FFO: ANTHROPOLOGICAL PORTRAITURE MADE BY THRIVING YOUNG CREATIVES THAT RUN A INDEPENDENT ZINE PUBLISHING HOUSE STRAIGHT OUT OF SINGAPORE – DEFINITELY ONES TO WATCH!
Who are you and where are you currently based?
My name is Huda Azzis and I’m a freelance documentary video editor. I also run Your Local Newsstand, which is an independent publishing group based in Singapore with my friend, Souher Wahba. Most of my photography works are for Your Local Newsstand.
What were your intentions for creating ‘Your Local Newsstand?’ What are it’s aims as an independent publishing group?
Your Local Newsstand was a sort of spinoff from our first publication. When we were doing the first ‘Portraits of People’ series, we wanted to be known as zine-makers and not as the ‘Portraits of People people’. At this point, we didn’t really have any other publications that we were working on so it was natural that friends referred to us as the ‘Portraits people’.
One day I was reading an article about Frank Ocean’s new zine and in one of the paragraphs, there was this bunch of words “your local newsstand”. Eventually, that phrase got stuck with us. It described perfectly what we wanted to do.
When we first started out Your Local Newsstand, one of our biggest objectives was to make known to people what a zine actually is. In Singapore, the zine community is extremely small. And printing is not exactly cheap. Creating good quality zines was utterly important to us. We wanted to publish photography zines by local and international photographers.
What is Your Local Newsstand’s biggest achievements to date? What do you hope to achieve with it in the future?
A few weeks ago, we were part of the inaugural Singapore Art Book Fair. It was our first ever book fair and we had all these people who liked what we were doing. They came up to us and talked about the zines that we had created. I think that was nice. For the past 18 months, it was a lot of doing and creating things quietly. So to have people come up to us and express their interests in the kind of zines we produce was pretty cool. We’d like to continue publishing more photography zines in the future and hopefully get them into bookstores.
What is your current photographic work about?
My photography consists of a ton of portraitures. I don’t think I’d like to photograph anything else except portraits. I feel that with portraitures, it’s always more intimate because people are involved and there’s a stronger sense of storytelling because you kinda have a central subject.
How do you approach those that you want to photograph? Do you tend to know the person you’re photographing or are they more often than not strangers to you? How do you build a rapport between yourself and the subject?
I prefer to photograph people that I’d already know. It is definitely much easier. However, there are also times where I had to photograph a stranger, but with photographing strangers, it’s always key to respect them. If you see them walking on the pathway and they’re wearing this really cool hat and you’d figure that this would make a good portrait, what I’d do is to wave at them. It helps to appear friendly. I’d then tell them who I am and what I’m doing. It is very difficult to build a rapport with a complete stranger. A lot of times it’s them posing for the camera, a few clicks and that’s about it. Some people aren’t comfortable with being in front of the camera so it’s always important to respect and be sensitive towards them.
As both a video-editor and an image maker, how do you decide on what format to use when you aim to create work that communicates a narrative to the viewer? Do you tend to favour one format over another when you aim to share stories through your art?
This is a natural choice. I work a lot with moving visuals so photography was an obvious choice. It was very early on that we decided Your Local Newsstand was to only produce and publish photography zines. It’s also quite interesting to see these photographs being made into a zine. The kind of storytelling now changes slightly in nature. These photographs used to be an individual image, now it is strung together to create a cohesive story in the medium of a zine.
What got you interested in photography and taking images?
My foray into photography was quite accidental in fact. I was trying to publish my first ever publication with Your Local Newsstand. It was a photography zine called Portraits of People – The Dream Issue and it consists of asking strangers on the street “What is your dream in life?” along with a portraiture of them. We sent out an open call but nobody really responded, so my friend and I decided that if we want this zine to be published, we really had to do it on our own and we had to be pretty decent at it. So I bought a camera and played around a lot to get the shots that work. It was a project that took a year to document and after that, I haven’t really had any interest to photograph anything apart from portraitures.
Who are you inspired by?
I’m a big big fan of Rosie Matheson. She shoots portraits on medium format and her photographs are just so beautiful. I always find people who are able to document and capture people and their surrounding pretty amazing. I think that’s something that i got off from my job as a documentary editor.
A lot of the photographers that inspire you are often based in the UK/Europe/America – why do you think that is? Are there any Singapore-based creatives that inspire your practice or is it instead more difficult to find inspiration locally?
I never really thought of it that way. It was always about the image first as opposed to where it came from. A lot of my inspiration came from portraitures or the untold stories that came along with it. One of my other favourite photographer is Robin De Puy and her project titled ‘Randy’. Randy was a boy she came across while she was travelling in America and she just kept coming back years after years to photograph him. Her portraits were very beautiful. And it’s these kinds of portraits that inspire me.
What do you feel makes a ‘good’ photograph?
This is subjective. I am a curious person by nature so the kind of photographs that I keep going back to are always elusive and mysterious.
Why do you not identify yourself as a ‘photographer’? what is a ‘photographer’ to you?
Cause if you hand me a camera and ask me to photograph a bunch of models or something, I’ll freeze haha. I wouldn’t call myself a photographer cause I can’t just create an image just like that. I’m not great in the technicalities of photography. For me, I need to relax and casual and feel like ‘hey that’s a cool shot if it was photographed’ and if I happen to have a camera in my hand, then that’s great y’know. I respect people who have an immediate eye for capturing moments, people and spaces and are able to translate them into beautiful imageries.
What are your future aspirations?
I wouldn’t consider myself a photographer, I’d like to think of myself as someone who takes photos. Most of my works are for Your Local Newsstand anyway so definitely I’d like to be more disciplined in photographing works for myself and building a larger and stronger body of work.
What advice would you recommend to young photographers today?
Figure out who you are first. What you like, what you don’t like. What time of the day you’re more productive, how many hours of sleep you need to function, that sort of things y’know. I feel that once you know who you are as an individual, you are more inclined to create something more genuine and the works that you do will feel more purposeful and significant.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own independent publishing company?
Do good and consistent work. It’s very important to be consistent when you’re creating something. But it’s not always easy especially if you’re doing this as your ‘side hustle’ or for passion. I think Rule Number 1 is to never refer to it as a passion project. Treat it like a real business. Create milestones for yourself. Write up a 3-year plan. Block off a couple hours in the week for you to focus on getting things done. Do a ton of research, and respect other people’s work and opinions. That is key.