“Hello, my name is Benjamin, but friends call me Benji,” begins the editor’s letter in the first edition of Benji Knewman, a new printed publication with the tagline “life that you can read.” Benji Knewman’s tone is so warm and inviting and tinged with the accent of its native Latvia that we can’t decide whether Benji’s a real life contributor (he’s listed as editor-at-large on the masthead) or a fictional construct created to lure us in. If it’s the former, we apologise for doubting you Benji, but if it’s the latter, it’s working marvellously.
For a first volume, the publication is reassuringly fully-formed in its approach to editorial features. People and the stories they have to tell are Benji Knewman’s subject, and though this seems like a tricky unifying theme to use to pull together a full magazine’s worth of content, it works surprisingly well. There’s an interview with professor Richard Pooley, who taught Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics and has a lot of stories to tell, a painter who has “decided to do one thing, do it every day, and do it well.” There’s also a photo-series one photographer made by placing various objects on her father’s head, an interview with an 86-year-old beekeeper and a series of photographs taken in the home of illustrator Stevie Gee and artist Essy May. See what I mean? It’s disparate, but strangely comprehensive in its approach.
The imagery is pleasantly human, too – a combination of photography (by the likes of Vika Anisko and Aleksejs Belokopitovs) and commissioned illustration (by Jean Jullien and Ian Stevenson among others) all packed comfortably side by side in a chunky rucksack-sized tome. I wouldn’t have expected myself to be especially endeared by a magazine named after an unfamiliar character, but once you pick up Benji Knewman I think you’ll agree that he’s fairly difficult to resist.