Anna Alexander, Director of Photography at WIRED

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Anna Alexander: As a teenager, I had a magazine obsession like anyone else, but I was not the girl who thumbed through every monthly fashion magazine of her mother’s. I know that’s a shock for anybody who knows me now (that’s sarcasm if you don’t know me). Fashion is not what drove me to loving magazines. I liked portraiture.  I loved portraiture. Beautiful, black and white editorial portraiture.

My aunt JoJo had a gigantic collection of Interview magazines dating back to when it was first released. Whenever I went over to visit, I would dive into them. I started to visit her just for the Interview magazines and she caught on. Aunt JoJo gave me every single issue of her entire stash. Should I keep them precious and in plastic sleeves forever? Hell no. I ripped them all up and plastered them all over my wall (see below). Other teens had The Sex Pistols & U2 on their wall but I had Greg Gorman and Barry McKinley.

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SPD: What year?
AA: 
1989

SPD:What were you up to?
AA:
[I was a] teen artist sulking & hating the world most likely.

SPD: What magazine?
AA: 
Interview

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SPD: What was it that so enthralled you?
AA: 
My reasons for loving Interview were not because of its famous pop-art creator, but because it was strictly Q&A’s and the only editorial art that came with each story was a portrait.  I knew back then that I had to have a career in photography but I knew that I did not want to be a photographer. I had to be involved with making magazines and making portraiture.

SPD: Do you know now who the creatives were?
AA: Andy Warhol
(though Publisher) and Richard Bernstein (did the iconic painted on photo covers), also the photographers who they used.

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SPD: How does that inform your creative now?
AA: 
Having had a love for Interview magazine helps me now because I strive to commission artists who want to make an iconic photograph. Not just a close-up black & white headshot, but something that is meaningful on its own, without the support of a hed & dek or caption. It’s quite difficult to get that kind of result with WIRED subjects, but you always have to believe that a meaningful portrait can be accomplished under any situation.

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Ash Gibson, Creative Director

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SPD: What year?
Ash Gibson: I am guessing it was 1982 and 83. 

SPD: What were you up to?
AG:
I had been at secondary school for a couple of years. I didn’t like it much except for Art and English. I had discovered music at home and I had always liked drawing and books. I had been riding BMX for a while and had just moved to skateboarding too. Looking back on it I think that those were the things I did that made up who I was - as oppose to anything at school.

SPD: What magazine?
AG: 
Thrasher Skateboard Magazine

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SPD: What was it that so enthralled you?
AG: 
In terms of stories - the collection of words and pictures - it was about a way of life that was impossibly interesting to me. Skateboards and punk bands in different parts of America. Driving places to hidden pools or legendary skateparks or just making something of your own in the street where you lived. On top of that every page was visually interesting - even the ads. Because the culture was so driven by its own fashions and innovations all the products were integrated with fascinating graphics and imagery. As a whole it could not of been further from my dreary and threatening Camden state school. 

I only knew one place where you could buy a copy - a skate shop in Notting Hill. So even getting a copy came with its own thrill. It wasn’t somewhere you could get to very often so when you went a copy of Thrasher was definitely on the list - if they had one you didn’t own already.  

SPD: Do you know now who the creatives were?
AG:
No - but the names in it were poured over at the time. I would recognise them if I opened a copy…along with all of the pages individually. Later - when I had moved on from ‘boarding and bikes - I had bought a copy of Transworld Skateboarding that was art directed by David Carson. I kept it for ages and looked back at it when he became quite prominent and I was a young editorial AD in London. 

SPD: How does that inform your creative now?
AG: It was a magazine that connected with its audience by making something exciting for them. It knew how to be real, charming and was about what was happening in its scene at that time. I could also tell it was for the people who were in that world - that lived that life - and they were very different to me. I was thousands of miles away and just a fan really. Strangely, it is the opposite of a lot of publishing and large websites now and similar to specialist feeds and blogs. There is no charm in the churn. 

Beyond the general hipness to their scene I can see now that they were just brilliant at picture usage. Their bold and fast layout style gave them a great tone. Years later I read that Alexey Brodovitch used to tell his designers to surprise him with their layouts, As far as they are from classic Harpers I can now see this is what I loved on these pages.

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Piera Gelardi, Executive Creative Director and Co-Founder of Refinery29

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SPD: What year?
Piera Gelardi: 1995

SPD: What were you up to?
PG: I was looking to find myself, a creative alt-teen in a small town in Maine, feeling a bit out of place and searching for inspiration and my tribe. 

