Marc Vallée is a London-based documentary photographer who finds inspiration in graffiti, skateboarding, protest and other elements of youth culture. As well as spending time with his subjects and shooting details of dissent, Marc also works on major investigations to do with police surveillance of protesters and journalists as well as covert state targeting of environmental activists.
He’s helped mobilise people against privatisation of public space through panel discussions like ‘In Defence of The Public Realm’ and continues to support and participate in grassroots arts projects like The Photocopy Club – where he has exhibited his photography and ‘zines. We caught up with the DIY publishing pro to find out more about his obsession with print.
When and why did you start making ‘zines?
It all kicked off last year. For me it’s about reaching a new audience for my pictures. The plan was to do five ‘zines in two years but I’ve ended up doing four in the first year. It’s addictive. My first ‘zine Writers was classic documentary. It looked at graffiti writers over a long period of time here in London. I had an exhibition of the graffiti pictures in the Leake Street tunnel at the end of 2011 on big A0 photocopies and the idea of a ‘zine after that seemed right.
This lead on to the more academic, even polemic, visual study on defensible architecture with the Anti-Skateboarding Devices ‘zine which is out of print now. Then Documenting Dylan, about the life of an eighteen-year-old skateboarder from south east London who had just finished his A-levels. Not a pro. Just a kid that lives and breathes skateboarding. And now Number Four.
What do you like about the medium?
I’ve always collected photo ‘zines and books. I’m a big fan of print and the physical object be it a ‘zine, book or print. I don’t have a pension but I do own a Larry Clark print! Being in full control of how the pictures are going to look on the page is important. Self-publishing has opened up new audiences and opportunities for me – plus I get a big kick out of it.
What’s Number Four all about?
Number Four is more autobiographical. It’s a collection of images of people, places and issues that interest me. It includes pictures of the Long Live Southbank campaign. No surprise I’m a member of the campaign. New pictures of Dylan plus Matt Martin setting up one of The Photocopy Club shows we collaborated on this year. Number Four also has much more personal pictures of my close friend, the writer and artist Dom Lyne, who is battling with, as he would put, ‘a fuck load’ of mental health problems.
The ‘zine also includes some visual references on the self-publishing process. The cover is of Dylan at Claire de Rouen Books on the Charing Cross Road. We visited the shop so he could see his ‘zine on sale. Number Four is also the first of my ‘zines The Photographers’ Gallery bookshop has agreed to stock which is kind of a big deal.
When were the photos shot and how did you decide to present them together in this way?
The pictures for Number Four were all shot this year. I’m quite a tight editor. If I go out and photograph something today I’d only pull out one or two. For me, the pictures are the most important thing – what are they communicating, what’s the story? When I edit a ‘zine I print everything off and stick it on the wall of the studio. Then I move stuff around and it starts to come together. It’s hard to explain why a particular picture makes it into the edit.
What do you do for a living and how does ‘zinemaking fit into your life?
I’m a documentary photographer. ‘Zinemaking has been a big part of my working life over the last year. It’s more about passion then making money. Saying that, all the ‘zines have made a profit. The plan is that the ‘zines will help fund a larger book I’m working on.
Have you swapped Number Four for any other good zines?
Yeah. Ben Gore’s Here & Now and I’m going to be swapping one with Jake Hurley when I see him next. I’m open to offers!
What are your favorite ‘zines?
That’s such a hard question. My good friend Andreas Laszlo Konrath has been doing some brilliant and intelligent work with Pau Wau Publications in New York. I love what Hamburger Eyes are doing in San Francisco and Blood of the Young.
You can buy Marc’s Number Four ‘zine from his online shop.