Two blocks from his studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, photographer and zinemaker Andreas Laszlo Konrath is explaining to a group of kids as young as 13 about zine culture. Konrath likens the renewed interest in zine culture to that of the largely romanticized vinyl resurgence. Both are cultures that never fully disappeared, but rather chugged away as people became fixated on CDs, digital cameras, and online publications.
Romanticized trend pieces of zine fairs aside, there’s something earnest about zines that drives people to want more than pixels. “If you make 50 copies of a zine of your photography, only 50 people in the world can own it,” says Konrath. “There’s something about limiting something, that makes it feel really special and exclusive. It makes you feel a part of a culture that isn’t accessible, but it’s also about just having fun and engaging.”
In 2008, Konrath headed past the Brooklyn Queens Expressway with his friend Brian Paul Lamotte to a Staples on Morgan Avenue, where they began putting together their first publication. What people don’t realize is that, like recording a song, creating a zine is subject to the equipment it’s being produced with. It’s not about running an image through some fake-artsy filter and posting it to Instgram, but actually having an interaction with the surroundings and finding charm in limitations of the machines used to create a zine.
“There’s an integrity that belongs to that specific location and your experience with that machine,” he says of the original experiments on the clunky copy machines.“There was a copier there that worked differently than all the others–it becomes an inherent part of that production. That’s what separates this culture from online culture.”
Together the pair founded Pau Wau Publications, in 2008, a limited-run zine press that’s worked with notable image makers such as Ari Marcopoulos, Richard Kern, Peter Sutherland, and Andrew Kuo. Save the presence of pro skater Quim Cardona, the workshop produced by The Converse CONS Project at Windmill Studios was filled with novices, learning the virtues of glue sticks, staplers, scanners, and manipulating Polaroid pictures, before running them through a copy machine and collating them into a zine.
Both Lamotte and Konrath became aware of zines in the late-‘80s, through punk rock and skateboarding, at a time when they were the primary source of communication for subcultures. Ordering a zine through the mail was more than commerce — the authors became your pen pals. After publishing my first hardcore zine in 1992 the landline at my parent’s house would occasionally ring with some other landlocked teenager wanting to talk 7”s or hype up his band, only because I printed the number in the masthead.
So what’s the point of passing down a seemingly dead format to a younger generation? Konrath isn’t a luddite, living off the grid, but rather someone who understands the inherent power of print, rather than scrolling solemnly on a screen. “Friendships can be built on this. So many people we’ve met in the past five or six years, has been through making zines,” he says. “The zine traditionally was always a tool of communication. The fact that it’s a tangible, physical object, is the most important factor. They can be touched, smelled; it’s a sensory experience that you can’t get online.”