Having cleared away the underbrush, I will now actually review this thing. I will repeat some things from my rather lengthy design study, since some readers may have found (incredible!) those extensive notes overlong and tedious.
The zine contains work from an even dozen photographers, and has two essential components, text and pictures in about equal acreages.
The text from each photographer is provided by the photographer, and per the application requirements contains some biographical information and the answers to some questions like "Who are your influences?" "How did you get started?" "What is your process?" "Why do you shoot film not digital?" and so on.
The pictures are about 1 dozen photos per photographer.
Overall it kind of works, as a kind of sample platter of photography. Here are some film-loving hipsters, and here are the pictures they made. There's breadth of material here: one has heavily hand worked negatives and prints, another has a whole body of double exposures, there's street photography, portraits, fashion-ish, and a few landscape-y things.
The pictures look to me less like film, and more like a hipster millenial's idea of what film looks like, about which more anon.
But there are some decent photos in here! As long-time readers know, I believe that any photo can be good, can make sense, in the right context. The nature of this project is that there is no context, essentially all these pictures are hanging out alone trying to be something. This is firmly in the tradition of the Single Iconic Picture style. As single pictures, there are about equal parts: Picture of hot girl, Competent example of some form, and Rubbish. There are also a small handful (less than ten) genuinely standout pictures that are actually pretty strong and interesting as standalone photographs.
So, this isn't terrible. I assume that many of you would find about the same ratios, but you might well reclassify things. My rubbish might be your standout. But I bet our choices would line up quite a bit, too.
Is it inspiring? I gotta say it might be, to the right person. There's a lot of ideas in here, executed well or poorly, they're ideas. In that sense it's pretty good. It's better than looking at instagram or pinterest, that's for sure.
The text comes from Chris's idea that we should get to know the artist, which is a worthy goal. The trouble with stacking 12 of these things together is that you start to see roughly the same answers over and over. It is tedious, and also reveals something: when you "fill out an application" like this, you answer with some mixture of honesty and what you think the application-reader wants to hear.
We see the same names dropped over and over as an influence (but we never see any visual indication of an influence). Ren Hang is mentioned twice, but in the first place he's clearly not an influence on these photographers, and in the second place he died and was all over the photo news at precisely the time these applications were being filled out. Hmm.
We see the same answers over and over for why film over digital.
The bio information is potentially interesting -- I find it dreary in the extreme, but I think normal people like it. Occasionally there is something about process that's interesting, but more often it's gibberish.
Providing us material as-written from a bunch of artists seems to be to have been a mistake. Many of these artists don't speak English as a first language, and this material is essentially just a piece of email anyways. Mangled sentences, half-formed statements, and typos abound. This is by no means the fault of the photographers, they are mostly not writers. They've simply been hung out to dry by editorial choices.
Overall, the text is probably a 5 out of 10. I'm sure some people will enjoy it, especially if they only read their own, or their friend's. Reading all 12 is a bit of a slog.
Back to the pictures.
Part of my interest in this zine was to see if there was evidence that people were submitting digital photos as film, just to get published and get a copy of the zine. There's nothing conclusive, but there is evidence.
Let me start out by saying that a good fake is somewhere between very hard and impossible to spot. I know for certain that Chris cannot spot a good fake. Note that "film emulation presets" and so on are not good fakes, they are in general terrible fakes which generate not a film look at all, but rather a hispter's wild misconception of a film look. Any evidence is going to be in badly made fakes. I looked specifically at blown highlights and grain/noise.
These are a couple photos in here that have very digital-looking highlights and what looks a lot more like digital noise than grain, to my eye. There are a lot of photos in here that look a lot more like "film emulation" than film. There is a startling lack of visible grain structure.
So, while there are a couple I would tentatively point out as likely fakes, the overall sense is that there's gotta be some in here someplace. When you're surrounded by Elvises, there's probably an impersonator someplace in the bunch.
Would I recommend this for the current list price of $45? Not in a million years. Chris's price for this thing is $21.99, he wants you to give him a clear profit of $23.01 per copy which is completely bonkers. Maybe he passes some of this on to the photographers? I dunno. I dare say they're not exactly flying off the shelves.
For $45 there are literally 1000s of better photo books out there. Buy one of them. But if you can pick one up used for a few bucks, or if your friend has one, flip through it. You might get an idea or two.