‘Shifting the lens’ – The first issue of Clove, a magazine about South Asian culture, arrived with this announcement on a striking black&white cover. It’s always inspiring for us to learn about new independent magazines, and especially the ones that focus on regions which seldom get the kind of space and identity they deserve in the mainstream media.
Dedicated to regions including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, Clove is published by a London-based core team along with other regional specialists. Clove’s first issue has already generated a great amount of interest and appreciation, and the team is now heading into the launch of the second one in early 2019, with a plan to publish twice a year after that.
Could you tell us how Clove was born? Is there a particular reason for choosing print as your publishing medium?
I’d felt for a while that most Western mainstream publications, often those with global reach, tended to view other parts of the world through a very particular lens – one where stories fit into certain preconceived, stereotypical narratives or the emphasis is on how they sit in relation to Western culture. For example, a lot of journalism about South Asia looks rather simplistically at a supposed clash between tradition and modernity, which is often code for Western vs local culture. Others look at how apparently foreign cultural phenomena are taking hold in South Asia, treating it as a sign of “progress” and often ignoring contemporary cultural movements born within a region or the fact that nowhere does culture emerge in a vacuum. I wanted to play a part in subverting this tendency, focusing on a part of the world I grew up in.
As far as the medium goes, there is nothing quite like print when it comes to presenting visually rich, in-depth journalism that’s intended for readers to devote time to and enjoy. Print media will never regain the role it had before the internet, but it’s far from dead. I believe that if people value something, they are willing to pay for it and want to keep it in a tangible form – that applies to journalism as much as anything else. For me, the success we’ve seen so far with Clove’s first issue has vindicated that belief.
What’s the most challenging and the most fun part about making/running a magazine?
The biggest challenge for the first issue – like starting most creative projects – was securing funding, but that has started to change now that the issue has done well and is available in so many shops.
Most fun? Well, the process of selecting and commissioning stories and seeing them come to life on page at the hands of our fantastic designers was great. Equally, it’s been thrilling to see the magazine in shops and exhibitions, such as the current one in London’s Somerset House about independent print journalism, and to come across positive coverage and feedback. It makes me more confident about producing the second issue.
I’d felt for a while that most Western mainstream publications, often those with global reach, tended to view other parts of the world through a very particular lens – one where stories fit into certain preconceived, stereotypical narratives or the emphasis is on how they sit in relation to Western culture.
What were some of the key lessons while making your debut issue?
When you’re getting started, work as much as possible with people you know and trust. It’s amazing how much support and inspiration you’ll get from the people around you when you’re trying to pursue a creative project that you believe in. Also, involving your friends in a project like this and sharing the experience is really satisfying and enjoyable.
What inspires you to keep going? Also, what are you most looking forward to while making your second issue?
I’m inspired by the fact that there’s an endless pool of stories to tell in this field, and so many amazing writers, photographers and artists out there that I’d like to work with. I’m also excited about the potential to branch out into other areas – we organized a talk at Tate Modern in London earlier this year, and we’re working towards producing more events programmes and talks to complement what we do in print.
For the second issue, I am looking forward to commissioning more original photography, reportage and illustration than we were able to do for the first issue. We are also planning to start publishing fiction – which is certainly something I’d like to do more of in future.
When you’re getting started, work as much as possible with people you know and trust. It’s amazing how much support and inspiration you’ll get from the people around you when you’re trying to pursue a creative project that you believe in.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a new print magazine?
Don’t compromise on the quality. Your first issue will be a calling card for what you want to do in future, so if it’s not done well, it’s not worth doing. Take your time – delay it and give yourself extra time if you need it. Invest in paper, writers, design and artwork as much as you can, as these things are worth it and shouldn’t be scrimped on. And remember to enjoy it – publishing a magazine is never going to make you a millionaire so don’t make something you regret or dislike, or lose the joy of creating something of your own in the process.