Many of you will already be familiar with Jacob Murphy and his New City, New Life. zine, but for those of you that aren’t familiar, Jacob is a New York based street shooter. He’s a great member of the community; he regularly pops on to Nick Exposed’s live streams, he shares his process on Instagram and he’s always open for a chat in the direct messages. You can tell he’s got a good heart for people, but he also has a great eye for street work.
As I’ve shared previously, I’m looking to produce my own zine in the near future, so I picked up a few zines for research. I say research, I’m really just keen to start a zine library in my house. Anyway, I decided to purchase Jacob’s New City, New Life. as it looked interesting with a unique layout and some brilliant black and white work.
Now that it has arrived, I can confirm it has a unique layout and some kick-ass black and white work. For those of you that didn’t manage to get one, the image here shows it’s layout when it’s fully unfolded. The layout of the print is like a brochure or a map. It folds up nice and neat, and when unfolded is just a stunning collection of images. From pocketable, to poster.
Now before we take a look at the images and other internals, I wish to reflect on a couple of things.
First of all, this is Jacob’s first zine. His FIRST zine. If you’ve produced a zine before, you’ll undoubtedly understand the process more than myself, but I can only speak for myself; If I produce a first zine half as decent as Jacob’s, I’ll be ecstatic. It’s so well crafted: the finish of it, the selection of images, the presentation of it. You can tell he’s really explored how he wants to share his experience of New York City.
The second thing is exactly that; Jacob’s vision. After the first folds, you are greeted with a message from Jacob, and I wish to highlight a section of it:
“When I sat down in front of my images and started to design my zine I knew I wanted to attempt something different. It’s difficult to convey the energy that is New York City on a single page with a single image. I want the viewer to see my photos much like they would see life while walking the streets. Both all at once from afar as well as up close and personal, this zine borrows design elements from both concepts and should be viewed in said manner.”
I really value that Jacob has shared his thought process behind the production of this piece. Don’t get me wrong - if you didn’t know that the images were presented in such a way to communicate the energetic nature of the streets of NYC, you would still appreciate this piece as a collection of brilliant images. The fact that he justifies, just makes it that much more interesting. You begin to analyse the relationships between one image and the next as they’re placed to compliment or contrast one-another. It’s just genius.
Something that I have found to be particularly beautiful in the imagery is the intimate nature of them. When I say this, I mean the way in which Jacob tells the subjects’ stories. Here we see the busy and crowded streets of New York, but yet we’re blessed with the little scenes in which there’s one person. You get to know the person as an individual.
For example, on this first side, there are many scenes where there’s a person in isolation within their image, then there are individuals surrounded by people, yet they seem somehow highlighted. Figure 1 and Figure 2 aren’t placed together on the page, but they both demonstrate this idea of isolation, and how we get an essence of who they are by the framing and exposure. The gentleman in Figure 1 has quite a discernible outline, so one could assume he’s an older gentleman waiting for a bus after a long day’s work, where as Figure 2 tells the story of an aspiring professional, subscribing to the American Dream, but is swamped under the concrete jungle of those that have been before him.
Where as Figure 3 also highlights a gentleman, but this time they’re not in the same form as isolation as the other subjects in the other images. You really get to see both sides of the city; a sense of the intimacy and busyness of the city. There’s just a beautiful play on compliment and contrast throughout the image selection and placement.
Something else within the imagery that I wish to highlight is, what I’m referring to as, the dynamics. I’m not sure how to describe it, but there’s a lot of different textures, and actions that play really well off of one another. The texture produced by the smoke in one image creates an light, soft shape, and then the image adjacent has flapping umbrellas producing dark, sharp shapes. Then there’s the boat on a calm looking water, followed by a sea of raised yoga-bottoms. I just think the intentional placement of key characteristics play well with and against one another. It’s something I hadn’t truly experienced before, and I think it’s assisted by the layout of the zine. I’m sure you might see relationships that I wouldn’t have and vice versa.
I think the thing I like most about this piece is I feel I know New York now; or at least Jacob Murphy’s New York. Through these scenes, you experience the hectic, never-sleeping, loud, diverse, creative, ever-moving, dynamic streets of NYC. Thank you Jacob. It’s been brilliant to experience New York through your eyes. I just might have to make it out there one day.
Unfortunately, Jacob has sold out of New City, New Life. He is working on the next project, so be sure to visit his website and his Instagram. He is also offering a template that he used to create this zine, so if you fancy experimenting with the layout of this zine, get in touch with him. On his website you can also find some of the work he produced when he lived in Mexico, and an adorable series called Kids being kids.