Text by Rob Alderson
Photography by Jovian Lim
It’s nearly 11pm and a group of editors are sitting round an outdoor table. The food is mostly gone, the beer remains and the conversation turns, predictably, to magazines. For some reason, we’re trying to remember any front cover that featured a swimming pool. There’s a silence for a few seconds and then somewhere from the recesses of my jet-lag addled brain, a flash of azure. “Hey, didn’t ’SUP Magazine have a guy floating on a pool on one of its recent covers?” I don’t mind admitting I feel pretty proud of myself, but this quickly gives way to a kind of embarrassment. “How on earth do I remember that?,” I wonder out loud. The other editors nod in sympathy.
I don’t know what the collective term for magazine editors is—a stack? A sheaf? A print run? But on more than one occasion during my time in Singapore, I wonder if a passer-by or a diner at an adjacent table would be able to identify what links this group. We’re of disparate ages, backgrounds and appearances. Our personalities are different too, ranging from the preternatural calm of Kinfolk founder Nathan Williams to the boisterous charm of the Lim family. Perhaps as dog owners start to resemble their pets over the years, maybe editors personify their magazines. It certainly makes sense for those here that founded their titles; publications like Lucky Peach and Fantastic Man are so clearly shaped by the passions and convictions of the people who launched them.
But what obviously links us is the enthusiasm for the printed page. It’s paraded during every talk at the symposium and it colours every conversation we have with each other too, in restaurants and bars and the backs of taxis, in the lift and the lobby of our hotel. That’s not to say the brilliant people I meet are one-dimensional—it’s just they all have that killer combination of passion and knowledge that makes talking about magazines with them so thrilling. They’re honest and they’re generous and they’re talented and they’re steeped in this world that is so fucking difficult to get right, it would be such a waste not to talk, learn and share. I’ve been to these kinds of conferences before (both as a speaker and as a reporter), and I don’t think this kind of camaraderie is the norm. But there’s something else going on here as well; there’s a recognition of fellow geeks, perfectionists and pedants. It’s there in Penny Martin’s eyes as she recalls convoluted discussions over how long a caption should be. It’s there in Jeremy Leslie’s face as he references some amazingly obscure indie title’s Tibetan yak farming special issue (I’m exaggerating, but only just). It’s there when Nathan talks about the challenges of resetting Kinfolk’s ideals, and when Jop van Bennekom talks about working with the right people, and when Justin Long talks about how being romantics drove him and Jerry Goh to start this whole crazy shebang that led us all to Singapore. It’s there in the funny talks and the serious talks and the panel discussions, and it’s there round the table on that balmy night when we remember that ’SUP Magazine issue 25 featured a man floating on a swimming pool.
Read more in The U Press N˚1 (London edition).