PERMANENT INK. THERE’S NO DELETE KEY ON A MAGAZINE.
NICK SIMPSON | GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Do you remember the last time you read a magazine? Clutched it in your hands? Felt its paper – was it glossy or rough? As our world ascends (or descend) into a digital void where we place less importance on the physical and turn to two dimensional forms of entertainment, it seems as though these things called magazines are being replaced by something else or even forgotten.
We used to pay a yearly subscription for our favourite magazines and have them delivered in the mail, to our door, every month for our reading pleasure. These objects, often brightly coloured and informative, were filled with dreams, stories, news and, let’s not forget, posters! that we could plaster on our walls with blu-tack. As our eyes interacted with each printed word, we formed our interests, informed ourselves, and if we wanted to read a piece again, we’d simply rip it out and stick it in a safe place.
My relationship with magazines began in the supermarket when I was quite small. An avid muso at age seven, I’d implore my mum for the latest issue of Smash Hits or Rolling Stone, despite the usually raunchy and provocative covers. I’d begin by picking the magazine up at the entrance and then continue to flick through it inquisitively, pushing the trolley with mum just beyond me. However, there came a time during the trip where I’d have to be extra sneaky and find an appropriate time to hide the mag at the bottom of the trolley. This usually happened towards the end, when we got to the cheese and milk. As each trip went on, I came to realise that was the easy part, the checkout was the time that made me tremble with fear – will she or will she not notice the magazine? On the odd occasion, I got away with it and was able to get it through unnoticed (she’d forgotten pasta sauce or broccoli). But when she wasn’t distracted, there was always an uncomfortable exchange between mum, myself and the cashier. My winning smile, mum’s cautious and unforgiving gaze, and the cashier’s look of utter couldn’t-care-lessness after an eight-hour shift; a potentially confronting trichotomy. But when you fight for what you believe in, you usually win… usually…
Now I’m entering my twenties, it seems that magazines are disappearing from my everyday life. When I began catching public transport to and from school in the late 2000’s, that was all I saw in the hands of the usually be-suited businessman or professional woman on the bus – newspapers or magazines to while away the time-consuming daily trek from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to the city centre. This new bus-riding experience was my chance to observe faces around me and discover the inner workings of mainstream society in motion. Inquisitive and naive, I’d look around the bus for entertainment, slyly peering over the shoulder of the person seated in front of me and reading their magazine with them. They had no idea, but I felt like I was winning. Magazines connect you with people you wouldn’t normally connect with, without even trying.
Now in 2017 my voyeuristic tendencies have had to take a step back. When I look around the bus, my fellow travellers are different, closed off and engaged in personal sensory experiences. There’s a lack of connection, let alone conversation. Looking around inquisitively for empathetic eye contact, or the hint of a book or magazine brings discomfort. Instead, I resort to the screen of my iPhone and so does everyone else.
The beauty of modern technology like laptops, tablets and mobile phones is that instant and constant flow of information, available to us whenever we want it. Windows to new worlds can be opened and closed at will; our choices seem fluid, personalisable and evolutionary. Our preferences for how we choose to view and understand the world around us have irrevocably changed. When we check the news now, it’s not via a newspaper or magazine. We ignore that article grandma ripped out of The Sydney Morning Herald, instead, our news is on Facebook, juxtaposed with our social lives. We build our own magazines on our feeds by subscribing to publications and pages we respect or agree with. New articles are constantly posted as news happens all the time; a flickering of fleeting moments, potentially forgotten if not saved, and filtered by algorithms we barely notice or understand.
What is most important about magazines and the way they shape, reshape and document popular culture (and news, travel, music and lifestyle) is that they are a physical snapshot of the world at that specific moment in time. You can share them with friends, rip pages out and pass them along. You can hold them in your hands and admire them. They show you things you disagree with, or would never have sought out. They sometimes come with gifts; samples, bookmarks, posters and even calendars. They become a part of your own personal archive that you can collect and look back on as you grow. They help you grow. They are permanent and yours forever.