Exeter Uncovered

Today’s A LOOK AT article is long overdue. I’m pleased to be featuring the beautiful magazines that Hannah O’Brien has been producing with Exeter Uncovered. Before I actually dive into these remarkable publications, I want to acknowledge that these are not exclusively film zines. As a member of YOUR EXHIBITION and one of the first supporters, Hannah’s work deserves to be featured here. Furthermore, I feel like a lot can be learned from the nature of these magazines; they're of premium quality and design, and if I can encourage you to consider the things that Hannah has when you’re thinking about producing your own work, then it’s worth sharing.

Hannah is particularly passionate about photography and music, and it seems only fitting that she has produced Exeter Uncovered - Exeter’s only print music magazine. It aims to shine a light on the music scene in the English city; celebrating emerging artists, albums & EPs being produced there, and bands that are playing in the local music venues. It’s sprinkled with articles about the aforementioned subjects, interviews with local bands, gig reviews and paid advertisements from bands, record companies and instrument retailers. You would be forgiven for thinking that this had the same production budget as something like Kerrang!, but they’ve managed to keep the cost to a measly £3.00.

Now that we’ve addressed the nature of Exeter Uncovered, I want to look at what we, as analogue photographers, can learn from these publications, and what things that you should consider when making your next zine.

I first wish to reflect on the size of the magazine; it’s A4. For those of you that don’t use a “A1-A6+” paper sizes, that makes this zine 210mm x 297mm. That puts it among the larger zines in our collection, but it works very well. Why? Because this zine is a magazine and has a substantial amount of text. Now this might appear obvious, but because the images are accompanied with text, it makes sense to use larger paper. Otherwise the images would have to be smaller to accommodate. To put this into perspective, there are spreads that have half a page of text, but the images are still 8” x 7”.

The size also makes sense because these magazines are meant to be appreciated differently to a conventional photographic zine. Granted, most of the zines we’ve taken A LOOK AT have been somewhat informative, but not in the same way that Exeter Uncovered is. I’ve had the benefit of learning a lot about various places around the world with the likes of Jules Le Moal’s Useful Idiocy, or Jacob Murphy’s New City, New Life., but they’re trying to emulate what it is like to walk the streets of Pyongyang and New York respectively, whereas this magazine is deliberately informative about what albums are coming out, or what bands are worth listening to. As this is something you can read a bit of, put it down, come back to a different article later and so on, it makes for a conventional magazine experience. That’s not to say that I think this format wouldn’t work for a photographic zine - in fact I’d love to see what this might look like. I think so many photographic zines are just A5 without real reason, so I’d like to see more people experiment with dimensions when producing their own zines in future. 

The materials in use here are premium. The cover is made of a thicker material than the other pages, but it’s flexible enough to fold back on itself, if you enjoy magazines like that. I’m not exactly sure what kind of paper this is on, but I love it. It has a natural litho feel, but it yields the colours exceptionally well, even the contrasty ones. It is often that we see flatter images on such materials, but Hannah has done an exceptional job with this one. As this zine is one that you might spend more time perusing than a conventional photographic zine, having nice-feeling materials is a clever move. 

Now let’s talk about the covers. They’re quite minimalistic, but I like that. It makes them very clean, and gives the images on the front centre stage (I would say pardon the pun, but I had the ability to remove it and didn’t so #SorryNotSorry). The second cover is particularly strong. I really like the interaction between the subjects and the audience; the eye contact make it immersive. 

But what about the photography? Exceptional. There’s a variety of imagery which keeps each spread fresh. I don’t want to spoil these magazines for you, but here’s a couple of my favourite spreads. 

This first comes from Issue 1’s Live Reviews section. It features 3 panoramic-esque images from Skindred’s gig in November 2019. I think this sort of sequencing works exceptionally well in the A4 format. It means that you can have these images towered one upon the other, and all feel like they tell a different part of the story. The lighting is remarkable, and the timing is perfect. Exceptional images by Hannah.

When you have a magazine of this dimension, you really need to make use of the size, and this spread certainly demonstrates that. A full body image of the trio in Dead Ground provides more context, whilst the other smaller image is paired with a quote. Both tell us more about this band, but through different means. I would be interested to see what this technique would look like in a photographic zine; how might you use this creatively?

I feel like it wouldn’t be fair to sign off this article with at least mentioning the quality of writing featured here. I really enjoyed becoming educated on a lively music scene such as Exeter’s. I think my favourite piece is the aforementioned spread featuring the interview with Dead Ground. I love how the interviewer asked the tricky questions including how they feel bands could be supported better in Exeter. It shows a maturity in journalism typically seen in recognised writers. I appreciated it greatly.

A different A LOOK AT article, but with just as valuable lessons if you’re considering producing a zine. Hannah and the rest of the Exeter Uncovered team have produced a wonderful magazine, using premium materials in a larger A4 size. Capitalising on the extra space, they have managed to produce some wonderful articles which are second only to the images. Whether you’re a music fan, or looking for inspiration for your upcoming publication, I would recommend picking up a future issue of Exeter Uncovered. 

To show your support, make sure you’re following Exeter Uncovered here. That is where they will announce future issues. Don’t forget to show your support for Hannah too; you can do so here.

Thank you for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, consider checking out the other A LOOK AT articles we have produced. You can do so here.