For its first issue, Post took on the subject of "Matter", focusing on "this shift from the material to the virtual". For its second it considered "Gravity" and "what awaits us beyond constraints of time, form and place". They're not your usual themes for a fashion and art magazine, but then Post isn't your average publication, claiming to be the world's first independent magazine created exclusively for the iPad, which "looks beyond the traditional rules of how magazines ‘should be' in favour of speculating on what magazines could be".
The first issue was launched in January, eight months after the iPad was first released, and a year after its publisher, Meri Media, set up. Established by Remi Paringaux, former art director of Dazed & Confused and Vogue Hommes Japan, and gallerist Alex Dellal, Meri soon began working with Xerxes Cook, a former senior editor on Tank magazine, who also writes for influential fashion titles such as L'Uomo Vogue, i-D, Another and Acne Paper. "We decided to create Post as a platform for experimentation," says Cook. "It is our playground, where we can explore our personal interests and a vision for what magazines could be."
The tactile qualities of the iPad make it much more closely related to print magazines than websites, says Cook, and Post works hard to make its stories interactive. The Gravity issue features a fashion story in which the model turns into a 3D wire-frame when the user taps on her, for example; moving the finger around makes the frame distort and warp, as well as affecting the accompanying soundtrack. Elsewhere in this same issue, Post has reconfigured a Stella McCartney ad, allowing the user to flick pieces of fruit off a model (who sadly never actually gets naked). As Cook told www.style.com back in January, "it's not just eye candy, it's finger candy".
Other stories use interactivity more subtly, allowing users to choose where to be in a video clip, which audio reply to hear to a series of questions, and when to stop spinning products to take a better look at them. Cook says Post hopes to take advantage of all the iPad's technology, from 3D modelling to augmented reality, to create something truly immersive, and estimates each reader spends an hour working through each magazine, "probably the average time someone spends with a magazine other than The New Yorker"; you can flick through faster, but it's fair to say it's an absorbing, pleasing experience".
Meri has had to build much of the technology up from scratch, so much so that Cook describes the launch app as "issue zero" rather than "number one". Using Meri's proprietary publishing software, they've had to write their own coding, and they've also had to negotiate new working patterns, from how to arrange the soundtrack to what the copyright is on video art. Cook describes himself as a TV programmer, video game developer and music producer as well as an editor, and says its tough at times.
"Compared to a print magazine, where you finish a layout and send a PDF to the printer, with an iPad when you are at that stage you are only halfway there," he says. "If you're lucky."
It's also time-consuming, and so far Post (like BJP's new app) is quarterly. Each issue is sent out as a new app and takes a good 10 minutes to download, making the title slow compared to the 24-hour news culture the internet has helped engender. Cook's not overly worried. He'd rather have space to experiment and reflect than bang out instant 24-hour news, and Meri is experimenting with formats for the features ("embedded versus streaming versus downloading each page individually, and so on"). The company will launch other projects, using different approaches in 2012, but for the flagship title, they're happy to sacrifice speed for quality and content. "We acknowledge that it is a very large download - in fact, memory space is our one restriction - yet we strive to present the most comprehensive experience possible," he says.
This feature-rich approach also makes the app expensive to produce but there, as Cook happily admits, its fashion content gives it a big advantage because fashion labels have long backed innovation. Meri outsources its talents to fashion labels to help them create interactive ads; currently these ads are used in Post, but there's potential for them to be used elesewhere as magazine apps proliferate, and presumably Meri will profit from this.
Post is also allowing influential shops to "curate" its accessories page (Colette, the French design superstore, took over the products in the Gravity issue, for example), and it's easy to see how this could cross over into e-commerce. "Fashion has a lot to gain from the controlled environment of the iPad, as opposed to the free spirited, viral nature of the web, just as they do from glossy print magazines," says Cook. "Add in click-to-buy ecommerce, and an advert has the potential to be a mobile retail outfit."
Fashion editorial also has a reputation for being at the cutting edge - fashion film dates back to the 1960s (if not before), and Nick Knight launched the seminal showstudio site in 2000, providing a place to make and show off fashion films. Post doesn't just feature fashion video - the Matter issue featured a video Q&A with Gaspar Noe, the director of Touching the Void, plus work by video artist Sema Bekirovic, while the third edition (actually a supplement to the Gravity issue) was a "video art intervention" into the 54th Venice Biennale - but it can commission moving fashion stories, and is determined to innovate here too.
"We want to avoid the kind of souped-up pop promo thumping soundtrack format of fashion film and also the generally cringe-inducing narrative-led films", says Cook, adding that they favour series of moving-image spreads instead, allowing the user to swipe through the images as if turning the pages of a conventional fashion story. Photographer Jacob Sutton teamed up with stylist Simon Foxton and a team of professional skydivers to create a story called The Man Who Fell To Earth in the Gravity issue for example; while Solve Sundsbo created the cover story for the Matter issue (which featured a man on fire).
"Solve has been a real digital pioneer and Jacob has a real feel for film in the sense of creating evocative moving photographs," says Cook. "Working with film also means working with big crews, and directors of photography offer the opportunity for anyone with a idea the chance to create a film. But an experienced photographer will bring qualities that people from other disciplines may have trouble matching, such as knowing how to engage and bring out the best in their subject. There are lots of photographers working in film, and it is a really exciting time to be working in fashion film - it is a genre that hasn't been defined yet, and one that has a lot of funding from fashion labels, e-commerce brands and so on."
In fact, Cook adds, while there will always be a place for fashion photography, fashion photographers need to become more aware of technology in future to ensure their work stays relevant. As he points out, billboards now use video, augmented reality is creeping into shop fronts and app magazines are blurring the boundaries between still and moving images. Many of the Post pieces are shot on a Vision Research Phantom camera, for example, which can capture more than 1000 frames per second for up to six seconds, "stretching a single moment almost beyond belief". "When a photographer has to start composing what will be a campaign advertisement they have to consider all of its uses - online, onscreen and on the iPad," says Cook. "At the very simplest level this could be showing a model's hair blowing in the wind for a couple of seconds, or capturing the blink of an eye."
For more information, visit postmatter.com.
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