Interview: Amy Marjoram – Thoughtful Photography Insights
Australian Amy Marjoram is the mastermind behind Excerpt magazine, a free quarterly online publication about photo-based practice. The magazine has an emphasis on original content and creating an accessible platform for thoughtful insights and exchanges. Besides running Excerpt Marjoram enjoys photography – don’t miss her blog postings here – and written language and has exhibited her own work, curated and written catalogue essays for shows in Melbourne’s artist run spaces.
How and why did you start or develop the idea of Excerpt Magazine?
Lots of print and online magazines out there contain great content yet most don’t seem to creatively engage with their content. Excerpt Magazine tries to really interconnect with the amazing photographs and moving images it shows in a reflexive way. We feed off ideas we come across in images and video works and use these to develop segments and issues that draw out the visual discussion.
Which problems did you face until you got everything rolling?
It is great for readers and contributors that Excerpt isn’t hemmed in by traditional formats but trying to make a magazine outside of the stock standard approach is definitely tricky. We never get to have a moment of ‘this is what the magazine is and will be.’ Luckily we have an extremely talented Creative Director Laura Gulbin and she is really instrumental in making the ideas morph in to an actual magazine. I find it isn’t until I see Laura’s designed pages that I get a full sense of how things have come together.
How would you describe the key strengths of your online publication?
As an indie publication we are unrestricted so we can make the magazine both important and fun. Everyone involved in the publication has their own creative practice so we really appreciate the time and effort and ideas contributors are bringing in and we aren’t interested in being pretentious or elitist. I think this attitude really influences every aspect of the publication and is why we are getting such a great response. We also have incredible content that we are lucky and honored to get to share.
How much time do you spend on average per issue, from calling the artists, concept, layout until the PDF is finished?
It’s almost impossible to quantify the time spent on an issue, research mixes in with normal internet crawling, things are scrawled down on lunch breaks, emails are answered whilst eating dinner, it’s all mixed in with life. Both Laura and I balance Excerpt with fulltime jobs, other freelance projects and our own creative work, somehow it all ends up happening!
It takes around 4 months from organizing people to the time an issue launches. Excerpt has content by artists and non-artists and we contact people and are also approached which is great. At the start there isn’t a pre-existing concept, but certain works and ideas lead to others so each issue forms in a meaningful way.
Are you planning a print run or even iPad edition in the future?
We wouldn’t rule this out, but being online we get to have a worldwide audience, show moving image works and keep it free which are fantastic aspects. If Excerpt ever extended it’s publishing presence it wouldn’t be at the expense of our current format.
Can you tell me something about the very beginning of your own photography – the problems, the joy – you’ve been facing?
I used to think photos were rubbish, I travelled to Europe when I was eighteen and didn’t take a camera. I remember thinking I didn’t want photos to disrupt my impressions and memories of things. Then two years later I used a little film SLR and discovered that I loved the click moment when you take a photo and that I feel more myself at that moment than any other. In 2005 I bought a digital camera and suddenly I could click over and over and over again without it costing money for film, no thinking in increments of 24! Full addiction for that moment of capturing an image followed.
Now I tend to think about the world through photos, it does disrupt my experience of things enormously and it turns out I prefer that to seamless interactions. After a few print-free years I am now struggling with the challenge of how to bring my disembodied digital photo files back in to the world in a physical way. I feel compelled to print but I am still mulling over what I want to gain by doing this.
What do you think personally is your best series you’ve photographed and why?
I really enjoyed my Getting in to Strangers Cars series from 2006-2007, it’s great when an art project gives you an excuse to do things you couldn’t otherwise justify doing. I learnt a lot about people from those photos and they were very fun to take. It was the Swanston series in 2009-2010 where I clearly saw for the first time how much of myself becomes invested in images. I was shooting on this ugly street and felt quite removed yet all these little predilections of mine were still appearing. I don’t think about best or worst as I am learning things all the time–possibly really obvious things but it can sometimes take lots of photos and thinking to find the obvious.
Are you planning your photographs or do you just walk around shooting? Or is it a mixture of both?
I like to think the latter but most things I shoot seem to sit within a specific constellation of ideas so I think I am planning more than I like to pretend.
Is there anything you’d like to say or predict about the future of photography?
I’m not an oracle but I would bet that photography is going to become more and more ingrained in everyone’s lives, I don’t think now is the peak. It’s such an exciting time, more people are enjoying photography than ever before and it’s like photography is mutating in to ever-stronger strains. I think photography theory that feeds off the impact of the digital evolution is going to explode all over the place soon and we will all be shifting the way we think about images and negotiate them.
Can you tell me one story that influenced your way of thinking about Australia? What changed?
This is the hardest question I have ever had! I find being Australian very perplexing and I don’t think being an artist is a comfy fit with the laid back approach Australian’s encourage each other to have.
I like that Excerpt magazine exists as a project across countries and that people working through ideas visually have their work brought together. I was feeling very international with my google translate and waking up to emails sent from different time zones. Then I emailed a photographer and had the reply, “are you in New York? We could have coffee.” I wrote back “I’m in Melbourne, Australia” and never heard from them again. It was the bitter that made me taste the sweet, as it was actually the only time in emailing hundreds of people that something like that occurred. Excerpt has become a story for me about being Australian and having the internet as an incredible second place to live–a vital space for me. ❚