Teal Magazine: Bound to the Scene

The New Zealand skate scene is quite small and insular, for obvious reasons: not many people live here and the weather is shit.

It’s not quite as simple as that, but it is a well-established rite of passage for Kiwi skateboarders to pack up and head off overseas (Melbourne) where they can find better spots, serious sponsors and, most importantly, a larger community to be a part of.
 It’s a shame, because for as small as it is, Aotearoa is a special place with a habit of breeding extremely interesting, world-class skaters and image-makers; from Lee Ralph to Tom Snape, Dave Chami to Isaac Matz.

And although the changes in the world over the past couple of years have made returning to or staying put in NZ a much more attractive option, the pull of the outside world is still very much a thing.
 Teal is a new magazine about New Zealand skateboarding created by scene lynchpin and brain behind Daylight, Luke Browne.

Instead of tour articles and interviews, the mag (it really feels more like an art book) is a collection of photographs contributed by a bunch of Kiwi photographers spanning the last couple of decades. It’s a dignified tribute to the warmth, depth and artistry of Kiwi skaters. I caught up with Luke to chat about it about a week before he packed up and left Wellington… for Auckland (thank god).

How did you come to the idea of making a magazine?

Probably four, almost five years ago I asked a whole bunch of people if they were interested in trying to put something together. The idea was to make a New Zealand-based magazine that was either Kiwi photographers or Kiwi skaters, and rely on the photographer to create their own brief.
 So it could be like, ‘We went to Hamilton for the weekend, these are all the photos,’ or ‘This person that I’m around is real good, I’m going to make it just photos of them,’ or whatever. But the response was pretty slow. No one really pulled through with anything. It was pretty vague and, I don’t know, it just felt like people didn’t really trust that I was going to make something.

When you give quite a loose brief, sometimes it has the opposite effect of what you intended. People are like, ‘Ahhh! I want structure!

‘So, I can do anything? Fuck, that’s a lot of options!’ And people put a lot of money and time into skate photography with no reward.

Shamus back tail – Isaac Matz

So I made it pretty clear when I spoke to everyone that I can’t pay you, so it’s up to what you want to submit and I’ll let you know what I’m going to use. People slowly started sending things in. As more came in, I’d tell people about what other people had done and stuff, and the trust built up a bit.

Glenn Wignall Kickflip – Dave Chami

It got a bit of momentum.

The next part of the process took a long time. I had hundreds of images and I was like, shit, I need to do something with all this. I wanted to make a book originally. But with all the stuff I had, it didn’t feel like it had a concise concept. It wasn’t like a timeline of a period, it covered a whole bunch of things but it was pretty sporadic.
 I wanted it to be a magazine, so then it could either develop or change and be more accessible (even though it’s expensive, 50 bucks is fucking heaps for a magazine). The whole goal was just to pretty much have something printed. I wasn’t too bothered if I didn’t go too far. If it were just the people that were involved got a copy, something they could hold. I wasn’t trying to replace Manual or be a media outlet.

You weren’t trying to do an exhaustive history of New Zealand skateboarding, but it does span quite a bit of time. People have included significant images to them, like, you’ve got Tommy Fynn wearing that crazy jacket. And then you’ve got pictures from iconic spots or skaters from the past as well as stuff that’s going on now.

That’s another thing; there’s a lot of photos that have already been used. I don’t really care about that at all, and that was the blessing of being able to control it myself. Like, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about what tricks have been done at this spot or that this person has done this better thing; it’s just a photo of someone. And the goal was to cover as much time, places and people as possible.

There’s not much text in the magazine, but I was really interested to read about where the name Teal was derived from.

I collect a shitload of New Zealand books and I always liked the old ads for TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited, the former name of Air New Zealand). It was the idea of being NZ-based or Australasia, kind of close to home. I made the connection with the TEAL name as it was a New Zealand airline company, and they would only do trips to Australia, around the Pacific or around New Zealand. That was the loose idea: Kiwis in different parts of the world, either skating or shooting photos. Plus, it just seemed kind of cool and it was also my favourite colour.

It’s a good colour. 

It’s funny. People don’t know if it’s blue or if it’s green.

It’s in between! I like that it’s a celebration of Kiwi skateboarding and photography without looking for validation outside. But it also acknowledges that Kiwi skaters go all over the world as well.

I wanted to have a bit more of a reach, but I’m kind of happy that it was a bit closer to home. Kiwis usually feel so isolated that they want to get out of New Zealand or just explore this place. There’s lots of aviators from here. Do you know Jean Batten? She was a female pilot, the first to fly across the world.

We’ve talked a little before about the production complications you had. It’s amazing you actually managed to get it all done in the end!

Yeah, I got quite over it. I was ready to be like nah, fuck this.

But by then you were in too deep, right?

There were things that didn’t really work out that ended up costing more money, but it still worked out. I have learnt a few things that will definitely make it a bit easier and cheaper. Like, if I made it two or three centimetres shorter, I could make twice as many for the same amount of money.

