Commentary on my first zine: Memories of a pandemic

On the 22nd of June 2020 my first ever zine that I had made arrived at my door and with a mixture of nervousness and excitement I opened the parcel. Did everything pan out or I have just created a hot mess? I pulled out a copy and flipped through it. The zine turned out quite decent if I say so myself. The photographs, text and layout was as I had made them.

When I started this project it was to document the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the Stockholm metropolitan area for myself as a memory from this historic event. Because the swedish government did not put the country in an enforced lockdown I could wander around freely and photograph to my hearts content. After having shot about one and a half rolls of film I started toying with the idea of turning the photographs into a zine. Some thinking later and the decision was taken. Instead of just ending up as photos in an album they would now become part of a more structured narrative. This decision made me more selective in regards to the subjects I chose to photograph.

Talking about subject selection, one thing I wanted to capture was a person walking about with a face mask but I never got a good opportunity. Being an introvert made it really hard to muster up the courage to ask a stranger for their photograph or just take a shot while they see me. The other thing that made it harder was that there were extremely few people who used face masks in Stockholm. This is probably because the government didn’t issue any mandates for it and there exists a strong social pressure against face coverings. So the few people who used them were mostly foreigners.

Even though the government didn’t enforce a lockdown most people actually followed the social distancing guidelines and stayed at home as much as they could. At least during March and April. After that, most people didn’t care anymore. But during those two months I wandered a mostly empty city, taking in the sights undisturbed.

Anyway, the camera and lenses I chose for this project was my FED-2 (type b) with Jupiter-8 50mm f2 and Jupiter-12 35mm f2.8. I used the KMZ universal turret viewfinder to accommodate the 35mm lens. Most of the photographs were taken with the Jupiter-12 lens because I naturally gravitate more to 35mm than 50mm focal length and I also feel that for most of my photography 50mm is a little too tight. Besides that, both lenses performed really well.

The camera also performed really well and the only thing I didn’t like about it was it’s built-in viewfinder. It is too small for someone who wears glasses and can sometimes be a little too dim. Fortunately this was offset by the universal turret viewfinder. It is gloriously bright and worked flawlessly. After I had finished taking all the pictures for this project I bought a Zorki-4 (2nd ver) for its brighter built-in viewfinder. It is now my main camera.

Oh, and before I forget, the film I used was Ilford HP5 Plus for its versatility and it’s ease of home development.

Because I was completely new to the process of making a zine I had to do some research and the internet was of great help. Two really great articles on Emulsive about how to make a photo book and how to print a zine, by Anil Mistry and Adam Smith respectively, help tremendously. I also found the video “How to make your own photography zine” made by Eduardo Pavez Goye helpful. Charlie Tom’s zine “The Nuclear Option” gave me some inspiration for layout and font.

To make the layout I used a program called Scribus. It is an open source alternative to Adobe Indesign and worked really well for my needs. Although, one thing that I had some problems with was figuring out how to embed fonts in the exported PDF file. After some tinkering and searching on the internet I figured out how to do it.

Overall I am quite pleased with the result of my first photographic zine even though it doesn’t look very professional. And I must say that it was a special feeling for me to hold a zine that I had made myself. Doing this project taught me a lot about photography and I will definitely do more of these, even though I still have a long way to go on this journey.

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