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Basically, a zine (pronounced “zeen”) is a low-budget DIY booklet. The word stems from the shortening of the word magazine and was developed as a rejection of commercialism and mainstream publications. In stark contrast to the mass media industry, zine artists don’t seek to make a profit. Instead, they are designed to share ideas, stories, and artistic work.
Due to the fact that they haven’t gained much of a corporate backing, creators of zines pay homage to their own creative roots, carving an organic niche in visual arts for themselves. Originally churned out by hand, the prospect of a potential zine is an exciting one, with an endless amount of technology, media, and materials readily available.
The constant evolution of technology mixed with older, more traditional techniques means that zines continue to intrigue with highly individual and versatile methodology.
The contemporary zine emerged alongside technology like the photocopier. The interest and creation of zines grew in popularity during the punk movement of the 70’s and quickly spread from the United Kingdom to Australia and America. Marginalized creatives sought a medium that wouldn’t leave them broke. Graffiti was one solution to the problem, and one of the others was zine-making.
Authors of zines soon developed the DIY magazines to incorporate new ideas, personal observations, poetry, concepts, and artworks within their limited pages. Let’s have a look at one of the predominant zine styles today – and how you can make simple and effective photography books with a printer and a bit of low-grade origami!
Zines are designed as a simple, accessible and low-cost project. With a couple of folds, a simple piece of paper can become a comprehensive creative space.
First, we’ll build a scaffold to get a hold on the zine’s layout. It’s important to visualize the construction of a zine to understand the folding process. The layout will also guide your images later. Practicing the process will allow you to create work quicker, but also with greater efficacy.
For this project, I’ll be using a blank, A4 sheet of paper – but different sizes and colors work well too! Let’s get started.
Fold your original paper (1) so the short edges touch and press down on the crease with a finger to create a neat line in the center of the page (2). Always fold the two smaller edges of paper together. Folding length-ways results in a paper fan instead. Fold 2 in half so that the shorter sides of the folded paper intersect. Press down along the center line to make a crisp edge on stage three. The next stage is…you guessed it! Double stage three over and crease at the fold to make stage four.
Now, open your paper. You’ll see 8 evenly divided rectangles.
The next step is labeling each of the sections of your paper. Looking at the image above, you’ll notice that half of the pages are marked upside down. Folding the final stages of the zine can be tricky. Each image needs to be oriented in a specific way. The end result of the zine will be made up of different orientations of your paper, due to the final folding process. If you want all your images to be one size and right-side up, mapping our the zine’s final orientation like this is invaluable.
Next, you’ll need to put a neat horizontal line in the inner two pages of the layout. Mark a continuous line between page 1 and page 4 and between page 5 and the front cover (as shown above). With a sharp craft knife, cut along the mark you made. Just be sure the knife is sharp, otherwise, it will leave nasty edges all the way up and down your cut.
Hold onto the outer layers of the paper with your fingers and gently push the outer pages toward the middle slit, so that the slice opens up to accommodate the pages (see below).
Photographic books are one of the best ways to share your photography. But producing professional-grade art books is a seriously costly undertaking. They may be small, but zines are a powerful and fun way to present your work and build networks.
The DIY nature of zines adds an extra layer of physicality to a body of work. They emphasize tactility, size, and detail. As they are handmade, each zine is a personal, tailored body of work, with the care that can only be imbued by hand. Because they take on an informal appearance, people will be much more inclined to touch and interact with your work. The price of the copies doesn’t hurt the viewer’s hip pocket either. They can take your work and revisit it again later – at minimal cost to creator and viewer.
Because we will be working on the computer, grab a template like the one below and open it in a new document in Photoshop. You can copy mine if you like. Open up a new document and paste the layout onto the page.
Carefully transpose each of your images to the corresponding page on the layout. Refer to your test dummy zine to visualize each page in the booklet. Remember, each image has to be orientated in the same way as the layout. Otherwise, you will end up with upside down images on your final zine.
For the cover of this zine, I’ve decided to use a joint image that spans over both the back and front page so that the pages will correspond.
Following through the folding instructions above, you’ll have your finished product! Now that you’ve made one, are you tempted to get started on a few more?
Here are a few examples of some recent zines I’ve made.
Zines are all about sharing art and creativity, founding trades and friendships across the world. Please share your photographic zines below, I would love to see them. Perhaps we could set up a trade!