By Eli Regan, photographer and editor of Mere Mortal, a new publication for photo stories. See the Kickstarter here.
There’s definitely still life in the photo story. Think of vintage photo essays like W Eugene Smith’s seminal work ‘Nurse Midwife’ about Maude Callen (a black nurse and midwife), Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ essay, Gillian Wearing’s iconic heart-rending messages held by desperate businessmen and, more recently, Juno Calypso’s re-imagining of a solipsistic honeymoon.
Mere Mortal Photographic Magazine has grown out of the belief that the photo story is a powerful tool for communication and heightened global awareness. We will reflect photo stories by both known and lesser known photographers. Alongside this, we will provide a home for high-calibre journalism and other types of writing: poetic, non-fiction, flash fiction.
Mere Mortal is an inclusive magazine. The first issue features an all-female line-up of writers and photographers: this is significant when you consider the photographic industry as recently as September 2017 didn’t use any women photographers to review their new Nikon D850 camera. Our first issue features women who are Iranian-British, African-American, British and American.
We are including work by widely exhibited American photographer Jona Frank and the late documentary photographer Tish Murtha.
Jona Frank will be presenting pictures from her 2008 project ‘RIGHT’, which covered fundamentalist evangelical colleges in America. The reality of Trump in the White House serves to punctuate this careful and chilling portrayal of the American right and contextualises the climate which made his presidency possible.
Tish Murtha was a documentary practitioner who photographed the ruins of Thatcherite Britain in Newcastle from 79 into the 80’s in her work ‘Youth Unemployment’. The deprivation she faithfully recorded is again relevant to present day’s food banks, insecure work and a punitive welfare system.
We hope that there will be subsequent issues of the magazine. If there are, we plan to include stories from people from all walks of life: young, old, low income, multi-ethnic, trans, etc. We will source our stories not just from university graduates, but from community groups, schools, etc. We have ties with creative wellbeing groups who work with people who have mental health and substance misuse problems, and young people with a history of truancy. We are open to all sorts of photography, not just photography made with expensive DSLR cameras, but disposable cameras, smartphone photography, hand-made prints, and more.
We exist not to represent the elites, but the issues that affect us as a society on a day to the day basis – the housing crisis and lack of good employment for example. But also the belief that through creativity we can contribute towards a greater hope. There is a 2017 work by Bob and Roberta Smith (a pseudonym for the artist Patrick Brill) that is entitled and reads: ‘There Is Still Art. There Is Still Hope.’ We firmly believe this.