Behind the scenes: Accent magazine

by Stine Fantoft Berg in April 2016
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Road-tripping through the south-west of America, meeting extraordinary people and hearing their stories, London-based duo Lucy Nurnberg (above, left) and Lydia Garnett (above, right) decided to create a magazine dedicated to telling those stories.

After three years as an online quarterly, Accent magazine has entered the physical world in the form of a 112-page glossy magazine, featuring its unconventional subjects portrayed via personal writing and fantastic documentary photography. I met up with Lucy and Lydia to learn more about Accent, and their journey towards the first print issue.


How did the two of you meet and start working together?
Now we’re a couple, but we met in art school in Brighton, where we studied photography and illustration respectively. One year after graduating we went travelling together for three months, driving around the south-west of America and Mexico.

It was really amazing and we met some incredible characters, took lots of photos and heard all these amazing stories. We realised that there’s no magazine publishing these kinds of stories, which is exactly the type of magazine we’d love to read ourselves. So we decided to make it!


How do you describe Accent?
The strap line is ‘A global celebration of life lived outside the ordinary’. It’s a collection of true stories about people who have perhaps come from quite ordinary backgrounds, but who have pushed themselves beyond conventions and had remarkable experiences. And they’re stories that are often overlooked by mainstream media.


I’ve often heard Accent referred to as a photography magazine – how did that come about?
It’s funny, because now we have a physical magazine, stockists often ask us to describe it in three words, and we end up saying it’s a photography magazine. We both love photography and a big part of our network is photographers, so it’s been natural to tap into that.

We’re really proud of the fact that we feature high quality documentary photography, but we don’t feel like we’re making a photography magazine – the written stories are as important as the photography.

The idea of ‘ordinary’ isn’t easily pinned down – how do you define it?
It’s very broad and we’ve honed it over the four years we’ve been working on Accent. We usually say it’s the kind of stories you’d tell someone about. Describing Accent, almost everyone will respond by saying, “Oh, you should meet…” Everyone has somebody in their lives who they look up to for doing something for themselves and going against the grain, and those are the people we want to feature.


And how do you track them down?
So many of the stories come from asking photographers, “Who was that person?”, and usually the photographers are really excited to share the story even though they may not have written much before.

Sometimes people will pitch in ideas and we’ll set them up with a photographer or a writer. Other times the story is built entirely around the subject, like our cover story about the drag queen Kia Labeija. We met Kia years ago at an art event in Glasgow and we knew we wanted to include her somehow, so we commissioned a photographer and a writer to make the story.

We’re very lucky to have a global network of contributors. We do end up with more stories from the places we know, particularly London and New York, so we’re constantly on the lookout for stories from further away.


How was the issue funded?
We’ve been working towards that since the start. There’s no way we could have gone to print three years ago, and thank god, because it would have been a crap magazine! We’ve spent the time working out exactly what Accent is, and building up a network.

This issue is funded half by ads, and half by us. And we were really lucky that our printers, Generation Press, wanted to take on Accent as a showcase, so they gave us a really good deal. For the future the aim is to make money from our creative studio.

The ads in the magazine were either shot or commissioned by us, and that’s something we want to make a big part of Accent. We think there’s a lot of potential in showing great products being worn by really interesting people.


Which magazines were you inspired by when you were growing up?
The magazines we refer to as sort of idols are The FaceiD, Interview magazine… They’re obviously dealing with different subjects to Accent, but there’s something about their energy and playfulness that we find really engaging.

With Accent, we wanted to translate that energy into something with a bit more substance, celebrating people for their true selves and making space on the shelf for those alternative stores. And hopefully we can open people’s eyes a bit and make them realise there’s more than one way to live.

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