Introducing the Australians

by Steve Watson in April 2010
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One of the best things about running Stack is that I get sent magazines from all over the place that I’d never normally hear about, never mind track down for myself.

Two of my favourite recent arrivals came from Australia – Ampersand from Redfern in New South Wales and Condiment from Melbourne.

Of the two, Ampersand is the more unusual. But then Ampersand would be unusual compared to pretty much any magazine. At first glance it looks like an old Penguin paperback, complete with its old money price sticker and fake aging effects on the cover. But instead of opening like a paperback it has its spine on the ‘top’ edge, opening it into an extreme landscape magazine, sort of like a book of postcards.

Inside is an excellent assortment of short stories, illustrations and photography. Stand out bits include the story of Jack Charles, an Aboriginal elder, actor and heroin addict; a Mexican travelogue and the found photographs of Dutch woman Ria Van Dijk. Even when the subject matter is clearly not Australian, Ampersand offers its own distinctly Australian viewpoint on it. For example the Mexican travelogue ponders on American border controls and the ways Australia would be different if it weren’t “insulated by oceans and distance”.

Condiment takes a far more international approach. An independent food magazine with beautiful photography and personal musing on food in the vein of The Diner Journal, it might be edited in Melbourne but its contributors are in Tokyo, California, Berlin and other creative corners of the globe. There is Australian (and New Zealand) content, but Condiment feels more like a magazine that happens to be made in Australia whereas Ampersand is every inch an Australian magazine.

Of course none of that is to say one is better than the other, but it’s an interesting example of the way that magazines can choose to either embrace or eschew a local identity. Both Ampersand and Condiment are well worth checking out if you get the chance – you can buy copies and subscribe from their websites, or if you happen to be in Australia check out their stockists in Melbourne, Sydney and beyond.

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