Shoestring Magazine

by Chloe in February 2012
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Fashion and photography magazines don’t appeal to everyone. That’s not because the photos are terrible or the articles badly written, but because people get intimidated by the thick glossy pages and pretentious attitude. So it was a breath of fresh air to receive Shoestring, a new biannual literature magazine showcasing the work of young artists.

Created by a group of MA students at Keele University, Shoestring has a disarming manner and the cover sets the tone from the outset. It’s uncluttered and implies youth and innocence, a design theme that is carried throughout. Blues and whites feature heavily and the lack of primary colours works in Shoestring’s favour; it’s not shouting at us and we like that. It feels dreamy and optimistic, a rare quality when the rest of the world is so angry.

The editor’s letter doesn’t play dictionary polygamy with fancy words, and instead promotes itself as being grounded from the offset: “Shoestring began in a tiny English university. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing then, and we haven’t a clue what we’re doing now.” 26 words in and I’m sold.

The contents page, instead of featuring a page-to-page rundown of content, separates the magazine into themes, making it easy to follow and find what you’re looking for, whether it be written or visual. Although minimal, it includes small snapshots of photography that are featured later in the issue, like a teaser for what is to follow.

Fashion photography is even scarier than fashion; it’s something you wouldn’t want to talk about, especially in front of people. But photography graduate India Hobson tackles the subject so well that even mega-bucks photographers wouldn’t argue with her. She writes sensitively about what photography means to her, noting her struggle to find an identity for her work and then inviting us into her world and sharing her influences.

Short stories and poetry feature alongside photography and interviews, a brave choice by editors Kate Vanhinsbergh and Red Newsom. As Kate says, again, in the editor’s letter: “All we know is that literature magazines are few and far between, and that they don’t sell.”

It’s clear, though, that Kate and Red have chosen their stories carefully. One, ‘Where the Smoke Led Me’ by John Amiratti, is a stream of consciousness for the non-reader. It feels like being inside somebody’s head, experiencing a different way of thinking and questioning your own thoughts.

Shoestring is a young magazine that seems more concerned with selling the artists and writers it features than with selling itself. It speaks to its reader as a person rather than a consumer and that in itself is worth a lot.

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