'Collection of Documentaries' Is an Extraordinary Window into Britain's Youth Subcultures
We spoke to the creators of our favourite new photography magazine.
If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30
days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out there are many more magazines in the world other than VICE. This new series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide on which of those zines, pamphlets and publications you should be reading when you're not staring at ours.
By day, Lee Crichton is a London-based hairdresser. However, having been a longtime fan of The Face, he decided that he wanted to revive the spirit of the now-defunct classic British culture magazine and publish his own photography journal.
The result is a Collection of Documentaries, a gathering of work that sets out to explore modern British society and challenge what people think of as "Real Britain". Through concise writing and candid photography, it looks to explore the UK's influence on youth culture worldwide.
We talked to Lee, the editor, and Adam Evans-Pringle, who designed the magazine, about the project and their rejection of advertising and social media.
VICE: How did C.O.D come about? I heard there was some trouble with funding it?
Lee Crichton: Firstly, the desire to create my own magazine came about because of my love for holding a print publication. After watching the world become so obsessed by social media – and the industry becoming so saturated as a result – I really wanted to strip things back to basics.
If you think of rave culture – real rave culture – there were no mobile phones; people lived in the moment. Whereas nowadays, people are too bothered about taking a picture and writing the best caption when they should be losing control. It's these moments that I really wanted to celebrate and document.
Together, myself, Winter [Vandenbrink, the photographic curator] and Adam wanted to create something that looked different on the shelf. With regards to funding, obviously the nature of print is far more expensive and less accessible, which is why online media seems the more obvious option nowadays and print the elusive option. We had potential funding from an outsider who backed out at the 11th hour, so let's just say I cut a lot of hair! But it was so worth it. And hopefully we will have more openings when it comes to the second issue.
What inspired you when putting it together?
It's a British-led magazine – there's not much more to it than that. Being British myself in London, I was always interested in so many other creatives who have moved here, and of the ways our culture affected their cities and their youth while growing up – something that is happening now more so than ever. Our photographic curator Winter is from Amsterdam and sees Britain through different eyes to me, and this sparked so many interesting ideas in itself. It took many wine-fuelled cultural debates to realise that our difference in opinions and viewpoints could create something really beautiful.
The design is very streamlined, with lots of negative space. What was the idea there?
Adam Evans-Pringle: The white space in an art gallery is equally as important as its content, so we directed it in this way to hero the work. Also, because of the contributors' diversity, it was proving difficult to select the right cover shot, so we didn't.
As a full time advertising creative I am always compromising creativity for function and marketing purposes – trying to shoehorn in anything and everything, everywhere, and usually against my recommendation – so it was nice to be able to break away from this suffocation and create minimal beauty. We started C.O.D to go back to basics and produce something to hold on to, so that's what we have done.
Why did you choose to have no advertisements in the magazine?
Lee: This was more of a rebellion than anything else at first; the pages of many publications are swamped with advertisements that are often not remotely connected to the content of the magazine itself – something we reference quite explicitly in the numerous repetition of the same image at the start of issue one. Of course, we fully appreciate that we cannot survive several future issues without some help from advertisements, so it's not something we're consciously ruling out.
Who is the magazine for? Is there a preferred audience?
Lee: I'm not looking to pigeonhole anyone – the content of C.O.D is already so vast that it would be difficult to pinpoint a specific audience. We're a community in the way we built the magazine; it's something we want to be discovered and explored. The really interesting thing about a lack of online presence is that it's actually really difficult to target a particular type of person – aside from an influence on where it's stocked – meaning we rely solely on word of mouth or secondary sources to spread the word. So chances are I'll have no idea who's reading it, either.
How did you connect with the contributors?
That was mostly Winter's job. Being a photographer himself, he has a real connection with new talent across Europe and really held his own on that. He sourced the photographers, and the writing was sourced by me.
When I went through the book I felt like an overriding theme was the loss of innocence. Was that intentional, or was there another message that you wanted to convey?
This was kind of a natural progression. The really raw element of all of this was that the brief was so indefinite. So the theme you mention was a cultural comment as a result of the wholesome view that our contributors had on British culture. We added to this with a lack of sub-editing, especially in Stuart's writing. It exudes innocence because his writing has a real childlike quality, in the best of senses. And this is something we didn't want to disguise.
What's your favourite collection in the magazine and why? Do you have some favourite shots that you love the most?
I think Sonya's connect most with me. Perhaps because it has the most obvious British connection and reminds me of 80s football culture, which is something I've always been fascinated by visually.
My favourite shot is this one by Winter (above). When I first saw it, it reminded me of myself; that feeling when you're a kid and buy yourself a piece of sportswear you love... For me, it was a pair of Adidas shiny tracksuit bottoms; for him, it was this top. I suppose innocence comes to the forefront again. He, the child, won't be like that forever
What are your plans for your next work?
Myself and Winter are putting issue two together as we speak. Issue one will hit shelves worldwide in March, and issue two in September, and then the same the following year. It's all about taking C.O.D to the next level now – getting the right people involved but keeping it niche.
Check out more images from C.O.D. below.