeing Printed Pages develop a more distinct voice.