SPD: What magazine?
PG: Sassy Magazine

SPD: What was it that so enthralled you?
PG: I remember the first issue had Jennie Garth from 90210 on the cover and in the inside spread there was a photo of her wearing a pretty dress and clogs. Her feet were in the foreground turned to the camera and the price was written in Sharpie on the soles...they were from a thrift shop. I was enthralled by that mash-up...thrift shopping with fancy New York brands. I also loved the way they did product reviews. The staff would review them (didn't have to be a beauty expert) and give really honest feedback using colloquial language. I felt like I knew the people who made the magazine and I wanted to be part of their cool girl world. 

SPD: Do you know now who the creatives were?
PG: Of course I know Jane Pratt and that Chloe Sevigny was an intern...I don't know beyond that I'm embarrassed to say. (Googling around now...)

SPD: How does that inform your creative now?
PG: I'm still inspired by the independent spirit that Sassy embodied and how relatable it was...how it gave me a sense of belonging to a special sisterhood. How it inspired me to be unabashedly myself, to keep it weird, to have fun with style. The sense of inclusion, self expression, and having fun with feminism are still alive in my work today!

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Krista Prestek, Photo Director at Apple

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SPD: What year?
Krista Prestek: 1990ish

SPD: What were you up to?
KP: I was wading my way through junior high in suburban Seattle.  

SPD: What magazine?
KP: Seventeen

 
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SPD: What was it that so enthralled you?
KP: This is probably stating the obvious, but middle school in the early 90’s was a wasteland. You know things are bad when stirrup pants are one of the more progressive fashion choices available. So I was casting around for a lifeline and I found magazines and just fell in love. Here were people who knew how to deal with love and family and makeup and the weird social politics of being 14 – all of the BIG ISSUES.

I was reading a lot of different titles – YM, Cosmo, Sassy – but of all of them, Seventeen was like a beacon. The photography was really a cut above and there was one cover in particular that I think hooked me -- July 1990, Cameron Diaz, before she was an actress. She had a red, white, and blue shirt and big American flag earrings and a HUGE smile. I mean, she was radiant. It was mesmerizing. I found that reading Seventeen was like getting a peek of what might exist on the other side of 9th grade and it gave me hope.

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SPD: Do you know now who the creatives were?
KP: I’d love to know. I haven’t been able to find a masthead.

SPD: How does that inform your creative now?
KP: The covers they were doing really hold up in my opinion. Looking at them again for the first time in more than two decades, I remember a lot of them vividly and I can see why -- the spirit, the color, these amazing models telegraphing happiness. I’d be proud now to have had a hand in work like that.

 
 

Anton Ioukhnovets, Creative Director at Ioukhnovets Studio

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Anton Ioukhnovets: I fell in love with IT while standing in line at the very first McDonalds in Moscow.

This was 1990 and it was not an ordinary line. It wrapped around one of the squares in the center of the city, and it took you an hour and a half to get to the counter to order a piece of the American dream.

Local vendors seized this commercial opportunity and supplied hundreds of people waiting with everything from bubble gum to whisky cocktails in the can. 

This is where I first picked up a copy of Rolling Stone.

I don't recall what issue I bought, but I remember that the cover caught my eye right away. And when I opened the magazine I was stunned. 

No exaggeration. I didn't even know what graphic design was, or what the term "typography" meant, and I could not imagine that it was possible to use "letters" in this beautiful way.

I believe it was a feature on the Beastie Boys, or something (can't be positive now). I was leafing through it while standing in line. And it had the headline and deck on its side, placed in these yellow and orange color boxes running up the side of the page. The whole thing was just not normal, it was daring, it was reaching out and grabbing you by the balls! 

And I remember thinking "HOW THE FUCK DID THEY COME UP WITH IT?!  HOW THE FUCK..."

And that's how my love affair with magazines began :)

A few weeks later, after my initial excitement percolated from my heart into my brain, I took to practical matters. I found the names of people responsible for such unorthodox design. The name Fred Woodward did not have a lot of meaning for me at the time, but since he was at the top of the masthead, I figured he was THE GUY in charge. I wrote a letter of admiration, included a few samples of my "collages" (made from other western magazines) and let the Soviet post office do the rest. Chances are this letter never left the borders of CCCP.

But no matter, looking back now, I can say that this encounter with Rolling Stone taught me to push my visual vocabulary, explore and dream. 

And it worked.

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