In 2014, photographer Pete Voelker started a book series called SPOT ZINE that combined a few long-time interests: photos and music and parties. He’d spent a lot of that year touring and documenting friends’ bands, and when he got back home to the East Village, he had the idea to curate a series of zines by artists he liked, pair them with bands he liked, and throw a release party and performance at a neighborhood bar. He teamed photographers like Sandy Kim with bands like Threats and artists like David Brandon Geeting with Alice Lancaster, and brought the communities that they circulated in together with drinks and commemorative t-shirts. Five years later, he’s launched a new, photo-centric book series called PIX that has the same community-focused principle of bringing people with similar interests and adjacent scenes together to show their work side by side and, when possible, all get together for a good party.
Under an imprint he’s calling SPOTZ in homage to the first installment, Voelker selected three artists to kick off the first three PIX books in the numbered series. He picked a photo from each photographer—Chad Moore for PIX 001, Michael Northrup for PIX 002, and Farah Al Qasami for PIX 003—to be used as a prompt, and invited other photographers to submit a photo in response to that image. Over a 2-month submission period, Voelker received entries from dozens of people from all over the world. From there he edited the photos into sequences that put young or amateur photographers’ work in conversation with images made by photographers with decades long careers. Borås, Sweden–based Hannes Mörk’s photo is published alongside one from Delilah Jesinkey of Los Angeles and the edit of photos reacting to Farah Al Qasimi’s prompt includes Nick Sethi, Sam Hiscox, and Alexis Gross. The evolution of his first project went beyond bringing people from and art and music scenes together, and created a dialog among different photography communities. Last month, many of the artists featured in the project celebrated the first three installments of what he hopes will be a 10-part series.
“I want to get as many of the photographers I’m interested in and admire and see what they would inspire in other photographers I love and even ones I wasn’t familiar with yet,” said Voelker. While the book edits include just 30 images, more photographers are included in the digital portfolios on Spotz.club. “It’s been really cool to see great photos by people who are just making these images for fun alongside some of the greats. I’ve recently joked about who I feel might get along just based on the way their brains work in terms of what they were inspired to share as responses to the catalyst photos starting each portfolio.”
The next two books, 004 and 005 are being released this Saturday, with photos by Ryan McGinley and Elizabeth de la Piedra serving as their inspiration images. Check out www.spotz.club if you’re interested in submitting or would like to view the portfolios. Vice talked to Voelker about the project, his process, and why he’s doing commemorative patches instead of t-shirts this time around.
VICE: Why do you think it's important to have a physical representation of this project now?
Pete Voelker: Having a photograph on paper in my hands does something different to me than a screen; books are almost always my favorite way of viewing photographs. Unfortunately, there is one major downfall and that is cost, which also means; access. This project was initially inspired by the inclusiveness digital publishing can offer, the online portfolios are larger than the books, and potentially have a sizable reach. However, printing physical copies is an opportunity to memorialize the portfolios and bring people together at a release party.
VICE: Who's surprised you the most with issue 001, 002, and 003?
Voelker: The first three photographers who let me use their photographs, no doubt about it. Chad Moore, Michael Northrup and Farah Al Qasimi. I have a lot of gratitude for their participation.
VICE: What kinds of visual connections are you looking for in the submissions?
Voelker: Ultimately it’s a wide range of things that grab me; from color to form even subtext has helped me build bridges between images, sometimes it is emotion other times it is composition.
VICE: In an age of image saturation, how do you feel about photographer's paying homage to other artists in their work?
Voelker: In terms of PIX, I hope participants think critically about their personal images and find a connection to the image that has prompted their submission. If they opt to make a brand new image, I think there is always room for homage but I think it should push beyond replication and promote its own process.
VICE: If you could have one dream pairing for PIX, what would it be?
Voelker: I think the energy and effectiveness of photographs by Cindy Sherman and Torbjørn Rødland would dawn a compelling diptych.
VICE: You're also an editorial photographer yourself, how do you find inspiration for your assignments? Has PIX been a part of that?
Voelker: I look to the assignment first, I really like to plan for things and obsessively prepare. This means research and time considering my role communicating a story. I usually find something in there that gets me excited. With that said, there is no doubt I’m inspired by PIX to create stronger and more engaging photographs.
VICE: How do you go about choosing the initial artists that act as the catalyst for the rest of the magazine?
Voelker: I have a list of names; people I’d like to collaborate with and I’m pretty much reaching into that bucket of inspiration that includes peers, colleagues, friends, mentors, and people I admire.
VICE: What's next for PIX? Would you ever bring the music element back?
Voelker: 004 and 005 are releasing this Saturday, June 1st at. The portfolios will go live on the website that morning and the release party will be at 2A starting at 7PM. 2A is an East Village bar located on 2nd street and Avenue A here in New York City. In addition to having all PIX books available the full portfolios (including images not in the book) will be projected on a massive wall adjacent to the bar. A DJ at this party will provide the tunes but a future publication from SPOTZ might include a music performance in its modus operandi.
Check our a sneak preview of Issue 004 and 005 below. You can follow Pix here.