An Interview with: Raw Forms Magazine
Manchester-based biannual publication Raw Forms magazine champions queer and minority perspectives on politics, socio-economics and fashion. Its' first issue - Spaces - looks at "personal space and its ability to foster confidence, sexuality and learning", as well as the notion of LGBTQI communities - or lack thereof. We spoke to Editor in Chief Samuel Lindblad (@lllindblad) and Creative Director Cal McIntyre (@CalMcIntyrePhoto) to learn more.
Give us an insight in to Raw Forms magazine – what is the ethos behind it?
Samuel Lindblad: I would say that Raw Forms functions more like a journal than a magazine. To me, it feels like a little pocket of queer thought that is documented and distributed as a bit of a middle finger to the 24-hour news cycle. We see things like Grenfell and the Windrush Scandal dominating headlines but any real analysis or debate around these things is confined to tiny opinion pieces in the national press or five-minute chats on mainstream news channels. And, more often than not, that debate and analysis is undertaken by people with no stake in the problem. I guess we wanted to just produce media that acknowledges the identity of the writer or artist and put that first.
Our first book is a collection of essays, letters and portraiture that present minority perspectives on issues like commodified gay pride, the BAME/LGBTQIA intersection, and being culturally ambiguous – to name a few.
How do you see independent publishing as a tool for social change?
SL: There is a dreary media landscape at the moment that has really centralised which media gets read and what doesn’t. Clickbait and overwhelming advertising have definitely contributed to how some of the bigger media companies have gotten so big - though I think that a lot of people are starting to become resilient to it and look for something more thought-provoking in their news. Remaining independent is one way of giving yourself the freedom to curate books that focus on that critique.
On the other side of it, independent publishing allows readers to support the journalism that they can find value in. Even though we’re a queer and minority-focused publication, most of our readers are outside of the LGBTQIA community. To me, that just shows how wide this kind of thought can reach. A major publishing house wouldn’t get on board with this kind of project because it’s not as focused on pop gay culture. It’s been our job to test the water.
How important is it to have an unregulated cyberspace for queer security?
SL: Ah, my piece for the first book. I actually wrote that article for another publication and they rejected me because it wasn’t “news” enough at the time. It was only a week after it being rejected that the net neutrality law was overturned in the states. This topic is interesting to me because on one hand you’ve got the US government deregulating and the UK government trying to increase regulation – though each have this real sinister undertone.
In the US, the repeal of net neutrality will, in coming years, splinter the internet and create an inequality among who can access what content based on the user’s Internet Service Provider (ISP). The people who pay more will get more varied and higher quality content. Digital inequality is already a problem in the US (see here) and decreasing the quality and the variation of this content will negatively impact poorer schools and poorer kids.
It kind of hit home for me because I grew up as a queer kid in a very poor household with no school education on gay relationships. The internet is a necessary tool for learning about those things when you have no other provisions to. It’s scary to imagine not being able to access certain information because you are on a cheap and limited ISP. Another outcome could be that these kids may not have access to queer-focused TV and Film. It seems menial but surrounding yourself (and other people) with good queer narratives is incredibly important when you’re aiming for total acceptance.
In the UK, it’s different. Until the UK hops out of the EU, we’re protected by the EU’s net neutrality principles. My unease comes from the number of times Theresa May and the Conservatives have called for tight internet censorship as a response to terrorism and porn. I don’t know – to me, government-sponsored censorship is always a dangerous game. We’ve seen how China has utilised censorship to block homo-related content in an effort to “clean up” internet content, though there has definitely been a lot of backlash (see here). I think a lot of queer and minority communities would agree with me when I say that these past few years have shown how quickly “progressive” states can regress very quickly into social conservatism. Sure, equal marriage became a thing – but just a few years earlier, most Conservatives were voting against most progressive gay legislation. Change happens because it becomes politically profitable. We shouldn’t take these things for granted and, to me, we certainly shouldn’t give the government the power to censor whatever they like when we don’t know what the next government will look like.
Can you remember what first sparked the idea to put together a magazine?
Cal: I remember in the Summertime Sam and I were discussing, or more like venting, about our issues with being a writer or a journalist under various editors at various publications. It was so frustrating to put so much work and energy into a piece of writing to then have it changed so much. By the time our ‘work’ was published we agreed it was sad in a way to put our name to it since it had been changed and edited so much that it didn’t feel like our own anymore. I’m a photographer and know the graphic side of things, and Sam is a brilliant writer and editor, we kind of looked at each other and thought ‘Why don’t we just do it ourselves?’. It’s kind of funny looking back at how the idea was always there at our fingertips.
Throughout the editing process, were there any conscious curatorial / methodological / aesthetic decisions that you adhered to?
Cal McIntyre: We definitely discussed how we wanted to remain true to what we both experienced writing for publications and let the writers write in their style, with their own voice, without editing it so much. In terms of visuals, this ‘Lo-Fi’ look just came back accidentally in a way. I was shooting on a 35mm Minolta camera and during some of the editorials for Raw Forms some film got burned or overexposed and these actually worked perfectly in the background for some of the essay based articles. It was almost this happy accident, and ending up visually tieing everything together.
What have you learned (personally or professionally) through pulling together the first issue of Raw Forms?
CM: I think one of the greatest things Sam and I both learned is that we do extremely well under pressure. At the launch of the first issue, we were both in our final years of university, both working full-time jobs, and then continuing on with our own freelance jobs and projects. So looking back it was a very stressful period, but on the launch of the first issue and seeing everyone there, friends and strangers, looking at the magazine, it makes it all so worthwhile.
Your next issue Change to Come focuses on the politics and art of change in society – can you give us a hint as to who and what we might expect to see?
CM: Yes, now that it’s all starting to come together, the first thing we can say that it is going to be a lot bigger. There are almost four times as many contributors compared to the first issue, and it has a much more global feeling to it with contributors from Japan, Germany, and America which is pretty exciting for it. To be honest, it’s going to look a lot different too, it’s all very exciting, but we don’t want to give too much away. It’s going to be stocked internationally too which is pretty great. Our events will be posted online @rawformsmagazine and our books are available from www.rawformsmagazine.com.
Let us know how we can get in touch.
We’re open to pitches and submissions at email@example.com.