And what about the binding?

There’s this thing called grain direction in paper, you have to print things in a certain orientation for it to work. Otherwise, it starts peeling and bending. And because nothing on the cover’s printed, they cut the paper, did the spot UV print and bound it, then found out the grain was going the wrong way. So the first one I saw had like a fucking kicker on it after a few days. It was going back on itself, the cover was standing up.
That was the printer’s fault because they didn’t actually check it. So they had to redo all of the covers, and then they went to bind it at work and they realised that it was too big for the perfect binding machine. 
I actually referenced a sample we had at work, but they didn’t realise that they actually bound it out of house seven years ago or something.
 So that happened. But they knew a place in Levin that could do it, so we sent it out there. And then the owner of the company passed away.


Yeah. And then so obviously there were a few weeks of grievance, and then they finally did it.

So when it was finally done and you got to hold it in your hands, were you stoked on it?

Yeah. I was pretty over it at that stage when it kept getting delayed. But then when they came back and they were all completely how they were meant to be, I was really pleased.

You’ve had a couple of launch events, how have they gone?

Really good, heaps of groms were buying them, which I was surprised at. I doubt many of them even have a magazine at home, you know? They’re pretty used to digital shit.

It’s a bit of a novelty for them.

It was cool seeing them interact with it in a different way—you can’t just pinch and zoom in, you have to put your face right up to look at them. And then also a lot of older skaters came, a lot of the things in there they could reminisce on.

Are you thinking of any future issues or iterations?

Not really. I think probably once I’m settled in Auckland, I’ll start thinking about it. It would be good to get a lot more new images. A few people didn’t send photos for this one that I knew had some. I think that the fact that it exists now will give them a little more faith. It would be cool to change the format or maybe have some text in there.

Who else did you work with on the project?

There was Michael Lamb, he’s a photographer who is doing a Masters at the University of Hartford, and a lot of the classes he does are on sequencing and bookmaking. He works with Harry Culy doing Bad News Books. He used to skate and take skate photos, so he’s been around it and is aware of everything that’s going on. 
I was trying to think of sequencing it as a photo book, but a skate photo holds so much context so it was really hard to decide on what images to use or the order for them to go in. I would go to Michael’s place after work and stay till 10 or 11. We’d just look through the photos, constantly going through them.

I printed them all out and got familiar with every single one.
 And then we started chipping away at them and put them all on the ground and looked at them again from the perspective of: just from a glance, what’s the feeling you get from it? He was really helpful.
Harry scanned a bunch of the slide film, which I have no idea how to do. And Calder, he’s a good friend I lived with for quite a while. He does a lot of design stuff for Daylight, and he made the logo for it and helped put together the website.

It’s very nice. Very classy.

Yeah. And other than that, the people that advertised helped because they put money into it. And the photographers, of course. Getting the last bits of information was a fucking struggle though.

Getting all the names right and everything?

Yeah, I kind of went back and forth between having captions or no captions. And then I thought it’d be good to do an index at the back instead, so you look at the image, not who or what it is.

You take away some of that context and then put it back in again.

That was another thing. Like, we can’t have a photo of this person next to this person, because they’re not friends, you know, those kinds of things. We tried to really remove any of that and go off the aesthetic and the pairing of images instead. But in the end, it’s just a skate magazine.

Well, yeah, in a way, it’s just a skate magazine. But what we’re actually doing is documenting this quite creative and interesting thing that we’ve dedicated our lives to.

The big point is I wanted to create a platform people can use. I’ve had lots of friends who stopped shooting photos or they’ve had to move, or just been let down and kind of lost interest or faith in doing it, even though they’re really good at it. It’d be good to restore that. The skate industry in New Zealand is just kind of like that. Lots of people get let down, and that sucks.
A few people that have photos in this have come back and said it inspired them to start up again, to get back into it, because they want to see number two. I hold a lot of value in print and I think most of the people that submitted to it do as well. I think everyone gets sick of just putting their photos on Instagram.

In skateboarding in general, there’s not much infrastructure. People develop all these skills and these passions, but then they don’t get paid and they don’t feel like what they’re doing has any momentum or no one’s really seeing it. So what’s the point? Whereas it should be something that they feel encouraged and supported to do, whether that’s financially or otherwise.

When I told people I wasn’t able to pay them to start with, it was fine. They were okay with it. They just want to be part of something or just have their work printed.

It’s kind of freeing in a way because they won’t have to compromise anything. It’s not about selling shoes or whatever.

No. And especially because the first one is just a pilot version, I guess. It’s a test to see if it works. I’d love to get to the point where I can be paying people.

Even yourself.

Ha! I’m trying to figure that out.

Well, good luck. You’re doing god’s work and I appreciate you.

Cheers man, you too. You’re doing the work too.

The mahi.

Doing the mahi, yeah. We’re just waiting for those treats.

You can buy a copy of Teal skate magazine here. 

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