Behind the scenes: If You Leave Magazine

by Steve Watson in January 2015
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Art & design

The fantastically popular If You Leave blog was started five years ago by photographer Laurence Von Thomas, and quickly became a platform for young photographers to share their work. Several books and shows followed, and at the end of last year the first IYL Showcase and Magazine was published.

Encased in a thick folder alongside 10 large prints, the Magazine is a beautiful expansion of If You Leave, allowing Laurence and his publishing assistant Shira Jeczmien to build on what they’ve been doing online. I caught up with him to find out what his aims are for the magazine, and to map the inspirations behind his art publishing project.


The editor’s note at the start of the magazine is just one line; “We have looked at this as if we had looked at none before”. You must have published thousands of images online, as well as four books in print. What was it about this project that made you look differently?
When I first started If you Leave, it was my personal blog as a photographer. But this was when Flickr and Tumblr were getting really big and I found all these amazing young photographers so I started featuring their stuff too, and the blog ended up becoming a platform for other people’s photography.

I have many other interests and I always felt a little bit caught; we have over half a million followers now on Tumblr, and it just felt like I couldn’t really change too much about the format. So I was kind of waiting for something that would let me have more opinionated stuff, because photography is nice and it’s an interesting medium, but there’s more!


It’s obviously a big deal that you’re including text now, and it’s not just extended captions – you’ve got essays and poetry, and while it all relates to the images it also stands on its own.
We didn’t want to just make this a photography magazine, but more a themed magazine that would actually say a lot through images.

So the theme for this one is AM, and PM is to come?
That’s right – PM is due to come out in June. It will take the same form as AM, but it will be white, and it will have the other 10 images from the showcase catalogue. Whereas AM for Shira and me was about the small hours and things that happen at night and in the morning, PM will be a bit more sunny and optimistic.


I’m interested in your inspirations for the magazine, because structurally it doesn’t do a lot of the things that magazines normally do. It doesn’t really have headlines and there certainly aren’t any standfirsts, and the result is that my eye tends to run across the spread, settling on an image and starting from there.
That’s what I meant with the editor’s note. When we were doing research we deliberately did not look into how other magazines were structured. I’ve never really done that.

When I curate images for If You Leave I never ask myself why, or if there’s a reason for doing it; I just intuitively try to sense what works and what doesn’t. And therefore I try to avoid the pre-existing structures or models because I don’t know them. It sounds naïve, but it’s about wilfully avoiding the pre-existing models.

Facebook was actually a good opportunity for mixing lots of content that we found, and then putting it out there with small blurbs. It’s nothing compared to the magazine, but it was another way for us to publish pictures and text in a way that didn’t limit us to just one image a day.


That’s something I’m seeing more and more – people who have become used to publishing in other media, for example on Tumblr or Facebook or Instagram, who bring that experience to bear on publishing a print magazine.
That’s very true. You get a lot of feedback from the internet, so you get to know your demographic. That’s valuable information. You get to know their tastes through immediate feedback, so there’s a huge connection with your audience already before you put anything into print.

If You Leave Magazine // ‘AM’ issue from Laurence Von Thomas on Vimeo.

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