Thursday, June 21, 2007

MEGAWORDS (interesting)

Interview // Anthony Smyrski - Megawords Magazine
When it comes to a free, non-commercial magazine as impressive as the Philadelphia based Megawords the first question that comes to mind is “but…how?” Yet, rather than get tied up with logistics we spoke to co-founder Anthony Smyrski about the reasons why they do it. If you’re not already familiar with the title then we recommend you visit their recently relaunched website before reading the interview.
above images // cover of Megawords # 6 and Anthony in Luxembourg during Colophon International Magazine Symposium

Although we’re mainly going to discuss publishing, your agency Smyrski Creative works across a whole range of projects from design to consulting. Can you take us back to the beginning and was there a particular project that got the ball rolling?
As a child I had always been quite interested in and observant of my environment, and that’s where it really all goes back to – my obsession with the world. Later college wasn’t going so well for me, and nothing in any of my classes seemed at all relevant and I was searching for the proper outlet for my feelings and observations. I had recently met Dan Murphy and some other artists in Philadelphia, and this really heightened my awareness of other means of expression that suited me properly. Working with Dan, and realizing there were alternatives is really what started my current trajectory.
And did publishing stem from your design work or did it run parallel?
Publishing to me is simply one of the many ways to have a voice, and to express your stance and views. Likewise with design.
Can you elaborate on what you attempt to voice through Megawords magazine?
The expression and declaration of self, or declaration of existence, is what is important. To take a stance on any issue is something people seem to have trouble with today, wouldn’t you say? We are in a time now, with our personal freedoms at stake in many ways, where we are constantly overwhelmed by advertising and messages that our not our own. It may have never been more important to remember to ask those questions, take those stands, and make as much noise of your own as possible. This is what Megawords is to me, expressing my own voice while hopefully inspiring others to express theirs.
Are there other publications/people/ideas that inspire you in a similar way?
I’ve been inspired by Colors magazine, free press publications from the ’60s, and the Philadelphia Independent. I can also count amongst inspiration people such as Jean Luc Godard, Peter Saville, Camus, Morrissey, Josef Müller Brockman, and the Maysles brothers. Anyone with strong ideas that become manifest in their work.
Megawords is also free which is amazing because it is something that most people would pay for. What was the basis for this decision? Also what challenges, if any, has it presented in regards to perception (people potentially taking it for granted) and distribution (separating the mag from other free press)?
Megawords must be free because we do not want any barriers to someone picking it up and looking at it, even if it’s something as low as 1 or 2 dollars. We felt that it had to be free. Free of cost and free of advertising. We felt that if the content was right, that people would respond appropriately We’ve managed to build a certain amount of prestige and respect around the magazine, and are careful not to leave it on the floor in a pile, and we’ve been lucky enough to find a network of people around the globe who take the time to help us distribute the magazine.
In terms of getting the content right, what is the process behind compiling each issue?
Each issue comes together very organically. Dan and myself will bring groups of images and ideas that we are interested, and through our editing process find connections and draw parallels between things that work well with each other. Sometimes it is aesthetic, often contextual. One path will often lead to completely new directions that could only result through the unique process we follow. Of course, sometimes we throw this process out the window. With issue 4 for example. This issue was put together much more in the way a traditional magazine would be, although we really had no idea what was going on while we made the issue.
In the latest issue there’s a double page spread with four guys riding around some kind of DIY velodrome. There’s no obvious source for the picture and although I love it and want to know more about it I also enjoy imagining where it came from. Can you tell us about this image, or perhaps just elaborate on this enigmatic element of Megawords?
Dan actually allocated this image. Funny we just spoke about it tonight in an AIGA lecture we gave. It was given to him by a long lost contact, the photo itself it quite old. Dan often speaks about how he’d love to recreate this velodrome… but that’s about all we know as to the photos origins.
As for Megawords enigmatic qualities, our good friend once said that what we do is pull images from our collective “interesting file” and somehow find a way for them all to make sense together. I’ve always liked that description.

Another interesting characteristic of Megawords (current issue specifically) is that there are a some photos that one might not notice in a different context. It seems like the ‘atmosphere’ of the publication that is created through both format and content gives new life to these images. Is this intentional? And, what would you consider to be a boring image?
The form and context of the images, and how we place them next to each other is very, very intentional. How images follow each other and how they are paced throughout each issue all come together to tell a story. Nuances of color and form are also taken into account. I’ve not really come across a totally boring image because when you place it next to something else, you can totally change its effect, making it really memorable.
Do you take your own photos?
I do take my own photographs, but I wouldn’t call myself a photographer by any means. Its so easy to take pictures now with digital cameras and computers, I feel as if I must take pictures of what I’m doing if only becasue the photos will be so great to look at in 25 years.
… how does your personal aesthetic influence your aesthetic of the Megawords?
The look of Megawords is certainly affected by my personal aesthetic. I prefer function over form, and I like to try and achieve the most impact possible with an elegant and effective economy of means and materials.
Lastly, what are your plans for Megawords?
Issue 7 of Megawords is going to be our 2nd text heavy issue. It will be interviews with people that are somehow involved with the project, either people that have influenced us, that have been influenced by us, or that we’ve worked with or collaborated with.
Dan and JT are continuing on with Megawords Radio, and we’ve got some great artists performing on the show in the next few months. I personally have 3 short documentary films that I am working on, I really feel as if thats the direction we’re headed. We’ll continue to take a look around us, and see where the world leads.

1 comment:

RDJ said...

the graffiti book "Public wall writing in Philadelphia" from Smyrski creative will be available from very shortly, good timing JL ;)