Closeout - CALEB JENKINS

Another day, another A LOOK AT article! In this series, we take A LOOK AT your awesome work. So if you’ve got an exhibition you want us to check out, some prints your selling, a zine you’ve published, and more, then get in contact here! We’d love to feature it here. In today’s article, we’re featuring Caleb Jenkins’ latest zine: Closeout.

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I’m sure most of you reading this are familiar with Caleb Jenkins’ work, but if you’re not, you’re seriously missing out. Caleb is a analogue shooter based in Virginia, US. His work typically features landscapes and everyday scenes, documenting what life is like in the modern day. 

As someone who has values the advice of Matt Day, when I saw him mentioning Caleb had released a new zine, I didn’t hesitate in purchasing his latest work: Closeout. Here’s what Caleb has to say about it:

“Closeout” is the culmination of extensive shooting during the spring and summer of 2017. After leaving dozens of rolls sit for over a year, I was ready to return to them and symbolically close the chapter on this period and these images. While selecting the photos I had one major theme on my mind; the persistence of humankind to hold on to traumatic events or toxic memories and the release we feel when finally letting go.

I really love the story behind this zine. Not dissimilar to Jules Le Moal’s approach when producing his zine on North Korea, Useful Idiocy, Caleb has opted to reflect on these images for over a year before deciding to pursue closure in the form of a zine. There’s a poetic brilliance to the act of closing a chapter on a project that focusses on finally letting go.

It’s obvious that Caleb knows how to produce a zine. The paper choice, the printing method and the hand-bound thread all come together to make a wonderfully crafted publication. It’s not dissimilar to Jules Le Moal’s From Montmartre With Love, if you remember that one. That features a red thread through the centre of it. In Closeout, Caleb has used a waxed string, which gives me the reassurance that it’ll survive the many times I inevitably look at it. Also, as they’re bound by Caleb himself, there’s a real charm to this zine that many others don’t have. I know that Caleb has spent time producing my copy. There’s a loving care that goes into each copy that a batch ordered one doesn’t. That’s not to say I don’t like machine manufactured zines, but it’s nice to have a change. It gives a personal feel to this zine, and I appreciate it.

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Let’s talk about the cover. I gather Caleb has a background in graphic design, so it’s no surprise that this zine has a fresh, clean cover. As someone who thinks a good cover is important, I appreciate this one’s simplicity. No more needs to be said on this one.

This zine becomes one of the few zines in the YOUR EXHIBITION library that is solely colour images. The images all feature wonderful saturation, and as such, they leap off the page. I have to commend Caleb on his paper choice and printing method because the images are complimented so well by the materials used. The greens in particular are so punchy. A great example of how well the images are rendered in this zine is the following example of the cover image. The photo here really doesn’t do it justice.

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As for the narrative, there’s an interesting pacing to this zine which I find quite enjoyable. Over the numerous times I’ve perused these 19 images, I have found a few different trends appearing. These different trends almost change the rhythm in which one experiences the zine, and so I find my experiencing the zine at different paces. One day I might be focussing on the mundanity of the everyday scenes, then the next day could be looking at the repetition of key subjects in the frames, the day after might be looking at the juxtaposition of life against certain images, and the day after could be something entirely different. It’s almost remarkable how a zine of 19 images can be interpreted in a number of ways. I have to credit Caleb on making something so multidimensional.

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Something else that stood out to me as I enjoyed this zine is the almost absence of people. There’s only one image that features a person, albeit many tease at the presence of people. As a person with anxiety, I have noticed it in my own work, but to see it in a zine that is focussing on “the persistence of humankind to hold on to traumatic events or toxic memories and the release we feel when finally letting go” is quite significant. At least that’s how I view it. The image that features a person is this one.

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As you can see, there’s no obvious interaction with the person, we, as the audience, are not sure if Caleb had any communication with this man. It’s just a bit odd, but I think it’s significant. As the title is Closeout, we know this is meant to represent the closure people can experience from letting go of “traumatic events or toxic memories”, but I can’t help but feel there’s a double meaning here. Sure, this figure is moving on with his everyday life, but the Closeout can also represent the isolation that we often enforce on ourselves as we try to move on from these events in our lives. If we take it another step further, maybe the fact that this zine only features one person that Caleb seemingly has no relationship with is meant to also echo this “closed-off” mindset. Perhaps I’m reading too far into this, but I have to believe that it is pure genius from Caleb. Considering the level of detail he’s gone into crafting this zine, I suspect this is also intentional.

In closing, this zine is magnificent. There are many things that Closeout does exceptionally well, but the thing that really sets in apart is the craftsmanship that has gone into making this zine. Not only has Caleb carefully hand-bound each zine, but he has also carefully crafted the narrative. The way in which the zine evolves with each time I view it is simply remarkable, thus it joins the best-of-the-best in the YOUR EXHIBITION Library.

Fortunately for you, Caleb still has a number of copies available for purchase. You can purchase your copy for only $13.00 on his website here. Whilst you’re there, consider purchasing one of the prints he has available too; you can find them here. And don’t forget to follow him on Instagram here.

If you enjoyed this article, you should check out the other A LOOK AT articles. We’ve featured a number of zines that we think you’d enjoy. You can find those articles here.