Portraits Extraordinary

Portraits Extraordinary

Accent No. 5 at Huck gallery 71a — Issue five of online quarterly magazine Accent – featuring extraordinary portraits of otherworldly characters from all over the globe – launches at our gallery 71a this Thursday, May 1, 2014.

It wasn’t long after I got lost in the cloud of characters and stories inhabiting the third issue of quarterly online magazine, Accent, that I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

After a chance encounter at one of the magazine’s debauched launch parties, in dark, boozy Kingsland Road watering hole Fabrica, the stars of this innovative new project – three little Irish scamps peering at me from a country fair, juggalos of every shape and size at their annual Dionysian gathering in the deserted midwest, a Lebanese funk deejay with existentialism to rival Sartre – had left an imprint.

Two things struck me as particularly cool about the magazine: Firstly, that the production values were really high – stunning photography, sublime layout and inspired typography – but it was not, predominantly, ANOTHER fashion magazine. Secondly, that the magazine had broken away from the London-New York-LA holy trinity and included dispatches from far-flung locales like Thailand, Lebanon, Mexico, South Africa, Australia and tons more.

Made on a shoestring, Accent magazine is “a global celebration of lives lived outside the ordinary” captured in text, photography and film by the most exciting, and unconventional, portraitists and documentary photographers. Curated by London-based photographer and filmmaker Lydia Garnett and graphic artist Lucy Nurnberg, every quarterly issue features ten stories from contributors around the world, displayed in beautiful floating slideshows that allow you to discover new worlds – undocumented real offline culture – from whatever shiny interface you choose.

To celebrate the launch of Accent Issue Five we are lucky to be hosting a film screening – featuring a selection of the best portraiture so far, as well as debuting unseen documentary films from the latest issue – at our gallery 71a, (71a Leonard Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 4QS) on May 1, 8 – 10pm. We caught up with Lydia to find out more.

What is Accent magazine exactly and why did you start it?
Accent is a portrait project about individuals who live outside the ordinary. It was something that Lucy and I set up after travelling around the States and meeting all these hugely inspiring people. We wanted to create a platform to celebrate alternative lifestyles and the amazing characters who are bold enough to live out their dreams, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

What do you think of contemporary magazines? Favourites? Any frustrations?
I think you have to have a strong vision to survive and it’s great to see so many new visionary magazines like LAW, Huck, and Riposte who stick to their guns and produce original content. It’s always disappointing when magazines are governed by the commercial side, it’s so easy to see through. But it’s wonderful that print is having a real revival at the moment, and there are some fantastic independents coming out of that.

Were any magazines a direct inspiration for Accent?
Visually we were inspired by 90s fanzines and photo books with full-page, grainy images, clean lines and a simple aesthetic. We wanted to create something timeless with Accent, and produce an online magazine with a DIY feel. In terms of editorial direction, we love Diane Arbus’s journalist pieces like ‘The Full Circle’ – an essay she wrote for Harper’s Bazaar about five eccentrics of her time including Jack Dracula, the tattooed man, and Miss Cora Pratt, the barmy alter-ego of a New England artist.

What did you feel you could contribute with Accent that wasn’t already out there?
The kinds of people we wanted to read stories about aren’t ordinary cover stars – we wanted to create a platform where individuality and spirit came first. We set out to create an archive of unconventional living, and bridge the gap between mainstream publications and marginal lifestyles.

Why digital and not print?
We’re huge fans of print but decided to build a digital platform to be able to show documentary video portraits alongside in-depth text pieces and immersive photo stories. We really liked the idea of designing a beautiful digital experience. We’ve always enjoyed doing film screenings, exhibitions, and launch parties where we can meet new people and have more of a physical presence in that way. One day we’d love to bring out a coffee-table photo book featuring some of the best stories and portraits so far.

There is a sense of coherence and ceremony around each Accent launch – why did you want the stories to be presented together in one batch this way and not dropped, say, once a week over a couple of months or something (like most digital content)?
We didn’t want Accent to be a blog. We wanted all our stories to have equal importance and for people to be able to get lost in Accent magazine for hours, the same way you would a really good print magazine.

Who are your favourite photographers and filmmakers?
We’re so lucky to have been approached by so many incredible filmmakers and photographers, we’ve been working with Tom Hunter on Issue Five and love his timeless travel snapshots. We’re also big fans of Nan Goldin and Gregory Halpern and Emily Kai Bock.

Can you tell us a bit about the launch on May 1…
For the first time we’re looking back through our video archive to screen a selection of old and new films and celebrate the launch of Issue Five. We’re really happy to be working with 71a, it’s one of our favourite gallery spots.

What are your hopes for the future of Accent?
We just want to be able to continue working with great people on international projects, and get to dig deeper into the stories that really excite us. We’d love to produce some off-shoot publications and exhibitions around individual Accent features, and it would be a dream to travel somewhere for three months and produce an issue out there. We’re very excited to be working on the Source Display exhibition with Tate – we’re going to be leading a one-day zine-making workshop!

RSVP for the launch at the Accent Magazine Issue 5 eventbrite and keep updated by following the Accent Twitter.