Give it to me straight: you’re going to throw this away, aren’t you?
Once you’ve consumed this issue, it will fall straight to the bottom of your bag, its text and image fields soon a repository of doodles, scribbled essay deadlines and hardened gum wads.
You wouldn’t be to blame: as participants in an advertisement-heavy culture, we’re conditioned to equate ‘free’ with ‘disposable,’ setting an immediate expiry date on the often excellent free periodicals, papers, and blogs we read.
That’s precisely the situation that Hannah Byrne and Shayl Prisk, founders of Montreal-based SNAP! magazine, are trying to counteract.
Each issue of their award-winning quarterly, now releasing its second national issue, is curated with care. SNAP!’s polished aesthetics, quality content, and luxurious format are characteristic of pricey publications, but come absolutely gratis.
“There’s no point, at least for us, in making something that readers are just going to throw away,” said Prisk in an interview at the magazine’s office on St-Laurent Boulevard. “We’ve put a lot of care into making this publication something timeless that people can keep, and we really enjoy doing that. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be rewarding.”
Combining photography, illustration, fashion shoots, and written works that pertain to a specific theme, SNAP! presents content that is innovative and varied, yet reads as a cohesive artistic collaboration.
“In this stage of the magazine, as opposed to the early issues, we’re very selective with what we take,” said Prisk. They’ve received an overwhelming amount of contributions from artists across Canada. “We really want to make a high-quality product.”
Themes that are playful and tongue-in-cheek encourage contributions that span from the serious to the silly. Take the August-October 2011 issue, entitled “Double-D.”
On the cover, an eye-catching preview of Caroline Mauxion’s photo shoot of models in embroidered, cheeky bras that read “Drip-Dry,” “Daddy Dearest,” and “Double Dare.” In the same issue, readers find a collection of “Dirty Dishes” by artist Christine Hale and photographer Andreas Sundgren: dainty porcelain plates with illustrations of whimsical breakfasts and foodstuffs. “Sunny-Side up Tits” or “Vanilla Asscream,” anyone?
The printed word is just as important as the visual arts in SNAP!, a rarity in any publication. From writer Julie Rhoda’s crazed and comedic fan letter to David Duchovny, to Daniel Chandler’s intriguing interview of Darrell Duffie, the Dean Witter Distinguished Professor of Finance at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, SNAP! offers quality writing in league with the best publications.
Perhaps that’s because Prisk and Byrne, both Australians by birth, have a sincere appreciation for Montreal’s large artistic community, and work with individual artists to create a publication that benefits the publishers, contributors, and readers.
“The artists who work with us get a lot of freedom to be creative,” said Prisk. “Much more than they do when they contribute to other publications with a very narrow sense of what they want. The themes give them a way to explore ideas that they’ve been thinking about, but haven’t been able to work on in other ways.”
In collaborating with artists whose talent often outweighs their exposure, Prisk has seen the difference that publication in a magazine like SNAP! often makes.
“So many of our artists have gotten really big contracts because of the exposure they get in SNAP!” she explained, “and they can pass the magazine around and show their friends what they’ve worked on. It’s a really positive experience for everyone, which is important for us, because we couldn’t make the magazine without these artists.”
SNAP!’s positive attitude toward its audience and contributors has been a mainstay of its production since Prisk and Byrne first started the magazine.
“We toughed it out, and we still are to this day,” said Byrne of the financial strain of running a self-funded project. “But people respect you if you work hard, and they can see that you’re not just two flash-in-the-pan kids trying to make a magazine.”
“We’d stand at the door of our events and give our copies and thank people for coming,” Byrne continued, “and we sponsored Art Matters and POP Montreal. We launched our magazine without a network, and then the network came to us.”
They started funding the magazine out of their own pocket, drawing on pay from other jobs. But now that they publish nationally, extra advertising revenue and free contributions from artists have made the enterprise more viable.
SNAP! runs on authenticity: its sincere desire to offer excellent content, to create positive publicity and opportunities for contributors, and to offer through its beautiful format something truly different and appealing to readers sets the magazine apart.
“We found a niche that wasn’t being filled by any magazine in Montreal, let alone for free,” said Prisk, “and now we’ve gone from 2,000 copies an issue to 10,000 copies all across Canada.”
“You can’t make a magazine that pleases everyone, because that magazine doesn’t exist,” concluded Prisk. “We try to make something authentic and beautiful that will be worth reading again in two years. And when we put an issue out, all our copies disappear.”
SNAP! is launching its second national issue on Nov. 11 and can be found at retailers like WESC, Drawn & Quarterly, Off The Hook, and Magazine General. For more information, visit www.snapme.ca.