If you haven't read the previous A LOOK ATs, you might not know that I am intending to produce my own photographic zine in the coming weeks. As I am preparing to do so, I have been acquiring zines as research to further my understanding of the medium. For complete transparency, I'll mention that I was fortunate enough to receive this zine for free. This in no way will influence what I have to say about this zine, but if you have read my previous features, you'll know that I tend to highlight the value in each production, rather than the shortcomings; this articles will be no different.
Steven Cox's The Fifth Dimension is unlike any of the other zines I have looked at. The first thing that is noticeable is the production quality is amazing. I don't mean to belittle the production quality of previous zines, but you can tell that this zine has been professionally printed and bound. I believe the pages are a silk based and the binding method is perfect bound. These come together to produce a premium feeling zine. I'm not suggesting that this is better, but it's different to the sentimental, homemade zines of Jules Le Moal (From Montmartre With Love) and Spencer Reed (MY CITY). I think the reason it differs so much is the narrative.
MY CITY and From Montmartre With Love both focus on a sentimental location to the respective artists, and as such, the zines are made in a sentimental way; in these cases, hand bound and printed. In the case of The Fifth Dimension, the narrative is something different. It's difficult to explain the narrative, so I'll let the preface of this zine speak for itself:
This zine aims to show something unfamiliar. It brings into question the reality of what we see. It brings into question what possible realities might exist beyond our own. Without getting too philosophical, I really enjoy just contemplating what our world would be like with these subtly changes that Steven hints at: What if the sky was green? What if the grass was red? It makes for a truly unique viewing experience.
The next way it differs is the colour palette. As I mentioned there, we experience the natural landscape, though the colours are very different to what we're familiar to. I don't think I've experienced any body of work with such colours in it, but it makes for an immersive experience; you can't help but engage and admire the imagery. Steven has captured these images on old disposable cameras, and so the images are varied and unpredictable. You cannot anticipate what you'll be greeted with once you turn the page, though I get a sense that Steven wasn't to know what to expect. Using old disposable cameras, he had to account for expired film, inconsistent lens quality and the inevitable dust and dirt. It means that the images vary greatly in softness, colours and marks, yet each and everyone has a unique character that helps build this alternative reality that he wishes you to experience.
I particularly wish to focus on a certain image that I feel captures my experience with this zine well. It's really difficult to describe why I enjoy the images so greatly, but I do. This image is one of my favourites: the composition is balanced and the colours are intriguing. Technically speaking, the focus is soft, and there's dirt and/or scratches on the image, but I feel it produces character. It adds and element of texture to the sky that we're not familiar with, but what if the sky had sharp bits floating in it? It's just an odd experience viewing these images; you can't just perceive them, you have to consider them in the context of The Fifth Dimension.
Even though this zine is unique in it's own right, it does share some strengths with other great zines. For example, the pacing of the zine has been considered, similar to that of Nick (Exposed) Mayo's Sketches of Light. It becomes apparent as you appreciate these images that there is an intentional spacing. Some images are bared with a blank page for emphasis on certain images, which I found helped me to engage with particular frames.
Spencer Reed included a print in with his zine MY CITY, and in a similar fashion, Steven Cox has included his business card. Of course, this is not the same size, and I'm not sure you would frame it, though it still proves to be a great reminder that I have such a zine in my possession. I really value the little things, and so having a little reminder that I should appreciate Steven's work again is more than welcome.
As you'd probably expect, I think this is a must have if you're collecting zines like myself. This will certainly stand out on your bookshelf as a unique viewing experience. If you'd like to pick yourself up a copy, you can do so on Steven's website here. If you'd like to keep up to date with all of Steven's work, then follow him on Instagram here, and if you'd like to get to know him a little better, then check out the article he produced for our website here.