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  • Writer's pictureJo

"What is a zine, anyway?"

Updated: May 16, 2021

I have created a selection of photography “zines” which I sell mainly via my website. When I introduced my zines to the world one of the questions I was often, and indeed am still asked, is “what is a zine, anyway?”

The Collins English Dictionary defines a zine as “a magazine about a particular subject, written by people who are interested in that subject rather than by professional journalists”. Well, to be honest, that sounds dull!

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a zine as “a small magazine that is produced cheaply by one person or a small group of people and is about a subject they are interest in”. Yes, but is that it?!

The Urban Dictionary sums it up best of all with “…some sort of publication, usually mass-produced by photocopying (in some cases, scanned, put on the 'net, or copied via fax) on any range of topics, but usually filled with passion. A means of telling one's story, sharing thoughts, and/or artwork/comics/doodles”. Now that is a zine!

Pronounced “zeen”, which is short for magazine or fanzine, it comprises of self-published work often limited to editions of fewer than 100, perhaps up to a 1000. Zines cover a wide range of subjects, such as art and design, literary works, photography, poetry, politics, and even forms of personal journals.

Zines originated in subcultures, underground movements, that had news to share and events to promote and they did so using an unconventional DIY medium, which was simple and cheap. In the 60s zines very much focused on social and political activism. In the 70s they were part of the punk subculture – fanzines for different punk bands, reviews, and gigs.

Surprisingly however the term 'zine' is much older – for it was coined as early as 1940 in a science fiction fanzine and it entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1949.

If you look on the internet you can now get hold of a zine on pretty much any subject. Someone somewhere is, as I type, making, printing, photocopying, and stapling their creation and sharing it among enthusiasts in their field.

Making and selling zines is most definitely not about profit – it is about sharing our passions and buying zines is a way of supporting artists and collecting original limited-edition art, without having to spend ridiculous sums of money. Collecting zines is in itself a passion.

I currently have 5 Zines for sale.

A traditional Somerset Auction and A traditional Somerset auction – in monochrome.

In 2019 I was commissioned to document an auction of vintage farming and personal effects of a retired Somerset farmer who had passed away. Members of the family felt it would be too emotional to take in what was going on and wanted a record of the day that they could look at when the time was right.

The images are of the farming community and local villagers and townsfolk coming together; to share memories and offer their respects to the family. For many it was a grand day out and for others an opportunity to bid for unusual and collectible items from tractors to teaspoons.

With the consent of the family involved I produced two zines, one colour and one monochrome, of some of the images taken that day.

During the Covid-19 lockdowns I would (and still am) walk a lot – part of national the ‘daily exercise’ regime - and as a consequence I created 3 zines during this period:

Five miles from home” - is a 20-page zine that comprises of black and white digital photographs of my Wiltshire walks. This publication is limited to 50 copies.

Trees Trees Trees” - this is a zine of black and white photographs taken with a selection of my 70s and 80s film cameras. This publication is limited to 30 copies.

West woods – in autumn” – a collection of vibrant digital images taken in my local woods.

I am pleased to announce that there is a 6th zine in the pipeline, which is something quite different. Top tip: make sure you sign up to my newsletter on my website so you don’t miss out - for once a zine edition is gone – it's gone!

You can find all of my zines at - whilst stocks last. If you click on any of the items shown it will also give you a physical description of the publication, i.e., the size, the type of paper used, the type of binding and where it was printed. Latterly I have begun using an independent UK printing company to produce my zines and thanks to their on-line platform I am able to design the layout and format. You can buy one of my zines for as little as £3.50 - up to £9.00, including p&p. It’s a fab way to support an artist, to follow them and collect their work.

So, there we have it – that is what a zine is – in case you were going to ask!

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1 Comment

Thanks for the explanation - loved the definitions and your Zines are fantastic!

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