Zine Queen and photographer CHLOE SHEPPARD discusses her latest issue ‘Lust for Life’, her take on zine-culture, and why she shoots film.
How do you cast your girls?
For this project I put a post up on Instagram saying I was looking for people and went from there. But usually I’ll message people I come across online or in person that spark ideas for photos in my mind.
Is there anything specific that you look for in a girl?
I like to be somewhat inspired by someone I’m going to shoot, for there to be some kind of connection like a mutual interest and have a similar style to what I do.
What camera do you use?
I mainly use my Canon AE-1, but I have a Contax T2 I use from time to time too.
Tell us why you’re faithful to film…
I just love how it makes my photos look. Whenever I shoot digitally, I’m never as pleased with the results, I end up trying to manipulate the photos for hours but with film I rarely touch them once they’re developed. It’s so unpredictable and I love the anticipation of having to wait to see the photos.
What is the fundamental theme within ‘Lust for Life’?
I guess it’s primarily just girls who have a confidence that I totally admire and wanted to highlight. These photos are all obviously uncensored, and I can’t post them that way on Instagram because they get deleted, so the title ‘lust for life’ matches because I feel like it’s all these girls and myself just making art together and living because we can, and in the zine nothing has to be covered up or policed.
The collision of words, graphics and images within a zine enables a louder message; what message do you hope this issue will convey?
The words I scribbled throughout it were just a way of making the zine more personal to me. The messages in the lyrics and words I’ve written have so many different meanings to me, they all relate to something I’ve felt recently and so if someone else finds solace in them then that’s great too. If you read the words, a lot of them are about love/not being satisfied/rejection etc. so in some ways it might be comforting to other people if they’ve felt the same way. Writing so nonchalantly on paper is cathartic to me and helps me get things out my system, so I guess the message is that it’s totally normal to feel like you’ve got millions of things racing through your mind and finding a way to deal with that. I’m heavily inspired by music, whenever I listen to something I’m into, I’m picturing things I could create alongside it because of the lyrics, so I suppose it’s just a way of taking other forms of art and trying to manipulate them into my own. I knew I wanted this zine to look this way from the beginning, because the images are so clean with a lot of negative space, so having the mess of my writing on most of the pages was supposed to be kinda contradicting. I also wanted this project to be more inclusive and body positive, I want people to see themselves in these girls and know that it’s okay to be exactly who you are.
Talk us through your zine-making process …
Well this one was different to my first two, because with Lust for Life I shot a series of photos specifically for it – whereas my first two were more just putting pictures together from all past stuff I’d shot. My other two were also much more simple, just images pasted onto pages, but with this one I’ve written all over papers and photos then scanned them in, I’ve been a lot more physical with the process this time because it makes me feel like I’ve put more effort into it. I bought Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love a while ago and I was in awe of how messy it was yet still so put together, so that totally inspired me for this zine.
How long do you spend on each issue?
My first one was done in a day because I was so impulsive with it, my second took a little longer because I wanted the photos in that one to be more cohesive. This one I’ve been working on since November when I did the shoots for it, and I’ve constantly been changing things in it and playing around. Lust for Life is a lot more experimental which is why it’s taken me a lot longer to get it together.
What initially inspired you to start up your own zine?
I wanted to put bodies of work somewhere else other than just online. I’ve bought zines for years but just never considered really trying to make my own and get it out there. I like the idea of being a lot older and having these to look back and reflect on, whether I’m still a photographer when I’m 60 or not.
What does zine culture mean to you?
Well I guess there’s subcultures within that, and those can help you find a community where you feel like you belong. Like Polyester or Chapess for example, the people that contribute to those zines and have work in them are the kind of people I relate and look up to in some ways. They’re challenging conventional ideas and I love that. But there’s zines out there that are literally about everything, so I think everyone can find pieces of themselves in one.
Despite the internet’s potent presence, zine culture has maintained a prominence within the creative industry for many years now, and only seems to be expanding. Why do you think this is?
Because people like to have tangible things. I know I do, I love collecting books, magazines, records and being able to physically have those to look at anytime. Zines are a way of immortalising ideas and bodies of work, which I think appeals to a lot of creatives.
‘Lust for Life’ will soon be available to purchase here
See more of Chloe’s work here