IN THE EARLY 1960s, advances in offset litho printing enabled a whole new generation of independent art and literary magazines, liberated from the costly constraints of letterpress and engraved halftone blocks. With the addition of phototypesetting and process colour, the ‘underground press’ went into overdrive, perhaps best illustrated in the UK by International Times (IT) and Oz, where the staid rules of composition were abandoned for a visual cacophony of radical design. Most were produced by collectives promoting one agenda or another and, by the ‘70s, these had morphed into a myriad of fanzines, art and music magazines closely associated with the ethos of ‘punk’ do-it-yourself. More recently, the digital revolution has opened up previously unimaginable potential for inventive publishers (it is now possible to produce the whole of the Sunday Times on a single laptop computer) and the photographic image has become indisputably the essential art of our time.
Although there have been numerous – and most worthy – image based magazines published, two are universally accepted as being iconic, and both have been created solely by visionary women.
The first issue of Égoïste was published in November 1977 by Nicole Wisniak. It appears whenever its dynamic editor, publisher, designer (and everything in between) Wisniak feels it is ready. And when these deluxe, large format issues are announced, despite the often expensive cover price (£30 is not unusual) they are snapped up by the haut monde of Paris within days. It is both a collector’s item and a status symbol beloved by the chic arts crowd and media commentators alike.
The other is a magazine created with fervour and single-mindedness by a former dancer and professional photographer, Susan Zadeh, who founded Eyemazing in 2003 as a ‘unique publication made by a photographer for other photographers’.
Eyemazing is dedicated totally to the art of the photographic image and artists creating the most powerful visual statements in contemporary culture. Moving to Holland from France, Zadeh is often quoted as having spent 12 years as a ballerina with Het Nationale Ballet in Amsterdam. But it is not difficult to detect the dedication, self belief and determined focus required to dance professionally in her extraordinary achievements with Eyemazing magazine. Achievements that have been recognised in the world of photography(1) and – in 2013 – by the accolade of a substantial survey of the history of the magazine being published by Thames & Hudson in a large format, deluxe edition.
The top quality, 196 page, large format Eyemazing magazine soon became synonymous with its creator, who attempted to balance its production with her career as independent curator, critic, mentor and awards panellist. The very process of collaborating with Thames & Hudson required her to distil 10 years of Eyemazing photographs (some 7800+ pages) – each of which had originally been chosen with passion – into the 400 odd selection that finally appeared. For someone with a declared ‘mania’ for photography, this was not a process taken lightly. She dealt with it by evolving the two themes within the book – Dreams and Memories of a Past Life and Our Body, Our Cage. Our Body, Our Home – selecting 130 photographers to be represented. This beautiful production is a joy to read and every return visit reveals a previously unnoticed image amongst the key works by selected by Zadeh from the hundreds of photographers she has collaborated with over the last ten years.
Zadeh had worked for several years as a jobbing commercial photographer and founded and published Freeye (1999-2003) a quarterly magazine dedicated to fine art photography, before launching Eyemazing. It comes as no surprise that she cited Wisniak and Égoïste as a major influence, when quizzed about her career in 2008. Her nom-de-plume of ‘Eyemazing Susan’ has today become a recognised brand and she herself is in demand for committees and juries across the many world events that surround contemporary photography.(2)
What began life as a ‘unique platform for exceptional photography’ – wherein its publisher and editor took on every other role as well (‘...photography editor, designer, subscriptions and distribution, advertising, the secretary, and the delivery “boy”...’) – rapidly evolved into a very personal statement, a direct means of creative expression for Zadeh herself. Only those intimately involved with publishing independent magazines would understand the financial pressures and emotional drain such a singular venture could produce. She is recorded as realising: ‘...[it] slowly became Eyemazing Susan’s diary book. [...] I was very close to my product, and so my actual state of mind had a huge effect on my choice of photography. So the content of each issue became darker and darker. [...] Eyemazing became my way of life’.
Some observers have commented on the increased fetish content in more recent editions, but this may be no more than a reflection of the subject matter that is common currency among emerging talents in contemporary art photography. And Zadeh was nothing if not liberal in her approach to image editing, balancing acknowledged masters of the lens with unknown newcomers and – indeed – anyone able to create an image that had impact. ‘Today we all can be a photographer...’ she told one interviewer, balancing the statement with the rider, ‘...while we are not all artists....’
The future of Eyemazing is confused at present. Comments Zadeh has made indicate it may evolve into an annual event, as opposed to quarterly editions. Certainly, sponsorship has never been more difficult than in today’s climate and she does not have Wisniak’s flair for attracting prestigious advertising. Offering content to woo advertisers appals her sensibilities. And, personally, she prides herself on her ambiguity and predilection for secrecy. But whatever direction Eyemazing takes in the future, no one could doubt the accuracy of the comment made by Photo magazine (November 2013): ‘Eyemazing Susan... is one of the most innovative and original thinkers and curators in art photography today.’ She is too...
1. 2008: Winner of The Lucie Award (nominated 2011, 2013); Winner of The International Sappi Awards 2010
2. The Jacob Riis Award (WPGA) juror 2010; Gammelgaard Monochrome 2011 juror; Photographer of the Year 2013 (Ukraine) juror; IPA juror 2014; etc
The New Collectible Photography
Ed. Eyemazing Susan
Essays: Karl E Johnson, Steven Brown, John Wood
THAMES & HUDSON
HB. 423 illus. 544 pp
INDEX PAGE CREDIT
PIERRE ALIVON (b.1974 Paris)
Eyemazing Susan 2010
Zadeh's preferred portrait photo, taken at Paris Photo