Our annual photo issue has always been a favorite—a production cycle when we get to spend the majority of our days poring over countless images by some of our favorite artists. Over the years we’ve tackled a variety of themes: from last year’s Privacy and Perception Issue, which traced how privacy, sexuality, intimacy, and gender play out online, to our Idols Issue, which created a unique conversation about the line of influence between younger photographers and their peers, to our collaborative issue with the renowned collective Magnum Photos, which paid tribute to work at the crossroads of photojournalism and art.
For our 18th photo issue we wanted to celebrate the absurd, the lighthearted, and the humorous. It’s important to take a break from the real world. When we spend so much of our days staring at our phones, reacting to whatever is the latest thing in our feed, we forget how to wonder, how to be creative, sometimes how to have fun. As much as we need to be informed, engaged, and aware, we also need to laugh. We wanted to champion the people making art with a sense of humor. In today’s climate, there’s something nicely subversive about that.
Though the artists featured here may have differing approaches and styles, the works they submitted harness the same playfulness that’s at the heart of this issue’s theme. Take Lauren Servideo, a comedian whose character-driven videos on Instagram have amassed a cult following. For this issue she channeled Anubis—a fun-loving vampire living in LA who loves to gossip and shop—and she posed for a splashy resort-wear fashion shoot shot by the up-and-coming photographer Lula Hyers. Then there’s Matt Grubb, a Brooklyn-based artist with an MFA from Yale, who shared a series of self-portraits that he describes as existing “on the knife edge between fantasy and reality that most queer people have to navigate to feel at home in their bodies. If I was beautiful that day, how could I make myself even more so? And if I was ugly, let’s all see how deep that ugliness could become.” Alex Lysakowski’s body of work takes everyday structures set in mundane settings and manipulates and exaggerates them to the extreme, creating “a surreal world of absurdity.” We also feature a selection of images from the book April Dawn Alison. Beginning in the 70s and spanning 30 years, the self-portraits capture the many looks of April Dawn Alison, the feminine persona of a California-based photographer who lived in the world as a man. Erin O’Toole, an associate curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art who wrote an essay to accompany the book, says Alison’s photos “reveal a rich inner life filled with as much humor as pathos, as much joy as loneliness.”
Our cover images, of course, had to honor the wacky and nonsensical: Todd Midler, a recent art school graduate, created a portrait (and larger body of work) inspired by his obsessive love/hate relationship with his favorite basketball team: the New York Knicks, a group of lovable losers who haven’t won a championship since 1973. (As Midler says, calling them “mediocre would be a compliment.”) And we have Italian pranksters Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, the duo behind the glossy biannual Toiletpaper magazine, to thank for our second cover, which, inexplicably, features a beachside knight in head-to-toe armor posing with a semi-peeled banana—hey, why not?
The completed issue feels like our own personal reset button. We hope it can be the same for you. —Ellis Jones, Editor-in-Chief