During her final year on Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion Communication and Promotion course, as is tradition, Wendy Huynh was required to produce a magazine on any topic of her choice. Wendy, now a London-based photographer working across commercial, personal and editorial projects, grew up in the suburbs of eastern Paris and felt that these outlying areas of the world’s major cities harboured a creative potential that had, until that point, been largely misunderstood and untouched by the mainstream perspective. And so Arcades was born, an annual magazine dedicated to the culture and lifestyle of the suburbs.
So far, there have been three issues. Starting with, of course, Paris before moving to London and then Berlin. “The decision process has always been quite organic,” Wendy tells us on how she has chosen these locations. “I started with Paris due to my personal connection to the area and what I felt was a misrepresentation of certain areas, such as where I grew up. My interest in suburban London developed when I returned a few months after graduation which then grew to a wider interest. In wanting to achieve authenticity I’m often drawn to cities where I have stronger personal connections that allow me to get a deeper picture of the chosen area.”
While the project began as a one-woman show, Wendy handling everything from the concept to the photography, styling and art direction, the project has since expanded. The last two issues, for example, have been designed by Paris-based graphic designer Pierre Versaevel. “My research on the suburbs, both socially and geographically, is still an ongoing process and I feel this is reflected in the design of the magazine,” Wendy explains. And, as the magazine is released once a year, she continues, each issue benefits from the time she and Pierre have to develop this understanding. The most recent issue, The Suburbs of Berlin marks a refinement of Arcades’ visual language, focussing on allowing the photographic components room to breathe.
Photography is Arcades’ real strength. Again, to start with, everything was shot by Wendy but today she sits in a more editorial role commissioning other photographers as well. Each issue features a mixture of documentary photography depicting the neighbourhoods’ people, architecture and cultural signifies alongside interview-led pieces and several fashion editorials. On how she finds those she works with, Wendy says: “I have come to enjoy curating the magazine by commissioning photographers whose work I admire but wouldn’t usually get the chance to work with. These range from friends or friends of friends as well as those who have approached me to contribute having discovered the magazine.”
One contributor is Clara Nebeling. Based between London and Berlin, she produced a series which was featured in the Berlin issue off the back to her weekly journeys to the city’s nearby lakes. “We found it an important cultural touchstone of Berlin that serves as a gathering point, bringing people from the city centre to the surrounding areas,” Wendy tells us. “The lakes themselves distinguish Berlin from other European cities such as London and Paris due to their close proximity to the centre.” The resulting images are tender in their depiction of those who visit the lakes, conveying the true sense of community and togetherness the location provides.
Wendy’s own images from the magazine are particularly impressive, flitting between subjects and locations with ease, but depicting each in an honest and fond manner. In the London issue she documents a group of amateur wrestlers at the Beck Theatre in Hayes before heading to Surrey to photograph the Royals Allstars Cheerleaders. In her hometown she shot a series called Courbevoie which follows one local called Martin and his routine of heading to hockey matches, getting his hair cut and hanging out with friends. Each series features Wendy’s hallmark; they are investigative but not intrusive, ensuring that every issue reflects the personality of its city authentically and openly.
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