In this month’s report from the Process group at London’s Gosh! Comics, small press outfit Avery Hill Publishing talk about their publishing philosophy and the group focus on the subject of photography and comics.
Process is a comics workshop and discussion group that meets up on the first Wednesday of every month at Gosh! Comics from 7-9 pm. The idea is to have a place where creators and readers can get together and discuss the mechanics of comics, present work in progress and find new collaborators. Each meeting opens with everyone introducing themselves, continues with some more general chat and finishes up with half an hour or so at the end for everyone to mingle and discuss things less formally.
The idea behind this report is to try and connect with people who can’t actually make it to the night itself. When Process first started there were enquiries about taking the project to shows around the country or recording or filming the night in some way to allow people outside London to share the experience. It’s just not practical to record or film the evening and I think this format allows for the embedding of related links in the most natural way for images related to the discussion to be shared.
This month we’ve gone a little further in that our guests on the evening, Avery Hill Publishing (David White, Ricky Miller and Michael Gosden pictured above), have also appeared on a podcast I do called South London Hardcore. They are a small press publishing concern based in South London, meaning they appeared at Process to discuss how they formed, what they do and how they work with their creators. They appeared on SLHC to talk more about their lives in South London but we also talked about the work they have produced or developed. Hopefully with the links that are provided here and the discussion of their work on the podcast it will give a comprehensive overview of their work and methods.
To listen to the podcast click here.
Other attendees on the night included: Avery Hill creators Tim Bird, Owen D. Pomery and Rebecca Strickson, comics collective Backwards Burd, creators Susannah Pal, Francesca Dare, Paul Shinn, Lorenzo Fiorini, Karrie Fransman, Anna Dowsland, Ket Majmudar, Matt Boyer, Maartje Schalkx, Lochlan Bloom, Hannah Miller and James Coull.
There was some talk about Wu Wei an anthology that many of those in attendance had worked on which had been published just a few days before.
We opened by talking to the three men that form Avery Hill Publishing, David White, Ricky Miller and Michael Gosden. David began by talking about the origins of AHP in an online music blog that he started called ‘Tiny Dancing’. Ricky and David also contributed to the blog and they enjoyed some success in terms of visitors to the site but were disappointed in the lack of interactivity between themselves and their visitors.
They took the decision to discontinue the blog and instead produce Tiny Dancing as a zine and expand its remit beyond music and into whatever people wanted to produce. In the first issue Ricky presented a comic strip, as did a couple of other contributors, and Tiny Dancing became a blend of prose, illustration and comics.
After a few issues it was decided that mixing all of these things together made it hard to sell into certain places. Comic shops only wanted comics, galleries would only want illustration, and general bookshops would be put off by either of those things. To remedy this AHP developed Reads (Broken Frontier review here), a comics anthology that took its name from Cerebus the Aardvark
Tiny Dancing and Reads became the two main productions from AHP and would go on to become good places to showcase creators that the company would go on to work with on solo projects. The first of these was Grey Area by Tim Bird (BF review here), the first issue of which was the first AHP production not to feature material from any of the company’s founders. More recently AHP has released The Megatherium Club by Owen Pomery and The Festival (pictured above with BF review here) by Jazz Greenhill, as well as a second issue of Grey Area.
Owen and Tim talked about their experiences of working with AHP, emphasizing the importance of communication and both sides understanding what they hoped to achieve in working together. David observed that having worked with Owen and Tim on shorter pieces for Reads allowed AHP to go onto longer projects with confidence, knowing that the creators were reliable and capable of producing work of quality.
The Festival was actually produced as part of Jazz’s final show for her degree and ended up being a project that had to be turned around in a remarkably short space of time. This involved particularly high levels of focus and organization between the creator, the publishers and the printer to ensure that the book was ready in time for Jazz to present it.
David spoke in glowing terms of Rich Hardiman the printer that they used to produce The Festival. Rich produces a remarkable amount of the comics that you see on UK small press shelves and has a reputation for communication ad value that can’t be beat.
Having watched Mike put together Wu Wei and seen the speedy, informative responses that Rich gave to any enquiries it’s easy to see how he would have come through for Jazz and AHP on The Festival. We also talked about the ‘passion projects’ that AHP produces. These are titles with small print runs that are usually found footage or objects that are transformed into lovely little zines.
The first of these were two volumes of Close-up Masterchef, a series of photographs from the popular BBC cookery show taken REALLY close up. This was followed by Invincible a collection of stills from a distorted digital recording of a Werner Herzog documentary and, most recently, The Mitchell Collection, an assortment of photographs taken by a man called T.P. Mitchell on a trip around Europe in the ’80s involving a blend of tourist shots and loads of pictures of men in uniform.
The latest release from AHP is the first in a series called Fronts, a project headed up by Michael that will showcase artists with a selection of prints of their work and a short interview with the creator involved. The subject of the first issue is Roman Klonek, a Polish artist based in Germany who specializes in colourful woodblock prints. Avery Hill Publishing has produced some wonderful publications in a very short time and is one to watch over the next few years.
For the latter part of the evening we discussed photography and comics. This arose from an enquiry from Lochlan Bloom, a writer who wants to produce comics and was considering putting together some photocomics based on his stories.
In preparation for the evening I asked people online to nominate comics involving photography that they particularly enjoyed which seemed to fall into two main categories. Firstly there are photocomics, comics that use photographs instead of drawing with speech bubbles, thought balloons and caption boxes working in conjunction with the photographs.Popular nominations here included Doomlord, an Eagle strip from the ’80s, the romance strips in girl’s comics of the ’70s and ’80s (like this one featuring pre-fame George Michael) and more recent examples like A Softer World.
Then there are creators who blend photography with drawing such as Dave McKean, Eddie Campbell and Bryan Talbot and the cosmic collage work of Jack Kirby in the Fantastic Four and his Fourth World stories as well as the more recent work of Christian Ward and Kendall Bruns in Infinite Vacation. On the evening itself Lochlan was warned that photocomics can fall into the trap of the words simply describing the pictures which can make them ineffective as comics and there’s also a danger of the images becoming ‘frozen film’ with the pictures simply being those selected from a series of photographed shots rather than being designed to tell the story as a comic.
We talked about photography having a purpose in certain comics, such as The Photographer by Emanuel Guibert or I, Paparazzi by Pat McGreal and Stephen John Phillips, both comics with photography as a medium at their centre. Karrie also talked about her recent experiences in creating a chapter of her upcoming book as a photocomic talking about the time and expense but also emphasizing the happy accidents that can occur giving you images that you never imagined that are perfect for your story.
We closed the evening at this point allowing Lochlan to chat in the shop and then in the pub with a number of comicky people and have a look at his options.