Photographers in Publishing is a series of interviews that aim to gather insights from those who balance making and publishing photography.
Wendy Huynh is the founder of Arcades Magazine, a print publication that focuses on culture and life in the suburbs. We discuss her approach to photography, and the impact it has on her decisions running a promising new magazine.
Harry Flook: What is your background in photography?
Wendy Huynh: I graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2016 where I studied Fashion Communication with Promotion. The tutors pushed me to develop projects that were personal and it was during my final year that I founded Arcades Magazine. I had some studio and analogue photography classes, however I mainly learnt on my own and by talking to and working with fellow photographers.
HF: Who are your biggest inspirations photographically?
WH: Documentary photographers such as Marion Poussier and her photos on French teenagers at summer camps in France and Charles Fréger’s series of portraits from the early 2000. I am also obsessed with Paul Kranzler’s book Tom, a photo-reportage publication on the daily life of a young teenager living in a small Austrian village. But my biggest inspiration at the moment is French photographer Mathieu Pernot. Incidentally, he used to be one of my art foundation tutors in Paris and hosted an amazing exhibition at Les Rencontres d’Arles last summer Les Gorgans – a photographic series on a Roma family living in Arles who he has been following and documenting for 20 years. Probably one of the most memorable exhibitions I have seen.
HF: Arcades is a relatively new mag, can you talk about its aims and how they have developed since the first issue?
WH: The aim of the magazine is to showcase places and people we don’t usually see in magazines as well as deconstructing the clichés we have of the suburbs. I wanted to show what the suburbs currently look like and the diverse shapes and aesthetics they can have. After the first issue on the suburbs of Paris, I surrounded myself with a team of friends between Paris and London helping on the graphics, production, fashion and marketing. We managed to reach out to more stockists worldwide (London, Paris, New York, Amsterdam), as well as more sponsors and more contributors!
HF: Why did you decide to focus on suburban areas rather than inner city life? Is this a theme you’ll be sticking with going forward?
WH: I was born and grew up outside Paris, in a small town near Disneyland in the Eastern suburbs of Paris. I always had a love/hate relationship with my suburb which is why I decided to study in London. The back and forth travels between my hometown and London made me realise how the suburbs were unique in their ways of living – my hometown is very residential and green, with identical houses and big gardens. I would also find that the inhabitants have their own way to dress, speak and play which is different from those who living centrally. I found it fascinating, and the personal connection pushed me to create a publication focusing on these areas. I also realised people often have a specific idea of what the periphery of a city looks like, when actually the suburbs tend to be very diverse; both in socio-economical and geographical point of view, so I also wanted to explore and represent this diversity. Moving forward, I intend to maintain this core theme within the magazine, whilst exploring new cities and territories for each issue.
HF: You have clear visual sensibility the comes through in all your work and which seems to have influenced the styling in Arcades. Are you looking for other photographers who share this aesthetic when considering features?
WH: I don’t necessarily look for photographers/contributors who share the exact same aesthetic as me but people who have a same interest about the suburbs and have something to say about it. I also like to have people contributing in ways they don’t usually do – for instance have a non-professional photographer to take photos or a non-professional journalist to conduct an interview if I feel they can have a closer connection to the subject.
HF: Following that, are there any recurring themes you see through your personal projects aside from your visual style?
WH: Youth is often another recurring theme throughout my work. I always feel more comfortable when approaching young people and I love observing how they speak and dress, and how this evolves over time.
HF: You shoot a lot for Arcades mag, has founding it been beneficial to your own photographic practice?
WH: I still consider Arcades as a personal project which is why most of the photos have been shot by myself. I also find the work I do for the magazine are often the most interesting projects and it definitely has been beneficial for my commercial work. I have recently been working on a series of photos with shoes brand Veja who discovered my work through the magazine. I suggested to follow up on my Arcades story by photographing the Brit students again a year later, which gave me the opportunity to apply my documentary approach within a fashion brand. With the help of stylist and friend Yeon You, who is also supervising the fashion direction of the magazine, I went to photograph each of the models in their own bedrooms, travelling around London and in its outskirts.
HF: Which young young photographers should we be looking out for this year?
WH: Clara Imbert is someone to look out for this year! We did a story together for the second issue as we went to explore Canvey Island in Essex where Rod, an inhabitant of Canvey, drove us around town to shoot. This has been one of our best photographic experiences. She has now moved to Lisbon to work on more photographic projects and within her collective Parenthesis.
HF: What, aside from its theme, sets Arcades apart from other photography based publications?
WH: Giving an honest and true vision of what the suburb is nowadays and by featuring people and place we don’t usually come across in the press.
HF: Finally, what is next for you and for Arcades Magazine?
WH: We are now starting to work on the third issue of the magazine and always on the hunt for more collaborations and projects!