Little Joe calls itself a magazine about “queers and cinema, mostly”. It’s a little bit quirky, a little bit racey, and more than a little bit engrossing. The book-sized journal digests queer cinema with flair and insight, with an emphasis on the nostalgic rather than the contemporary. Only three issues deep, these guys are already producing vanguard content and pulling excellent interviews out of cult icons like George Kuchar and David DeCoteau. It’s a product of obvious enthusiasm for the subject, and we chatted with co-founders Sam Ashby and Michael Pierce to get the scoop on what Little Joe is all about.
Little Joe does a brilliant job of filling an un-filled niche. When, why and how did you guys start up the magazine? What did you want it to stand for, or provide, that wasn’t out there already?
SA: Little Joe began as a drunken idea, late one summer evening during a screening of Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey’s Flesh. It was the sight of actor Joe Dallesandro laying face down, naked on the bed and the realisation that there was no other magazine out there discussing these kinds of films. From that point on, I set about trying to craft a magazine that would inspire the deep (and not so deep) personal connections with films – much like an older, more experienced friend giving you a stash of films that would alter your perceptions of the world. It took me two years to put the first issue together…
MP: I met Sam whilst he was drinking the free bar dry at the BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival launch party in 2010, and we spent the whole night discussing the pros and cons (mostly cons) of the current ’queer film’ scene and how older films were always the most exciting to discover at festivals. It was only after the hangover wore off, that I remembered him talking about Little Joe and so I managed to convince him to let me be his deputy editor/sidekick. For me, Little Joe is about turning away from the fetishisation of the new, and instead placing the emphasis on what we share and connect with in the past, without overdosing on nostalgia.
What were your backgrounds in terms of film, writing, etc.? How have your roots informed the direction you’ve taken the magazine in?
SA: Film has long been a huge part of my life and I briefly studied some film history before falling into graphic design and specialising in designing film posters. I don’t think that has necessarily informed the direction of the magazine though, which seems like more of a strange compulsion, a need to create something that didn’t already exist. I think my untrained approach affords a certain breadth and comfort with the high and the low which Little Joe celebrates. It’s a process which allows me to discover all these things for myself thanks to our very generous contributors, and it is that need to discover which drives it and keeps us going.
MP: I come from a film exhibition background, having worked for film festivals and independent cinemas, and so I enjoy getting my hands dirty finding obscure films and then showing them to an audience who are open minded/stoned enough to go with my particular interests. One thing we do each magazine is an index of films and their availability to remind ourselves that even now, when it’s easy to believe that everything is or will eventually be online, there are still a great deal of films unavailable to view and that, without intervention, could be lost.
Where did the inspiration for the magazine’s design come from? Did you have strong ideas about how Little Joe had to appear or visually appeal to its readers?
SA: I’ve always had a fetish for magazines and a few years ago began collecting old queer zines. I love the home-made aesthetic, the feel of the personal. This definitely applied to the first issue which was my very first attempt at designing a magazine, so that one definitely feels zine-y. Issue No. 2 was more directly inspired by Amos Vogel’s book Film as a Subversive Art which makes extensive use of Gill Sans Ultra which just so happened to be the font I used for our logo.
No. 3 is cleaner and more rigidly designed, and more confident, I hope. I always wanted the magazine to feel familiar to its readers, like it had been on your bookshelf for years, and the small size adds to that while allowing it to be carried and shared more easily. It also feels like a dodgy old pulp novel, so there is the suggestion of something forbidden, taboo, which I love. I don’t think I’ll ever want each issue to look the same, but there are elements that carry throughout, such as the use of two colours, and the inclusion of little supplements which allow us to really experiment beyond the confines of the magazine.
Does queerness mean, in a Little Joe context, something broader than just sexual orientation? If so, what?
SA: It is absolutely broader, yes. When I thought up the subheading “a magazine about queers and cinema, mostly” to describe our focus, I was using the term “queer” in the more archaic sense, a way to describe someone that did not fit in, was different somehow, as well as nodding towards the more appropriate contemporary meaning which is more plural. Neither does not necessarily have to relate to sexuality. I find so many of these other definitions around sexuality restrictive, but using "queer” is a way to celebrate that dissidence.
MP: I think queerness has always transcended simple tick box style definitions of sexual orientation. It’s gone through so many permutations of meaning and I realise for a certain generation, it still has a very painful association, but I hope people can use it however they want, not just to define or empower themselves but to coin a way of activist thinking, going against the grain and ignoring popularity.
We’re well impressed with what you’ve managed to pull off in three issue. Where are you looking to take things next? Who would you most love to get your hands on for an interview?
SA: January sees the launch of our Little Film Club, a monthly screening programme alternating between The Cinema Museum in Kennington and The Rio in Dalston. We are excited to build on the community that has emerged around the magazine and provide a new space for engaging, unexpected discussion.
MP: We really hope it will develop into an inclusive club where people feel they can make suggestions and pitch ideas, much like how we put the magazine together.
SA: We will also begin work on No. 4 imminently, so we are very keen to discover where this strange journey will take us next. As for dream interviewees, there are so many: Udo Kier, Ulrike Ottinger, Tilda Swinton…