In a decade where music journalism has really felt the pinch, Crack Magazine is quite the anomaly. Started in Bristol ten years ago while founders Tom Frost and Jake Applebee were still students, the monthly music mag has managed to stay independent, despite a climate where many of your go-to publications and stations are backed by property developers, energy drinks or wealthy families with dubious business practices. This independent streak has allowed the magazine to take risks, something that is particularly noticeable in its approach to photography.
To mark the magazine’s ten year anniversary, Crack has just published The Crack Magazine Archives: A Decade of Shoots & the Stories Behind Them. Designed by Manu Rodriguez, the book, as the title suggest, picks out some of the mag’s most creative or unusual projects, and covers the tales behind them, including the likes of Sophie, J Hus, Jeff Mills, Dean Blunt, Slayer, Helena Hauff, MIA and Fever Ray. The book also features an intro by the very excellent Dan Hancox. “Our approach to photography is raw in its essence,” Crack art director Ade Udoma tells It’s Nice That. “It’s not so focused on the technical conventions but instead how moved we are by the image and if we feel it tells the artists’ narrative. Storytelling is key.”
What it takes to achieve this can be summed up by one word: collaboration. Instead of a more typical situation where a photographer has just a short time window to shoot an artist wherever they happen to be, Crack’s approach is about using imagery to tell a parallel story to the accompanying interview or even extend it in some way. This takes a huge amount of research and a real team effort, collaborating closely with artists to uncover unexpected ideas or narratives that they would like pursue.
A prime example of this is the magazine’s shoot with hip-hop artist A$AP Ferg, who Noa Grayevsky shot with 80s fashion designer (and recent Gucci collaborator) Dapper Dan. Somewhat controversial because of his bootlegs (and evolution) of patterns by big fashion houses, back in the day Dapper Dan dressed hip-hop stars like LL Cool J and Salt-N-Pepper, and was a stalwart of the Harlem scene. Through conversations with A$AP Ferg, Crack discovered that Ferg’s dad used to work for Dapper Dan, and so a plan was hatched to shoot the pair together – two generations of hip-hop royalty in the neighbourhood that nurtured them both, Harlem.
“We didn’t just want to shoot them in Harlem, we wanted to go to places based on Ferg himself so we captured him with the domino and card players, the old men, the young kids and in Dapper Dan’s boutique,” says Ade. “We shot him in areas that were iconic for him growing up as a young Harlem-ite. We really did our due diligence and didn’t just approach it like ‘Oh we’ve got this American rap star’. We really gave him that personal integrity and allowed him to tell his story both through the visuals and through the interview.”
Much more staged in aesthetic, Crack commissioned Clémentine Schneidermann and Charlotte James to shoot Radiohead’s Thom Yorke for the 100th issue – a huge deal for founders Jake and Tom, who are big Radiohead fans. Creative duo Clémentine and Charlotte first piqued Ade’s interest with their Bleak & Fabulous project, which shot young girls from the Welsh valleys in haute couture, and their energy and imagination seemed like an excellent fit for Crack, rather than more seasoned portrait photographer. “We’re not going to follow the easy path, we’re going to go out of our way,” says Ade of how this shoot exemplifies Crack’s wider approach. “We say these emerging photographers, who only in the last five years have been making noteworthy work, are at the level of capturing someone like Thom Yorke. The Crack approach is not necessarily to get a legendary photographer to shoot a legendary person. These are the new legends.”
Looking ahead to the next decade, Ade says that it’s the next generation of young photographers that the magazine wants to focus on. “The next ten years is going to be the butterfly period for the magazine where a lot of these younger artists, young students that we believe in, we give them a platform and watch them grow – it’s a key factor for what we’re trying to do. We want them to know that there’s a magazine and a platform that still cares about raw talent, and doesn’t just focus on likes on Instagram and all this nonsense. It’s about conveying a community effort of a shared ideology in terms of the independent spirit we believe in.”
You can order the book here.
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