Long Live the Zine

Text and images by Rhys Pope

“In about ’99… I totally bought into the idea that in just a few years time zines would be online, everyone would be shopping exclusively online and having sex exclusively online.”

Luke Sinclair could have just given up on zines right then and there, but luckily for everyone he didn’t. In 2001 he co-founded Melbourne’s own Sticky Institute along with Simone Ewenson. Today Sticky is the only living home for zines in Australia and zines are just as popular as ever.

“After a couple of years it was quite apparent that that wasn’t what was happening… The internet was making lots more zines lots more accessible for lots more people. So instead of being this evil thing to wipe zines out it was actually bringing the community together and people could find zines a hell of a lot easier,” says Luke.

Zines are independently produced print publications, most of them are black and white photocopies and are usually printed in less than 100 copies. They can replicate the form of magazines, with separate articles and stories or they can be completely different.

Zines have changed a fair bit over time, “I started reading zines in about ’93 and that was how you would find out about shows, that was how you found out about the music. It was more used as an information source, a lot more than it is now.” says Luke.

The exact history of where zines came from is debateable, some argue that zines are a natural evolution of pamphlets and independent magazines that were printed from the invention of the printing press until the 1930s.

“I would directly relate these back to 1976 punk rock,” says Luke.

Others like Luke argue that zines came about during the 1970s, a time where underground and DIY cultures began to blossom. Photocopiers were also becoming cheaper and more accessible, leading to beginning modern zines.

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Gemma Flack, is a visual artist and illustrator, she only became involved in making zines in 2013. “I read zines for a really long time, but I never really participated in the fairs or culture… I did my first zine fair…  in February this year.”

“Zines are about getting involved and doing it, like anybody can make a zine. It’s so easy to get involved with,” says Gemma. “It’s an avenue to say or do whatever you want without worrying what people are gonna think of it.”

“I’m really into handmade, DIY kind of stuff, It’s my favourite medium to make stuff in,” says Gemma. “I think the best part for me is someone who’s read my zine and then sent me and email or comes in and says, hey I really liked your zine. That’s an awesome kind of validation.”

Truly anyone can make a zine, about anything they want. Luke says that the youngest people they get at Sticky are around eight and it just goes up from there. But most zine makers are in their 20s and topics can range wildly too.

He says that the purpose of a zine is to be something that you just could never do in the mainstream media.

“In here it’s really interesting we’ll have a really hardcore radical feminist zine on the shelf, next to some teenage boy, aliens probing the population kinda zine,” says Luke.

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But zines don’t usually last many issues “Most of them will make one issue and fade away… they usually, decide it’s not for them, realise how much work it is and realise how much money they’re gonna lose,” says Luke

He says if you’re going to make a successful zine you need to be critical. “If you are gonna improve you’ve gotta look at what you’ve done with the first issue.”

“Maybe you printed too many and you’ve got a box full under your bed. Maybe you spent too much on the photocopying and you find out how to do it cheaper, the photocopies are too light or too heavy and dark,” says Luke

“So yeah you try and improve it each time.”

Gemma encourages everyone to get involved, “People in the zine community are just really friendly. It’s so easy to get into a zine and anyone can make it, you know. You draw it, write it and photocopy it, it’s as easy as that.”

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