Editorial, Features, Photobooks

Splash and Grab Founder on Creating an Indie Photography Magazine

All images © the artist, courtesy Splash and Grab

We explore the creation of Splash and Grab, a London-based photography magazine that aims to give a platform to the best emerging and under-the-radar international photography talent.

What constitutes your identity? Is it a digital footprint, a collection of memories, nationality, politics, gender, sexuality, or race? How is it affected by exterior events such as war, terrorism, politics or cultural norms?

All these questions are explored in issue three of Splash and Grab, a London-based photography magazine that aims to give a platform to the best emerging and under-the-radar international talent.

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This edition brings together a group of up-and-coming contemporary photographers who explore themes as diverse as the migrant crisis, transgender rights, and the transition from teenage years to adulthood.

“The theme comes out of what photographers are working on,” says Max Ferguson, the magazine’s editor and founder. “For this issue we had over a thousand submissions, and after endless meetings, we make a long list then compile a theme.”

Max set up the magazine solo after graduating in 2012. He was quickly joined by his friends Sydney, Dan and Finbar. More recently Jennifer had also joined.  All five wanted jobs in the creative industries, but were disheartened by the scarcity of opportunity available to them in the midst of a recession. So, they decided to go DIY.

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“We came through uni in this recession having been promised jobs we wanted and loved to find all the magazines we wanted to work for had collapsed. Our generation is wrestling with the mistakes of people older than us – whether that’s bankers or politicians, so I think that’s why we’ve got a disconnect to who we really are.”

Just before this edition went to press, Brexit happened. The anti-migrant rhetoric that dominated the press up to the vote had a big impact on the editorial outcome. De-humanising terms such as ‘cockroaches’ and ‘swarms’ were used.

Daniel Castro Garcia and Thomas Saxby’s project Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015 – 2016 acts as a direct riposte to this malaise. Castro Garcia spent a year photographing refugees who’d made it to Europe from war torn nations including Syria, Eritrea and Sudan, making powerful, narrative-style portraits.

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“This project really succeeds in re-humanising migrants,” explains Max. “We’re so swamped with images that define the crisis – from the picture of Alan Kurdi dead on the beach, or overcrowded ships travelling across the Med. Daniel’s project surpasses the stereotype.”

Other photographers in the edition explore the idea of identity on a national level. German photographer Julia Autz travelled to Transnistria, a self-governing state that’s not recognized by the UN and still abides by Soviet Union principles. Over a period of two months, she photographed the state’s youth.

“Transnistria becomes instantly interesting because no one knows where it is,” explains Max. “The young people in these photographs are growing up in a country that’s unrecognised by the rest of the world, their identity is defined by the generation above them.” Rose Marie Cromwell travelled to another famously ostracized state: Cuba.

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“The Cubans have been really ‘othered’ by the Americans, they were seen as the evil communists on the doorstep. These photos are so intimate, almost awkwardly so. By going into the micro, it gets past the big problems that are at stake.”

The representations of identities that may not fit into the mainstream are also explored in the edition. London-based photographer William Spooner spent two months photographing kids taking drugs at illegal raves in London.

A ubiquitous coming-of-age activity, the kids are escaping the mundane repetition of day-to-day life and defining their identity in opposition to the mainstream.

Christopher Bethell attempts to define his identity by travelling to America to find out about his estranged grandfather, while Miriam Stanke photographs the Kurds, an autonomous group living in Turkey.

“I think we’re trying to provide photography that shows what other peoples’ lives are actually like,” explains Max. “We want to show people in a true light, not in a way that’s exploitative.”

The magazine ends with a series of photographs by Sander Marsman, with an accompanying essay from Clare Hewitt. The series – Dianna: Every Day is Dressed Up, depicts a 55-year-old transgender woman who’d been forced to live publicly as a man almost her entire life.

“ Sander Marsman’s photographs are the perfect endpoint to the magazine,” says Max.

“Dianna was born as Leonard and was forced to live as a man for fifty years when she was really a woman. It’s a perfect end because it shows how positive it is to pick your identity, and to come out with it.”

Find out more about Splash and Grab here.