“Look Daddy, I Made A Magazine!”

by Kitty Drake in September 2019
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Art & design Photography

Joel Seawright decided to make Rotten (named after Johnny Rotten) as a way to redirect his negative energy: “As it turns out, it’s a much better way to vent than dropping ecstacy in your bedroom and furiously masturbating into a dish cloth.” Joel tells us this in the third line of what is probably the most honest editor’s letter we have ever read. Other revelations include the fact that Joel has always felt pressure to make his father proud, and that this magazine is an attempt to finally do that. (The title for issue one is, “Look Daddy, I made a magazine!”).

Technically a photography magazine (Joel’s Dad is a photographer), features aren’t put together in any usual way. Ciarán Og Arnold’s images of getting wrecked in post-recession Ireland, for example, are printed alongside the entirety of the comments section on a Guardian piece about Og Arnold’s work. Raw and occasionally a bit mad, users called things like ‘Socrates69’ and ‘Marcelprout’ battle out the worth of the series: is the photographer too middle class to have taken these photos? Should the government ban alcohol? Is this an accurate representation of small town Northern Irish life?

20 Apr 2015 17:02
What’s the problem?

Usaoneiaswe ⇾ Arthur_Stronghatch
The intentional waste of people by a system that laughs as it leaves you falling.

Philip McMullen ⇾ Usaoneiaswe
Yer wot?

The idea behind Rotten, Joel explained over the phone, is to showcase photography in a way that isn’t academic or exclusionary. The most extreme realisation of this aim comes towards the end of the magazine, when Joel commissions the lowest rated user on Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance work, to review a series of nudes by the photographer Joseph Gorden. Most of the review had to be cut because it was so eye-wateringly sexist, but some choice lines remain (“You know what happened when I saw this photo I got so excited and my stuff got erected”.)

A second twist is that some of Joseph Gordon’s subjects are sex workers photographed when he went on a trip to a Thai brothel with his own dad. The unconventional father-son dynamic is part of what drew Joel to the series: “Those photos obviously mean something about his relationship with his Dad. So in that way it’s perfect for Rotten”.

Joel prints correspondence between himself and his contributors, and scribbles editorial notes on the pictures. He even outlines his girlfriend (and editor’s) name on the masthead — Lucy Jackson — in little hearts and kisses. In this way the magazine reads almost like a proof. Like it’s coming together — messily and eclectically — as you read it. Lots of magazines publish personal essays, and reflections on family, but Rotten is intimate in a way that is visceral, and new. Is his Dad proud? “He doesn’t say much. He hasn’t said much about the magazine, really, but he’s let me know that he is happy with where I’m at.”


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