Here’s the first zine review from Andrew Munns, a photographer and student @ Manchester School of Art and his zine ‘Alrewic’.
FFO: PERSONAL AND VERY ATMOSPHERIC URBAN + RURAL RAINY DAY BRITISH LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY SHOT ON COLOUR 35MM
The chosen title of the series, Alrewic, is an Anglo-Saxon translation of the photographers’ hometown of Aldridge, located in the borough of Walsall, West Midlands, England (dotted centrally between the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton). The translation ‘Alrewic’ is found in the Domesday Book, also known as the “Great Survey” of 1086, which remains one of the oldest surviving public records to ever exist. There’s a nice history lesson for anyone reading.
Munns within the starting sentence of the introduction to the zine further includes the literal German translation of Aldridge of ‘adel’ meaning noble and ‘ric’ meaning ruler. It it evident to conclude that the photographer put a great and thoughtful emphasis on referring to both the historical and literal translations of the word.
Historical definitions through comparing the origins of words within different languages in particular act as an well-informed starting point to name the zine. I think that the photographer uses this translation in comparison to his own meaning, memory, and his own definition of Aldridge; based on the time he spent as a teenage growing up within the village.
Munns beautifully introduces the context behind the zine within his foreword. The photographer goes on to discuss how this personal body of work explored both familiar rural landscapes typical of countryside villages in England, as well as urban landscapes, familiar to villages located within the metropolitan borough of Walsall.
Munns describes how when he re-visits back to his hometown village of Aldridge, it evokes feelings of dislocation, questioning his sense of belonging to the once familiar sights of the village.
The images of the landscapes within the zine are mostly devoid of human presence, and Munns considered this to be the best way of expressing and emphasising his feelings of emptiness in reflection to change in the landscape he’s seen due to the village’s growing pressure to conform to the needs of everyday society. The images show how Aldridge’s rural landscape has needed to adapt and become more urbanised.
The landscapes also appear to all be taken either during or after a rainy day, with puddles being a consistent feature in the majority of the images; adding to the rather gloomy, desolate atmosphere of the body of work.
The series was shot all on 35mm colour film, with the images adopting a vivid colour palette of green/blue/yellow/red standing out against the neutral greys and browns of the manmade landscape. This choice of medium adds a sense of nostalgia to the images, like you’re looking into images of your hometown via an old family photo album.
The 36 page zine adopts a rather standard presentation format, with it being sized and printed on Satin, 120gsm A5 paper and then staple bound to finish. This chosen format suits the zine perfectly, as it doesn’t need or wouldn’t benefit through a more complicated presentation format.
The front cover image of the close up housing estate is definitely a standout from the series, and was definitely worthy of being printed at full bleed to attract readers to the zine.
The back cover is rather simplistic which suits the presentation of the zine well, ending on a white page with the addition of text featuring the title of the series, the name of the photographer, his Instagram tag and a handwritten signature that adds a nice finishing touch to it.
FEEDBACK (KEY STRENGTHS AND THINGS THAT COULD BE CHANGED)
Key strengths are definitely the writing and the research behind the images, as the zine definitely demonstrates that the photographer has put much thought into forming the personal context and meaning behind the series. Also, Andrew gave me the zine to keep which is a lovely and well appreciated gesture here for DIY YOUTH’S zine + book collection. Furthermore, I feel as if the images are extremely atmospheric, through the photographers decision to shoot the series on rather cloudy and dull days. I really admire how relatable some of the images are to many people’s hometowns (including my own) and I get a real sense of nostalgia from looking at the images.
I however do feel that the images could’ve looked a bit less candid/like typical street 35mm photographs. I greatly felt as if the some of the images would’ve hugely benefitted via the use of putting the camera on a tripod to make the images more formal; giving more consideration and control to the photographer over the cropping/lighting/focus of the landscape. I think re-shooting certain locations would make a massive difference in the bettering the quality of some images.
The only major issue I have with the zine, which could easily be corrected, is the inside design of zine. Although I feel like some of the images have been edited well within the zine through colour matching, the overall layout of the photographs is hugely off and lacks consistency (through the addition of random coloured pages in the zine and the size of the images not being consistent). I feel that the lack of consistency in the zine’s design lets down the overall presentation of the thoughtful images taken by the photographer, however this could easily be changed through a re-design and re-print of the zine.
It’s hugely beneficial for photographers to work alongside graphic designers to help create a layout for a zine, especially if you aren’t confident in designing, as giving the design of zine more thought massively benefits the way in which the zine looks/the reader sees and understands the images etc.
I also think the images could’ve benefitted more via the use of text, whether it’s simply identifying the specific location of each image or by adding more opinionated and personalised text to each image; maybe through adding memories about the location. As the project is very much a personal one, I feel as if adding more text to help contextualise the images, which would help the reader understand the reasoning behind the images and their meaning.
OVERALL, it’s a really thoughtful and well researched personal photographic observation, looking into themes such as increased urbanisation that is continuing to shape the rural landscape of the photographers hometown of Aldridge.
Where can i pick one up??
The zine is going to be re-printed in the future later this year! So you can keep updated with the work of Andrew Munns via his instagram here!
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If you would like to submit your zine to DIY YOUTH to be reviewed, contact us directly via the website contact form here