Independent publishing is definitely on the rise and, in the last years, we saw a long list of indie magazine makers putting out great new titles. This week we spoke to Rosa Roth, Founder and Editor of THE SMART VIEW, about her experience of running a magazine, the challenges of independent publishing and the impact of new technology on photography.
Marina Trancoso: Hi Rosa! Can you tell us about your background and how did you arrive at where you are now?
Rosa Roth: I’m a graphic designer and photographer, who grew up in a small town in East Germany. Pretty early I knew I wanted to work in the creative business and even if my parents reminded me steadily to find “a job to earn money with”, I didn’t listen and went straight forward into my own direction. I studied Graphic Design, Communication Design, and Photography and used to work a lot beside my studies to gain practical experience. I discovered my passion for Photography in the beginning of my Communication Design studies in Hamburg at one of the university’s dark rooms. Let’s say my own photographic work came somehow out of the dark and due to my work in the dark room I’m very attached to black and white photography. To sum it up: I think I only arrived where I am now because I’m a hard worker, always curious to discover new things, very disciplined, a brave girl and also a bit lucky. The magazine I’m running today unites everything I’ve ever learned in a single project.
MT: How did the idea to set up your own magazine come about?
RR: I was in my final studies of Photography at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg when I had the idea of creating a magazine for Mobile Photography. I’ve been dealing with Mobile Photography since the beginning of 2013 and wanted to intensify my research for my thesis. How does someone who started out with analog photography end up with mobile photography? I have to admit I was pretty annoyed of what we were taught at University. Roland Barthes and Vilem Flusser are very important photography theorists, but not the only ones. I was somehow fed up with the old guys and their way of blowing everything up to infinity. I wanted to leave the “Punctum” behind and wanted have a look over the rim of the teacup to see what’s actually going on in Contemporary Photography. Mobile Photography at that point was treated like an underdog, not accepted, claimed to be low quality and, as a mass medium, with no artistic potential. During my research, I discovered amazing photographers working with their mobile phones and thought it’s worth to support that movement. As our thesis had to be in the shape of a fully designed and printed book, I came up with the idea of creating a project that would be of international interest and that wouldn’t just end up in the dusty book collection of my university professors.
MT: What were the first steps to start THE SMART VIEW?
RR: It’s hard to remember the first steps because it has been loads of work, but first I wrote a lot of notes, did sketches, and read books and articles on that topic. At one point I came up with the name of the magazine while sketching. Suddenly it has been there and never changed again. I checked if the domain and all social media handles were available. They were. In addition, I made a broad research to see if there was any magazine of that kind and name already existing in the world. There wasn’t. After that, I set up a time schedule and wrote a concept for the magazine, where I determined the target group as well as an USP (Unique Selling Point), the characteristics that make the magazine diverse from others and attractive for the readers. This came along with a huge calculation of expenditures and revenues. I spent weeks working 16 hours nonstop on the magazine. I published a call for submissions on social media, started publishing online features on a website I’ve created with my poor HTML skills and contacted photographers, Instagramers and academics to gain content for the magazine. Everybody told me that the magazine was a great idea and when I saw the first submissions coming in, the project somehow got into shape and, pretty soon, very serious.
MT: How would you describe THE SMART VIEW to a new reader?
RR: TSV is an independent magazine showcasing the works of international mobile photographers and artists along with interviews and texts of academics. It’s designed with love, nice to touch, but it’s not only a printed magazine. TSV aims to support its community of emerging artists and newcomers online and offline by selecting their works, exhibiting them internationally and providing them with assistance.
MT: The magazine’s focus is on mobile photography and art. Would you say social media platforms like Instagram have changed how we engage with the photographic medium?
