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Ink Spots

'PYLOT' Magazine Creates Beauty Without Photoshop or a Budget

The analogue photography-only magazine is for anyone who thinks the gap between high fashion and everyday life is indecipherable.

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 that VICE isn't the only magazine in the world. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide to which zines, pamphlets, and publications you should be reading when you're not reading ours.

All images courtesy of PYLOT Magazine and this article originally appeared on VICE US.


For an independent magazine on its third issue, PYLOT looks surprisingly like the kind of big-budget international mag that's been kicking around for years: it's thick, laid out beautifully, and the photoshoots are so arresting that your eyes will wander straight to the credits in anticipation of finding a famous name. And there are a few of those, from the great American documentary photographer Roger Ballen, to British upstart Tom Johnson, to established photographer and filmmaker Jane Hilton; the talent onboard speaks volumes for the magazine.

Focusing on narrative storytelling and marrying fashion editorial with documentary photography, PYLOT occupies a unique place in the market. It's really for anyone who sees the gap between high fashion and everyday life as indecipherable. Also, PYLOT keeps it real. You might not notice it immediately, but the mag holds a firm "no retouching" policy. They don't use any Photoshop "in terms of beauty", as the team explains. "We won't do anything that affects how the model looks physically." Ironic, given that editor-in-chief Max Barnett, is – by day – a photographer, as well as a very talented beauty retoucher.

This might have something to do with PYLOT's other policy: analogue photography only. Photo editor Bex Day thinks this is imperative to the magazine's aesthetic. The color, highlights, and grain you get from shooting on film have an authenticity and finish that are nearly impossible to mimic with digital photography or fake through post production. To find out more about the PYLOT's firm ethos and the exciting stories they cover, we talked to magazine's core editorial team, consisting of Barnett, Day, fashion director and stylist Patricia Villirillo, and commissioning editor Henry Gorse.


Photo by Roger Ballen, courtesy of 'PYLOT'

VICE: Hey guys. Does someone want to kick things off by telling me how the magazine came to be?
Max Barnett, Editor-in-Chief: It started as an experiment while I was in my second year at university. I spent my final year researching and developing the concept as part of my university course, but I'd say the magazine got in full swing once Patricia Villirillo and Henry Gorse came on board.

It happened pretty organically; I met Bex at London Fashion Week when we were working backstage taking photos, and Bex introduced me to Patricia, and Patricia introduced me to Henry. After that, the team just flourished. We now have 13 members, which has made it possible to create something that not only embraces analogue photography, but diverse casting, real hard-hitting stories, and experimental fashion features.

What are some of the challenges you face with an independent mag like this? Patricia Villirillo, Fashion Director: I think the most challenging thing is to gain credibility within the industry, as we're all young and still finding our feet. We all work for free out of passion for the magazine; another challenge is that we have no budget at all, as all money from the print sales go to the cost of the next issue. We all help with the casting, assisting, pre-production, and post-production of the shoots for each issue as much as we can. It's definitely our labor of love.

Why is it called PYLOT?
Barnett: At first it was because the idea was a pilot; I was trailing the concept. But I prefer the way the name looks as PYLOT (as opposed to PILOT), the 'Y' gives an even weight to the text. The name has since come to symbolize our practice as a magazine – it helps to push us to create and think in ways that are not the norm. This ties in with our zero beauty retouching ethos, as – as far as I know – no one had yet declared themselves to be a zero beauty retouching publication when we started.


Tell me more about that – why no retouching?
We decided not to beauty retouch our imagery because we felt like, at the time of creating the magazine, there was not a great representation of reality in the fashion industry. I feel like this is changing now, which is great to see. A lot of younger, more independent magazines are going for a more natural finish. It was a way for us to state how we felt and still feel about ethics in the fashion industry, and a way for us to celebrate difference and flaws rather than conceal them.

Bex Day, Photo Editor: It's like that quote by the columnist Mary Schmich, which was later used in that Baz Luhrmann song, "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen": "DO NOT READ BEAUTY MAGAZINES THEY WILL ONLY MAKE YOU FEEL UGLY." That really struck me. I could really relate. I thought, Why on Earth should publications be encouraging abnormal weight and overly retouched skin? Plus, it's important to break rigid beauty ideals and change how people think.

What are some of the themes you've had from issue to issue?
The previous themes have been dedicated to "Craft" and "Family." I think having a theme allows consistency throughout the curation of the publication, allowing a smooth flow of intriguing content. Our latest issue is "The Status Quo Issue."

Photo by Eamonn Freel, Styled by Alessia Vanini

What's in the new issue?
Well Eamonn Freel's fashion editorial is about his brother Ciaran who got brain cancer when he was six-years-old, which unfortunately stopped his brain from progressing. His shoot was about Ciaran's concept of "the status quo" and how he interprets the world. And then there was a fashion story the team constructed from the photographer Roger Ballen's archive, in collaboration with Roger himself.


What does it feel like to work with people like Roger Charity?
Henry Gorse, Commissioning Editor: It was an absolute pleasure to work with Roger. I drove him and his crew down with Patricia to South Wales and we camped by the sea. These guys know analogue inside out, so it was a breath of fresh air to see how he worked. Hearing his stories and becoming a friend of his was a highlight of Issue 3 for me and the rest of the team. The stuff he was shooting back in the 80s and 90s is being ripped off like hell today, it was important for us to bring him back and give him the attention he deserves. Roger keeps out of the limelight, but we won't let that happen.

Day: We try to endorse established and new talent and mix it all together. Collaborating with industry legends feels incredible – it's a really great feeling that they are into what we do and really supporting us. It's kind of magical being able to talk to your idols and work closely with them.

For example, we also commissioned the fine art photographer Anna Fox to shoot her first fashion story, "Everyday Folk," which portrayed real Morris dancers who she cast and shot over a few days. We featured unseen works of Jane Hilton and an interview with Cheryl Newman to coincide with her renowned series Precious which is about her intimate portraits of Nevada prostitutes.

Photo by Jane Hilton, courtesy of 'PYLOT'

Why do you exclusively publish analogue photography?
In such a digital saturated world, we thought it was important to push for a resurgence in analogue photography. Using film as a medium is important because of the patience and the space you have to have in between shooting and waiting for the negatives to return – the images do not come back instantly. You also think much more carefully about each shot that you take because it is expensive, and you only really need one shot rather than the 50,000 you would take on digital. I guess it also sets a boundary for all the photographers to work to and again, keeps a consistency, too.


What's next for PYLOT?
Gorse: We'll continue to stick to our ethos. I think issue four will really show our quality, when you consider this is all done with no budget, it's scary to think what we could achieve with it. We like to pay attention to past greats, the underdogs and try to look for things in people we can elevate. The most exciting thing for me is watching the team grow together, the talent in this team is special, together there is no limit!

Check out PYLOT's website for more from the magazine and info on the next issue, which is due out in April.

Follow Amelia on Twitter.

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