RR: Definitely. It’s already scientifically stated that social media has a huge impact on how we engage with photography. Images became an important part of our daily communication. In the case of Instagram, the access to Photography has never been so easy. Everyone can take part in the IG-community by posting their own pictures to get direct feedback from followers or just browse through a huge variety of photographic material to get inspired. It’s a whole new world of possibilities to draw attention to your photographic work or even to learn from others. A new generation is growing up with direct access to photography and photographic devices. This democratization leads on the one hand to a vast production of photographic material and, on the other hand, to an increased importance of content creation. In the mass, a beautiful picture is one of a billion, but if the picture draws our attention by telling us something more than what we see on its surface, it becomes a photograph. Storytelling in the age of social media is more important than ever.
MT: I’ve always asked myself what happens when an image created on and for Instagram moves into a different context, like printed publications or IRL exhibitions. On Instagram, we see hundreds of images in a few minutes, and the consumption is really fast. Prints, on the other hand, ask for more time and meditation. How is it for you, as an editor, this process of “translating” photographs made for social media into a printed format?
RR: We have to distinguish between photographs and images that are made to attract followers or to engage with a community. Let’s say those images are, besides our daily communication, the largest amount of images posted on IG. They are connected to increasing the numbers of followers, to expanding targets and to interacting with a community—an online marketing tool. Those images are not meant to leave the online world wherefore they’ve been created. Photography is just a small amount of the mass. The boundaries between those different groups of images can be blurry. It can definitely happen that an image, meant to attract followers ends up as a photograph exhibited in the real world or printed in a magazine. It depends on its content and aesthetics and as well on the project it will be part of. I think the printing process is still very important for a photographic image. Online we are just browsing. There’s no concentration, impression, pause. Clicking through online galleries is not the same as standing in front of an art piece or touching the paper of a fine printed photo book or magazine.
In the online world, we have to deal with constant distraction in shape of advertising or other suggested content. Having a photo printed also means it is ready to enter a space as an art piece. A space can be a gallery, an art collection or even your own living room. I don’t feel like I’m “translating” images when I print images found on Instagram in a magazine. It’s a reproduction of photographs on paper. Just the source where they come from changed completely.
MT: What does your creative process look like? How do you find photographers and how do they find you?
RR: It’s hard to describe my workflow because it’s pretty complex. I do many things at once: Graphic Design, Web Design, curation, the organization of exhibitions and events, content creating, online marketing, distribution, writing and loads of networking. Instagram is a very important tool for my creative process. I’m browsing through thousands of pictures daily. The magazine has several hashtags running where photographers have the chance to be discovered and get featured. Some of these tags now contain over 46.000 images. They are the source for TSV’s online curation. For the print magazine, I launch a special call for entries, which is announced on TSV’s social media channels and where it is also possible to upload a portfolio on our web page. For the last issue, the magazine received about 7000 submissions via Instagram and about a 100 portfolios from all over the world. I’m mostly bond to a computer or phone or both together, and after a long working day, it’s important to pause. I do a lot of yoga to recharge and to create a distance from the screen.
MT: What can we expect from the third issue of THE SMART VIEW?
RR: That’s a secret! But all I can say is it will be very special!
MT: What are your tips for staying in business as an independent publisher?
RR: First: Do what you love to do! Second: Never give up! Third: Try to get money from somewhere else!
MT: What future plans are you working on?
RR: I’m currently working on building up partnerships for the magazine. To keep going we need to get sponsors. I have a long list of ideas I would like to realize within the next years. Let’s see what will happen!
Rosa Roth (*1987, Sangerhausen, Germany) is founder and editor of THE SMART VIEW, an independent magazine for mobile photography. The award-winning magazine got worldwide attention and has been mentioned several times under the Top 10 of international independent magazines. TSV’s goal is to support the artistic work and success of its emerging and talented community by curating, exhibiting, and publishing their work online and offline. Works of TSV artists have been on display as part of Triennial of Photography (Hamburg, Germany), Photoszene Festival (Cologne, Germany), European Month of Photography (Berlin, Germany) and the DGPh Mobile Photography Conference (Mannheim, Germany).
© All featured Photographs belong to respective artists.
Courtesy of THE SMART VIEW