Henry Kingsford interview
We’re slowly approaching the new edition of Vladimir Film Festival and with that in mind we decided to do a small recap of the 2015 VFF. We contacted Henry Kingsford, a London-based photographer and Grey Skateboard Magazine founder, last years exhibitor and guest, but mostly our friend who is visiting us again this year. In a brief interview we discuss his work at Grey, his photography and of course, Vladimir.
With this occasion we are taking the opportunity to thank Henry one more time for all the help last year on the exhibition “5 years in print” and all the promotion that he provided for the festival. Thanks man! Looking forward to seeing you again at the VFF2016.
Interview by Oleg Morović
Q: So, last time you were here i asked you about the mag, the making of and the process. I was surprised to find out that is not really a whole floor of people working on it ’cause that’s the feeling you get when you hold the mag in your hands. Can you tell us how Grey started, how it grew, who are the people behind it, and what is the process of creating an issue from start to finish?
A: I started Grey in 2010. One of the two big UK magazines, Document, had gone out of print, so it seemed like there was space for a new magazine. Every photographer was trying to get stuff in Sidewalk, and it was getting difficult to get stuff used. The main inspiration for our first format, which was pocket-sized and covered London exclusively, was AnzeigeBerlin, a pocket-sized magazine made by Adam Sello covering the Berlin scene. I found AnzeigeBerlin through Staple, another pocket-sized magazine from Perth, Australia. After Grey came A Propos from Paris, then more, like Gone from Lyon. There was a bit of a scene around these pocket-sized city ‘zines for a while, around 2010/11. We even did a collab ‘zine with Anzeigeberlin and A Propos, supported by Carhartt.
Grey has grown pretty steadily since 2010, in size and distribution, but also reputation I guess, and money I can pull in from ads. Every now and again I decide to change the format, and usually increase the print run each time. We’re currently at 10,000 distribution and our format is perfect bound, slightly larger than A5.
I do a lot of stuff at Grey other than being the editor and shooting photos, things like ad sales, social media and interviews. I have an art director, Chris Pearson, who takes care of how everything looks, and I work with two photographers: Lex Kembery and Joel Peck. Marke Newton does drawings for us too, most issues. But I don’t have an office – I do most office stuff at home, and no full-time people working on the magazine except me.
Grey comes out every three months. I usually have content for the following issue planned while working on the current one. I pick people I like to go in each issue. I shoot photos for the new issues for the first two months then the final month is usually taken up with retouching, interviews, editing, chasing ads, proof-reading and actually overseeing printing.
Q: 5 years in print — i think we can all agree that the exhibition of Grey skateboard Magazine in VFF 2015 was a real success. The pages of the mag scattered on a wooden installation with an iPad embedded, showing photos from the previous night’s event on the Grey website. There was a lot of hard work and time invested in just this piece of the festival but that cannot be compared to the work you put in 5 years behind the mag. You mentioned that you are working on a publication of the 5 year of Grey, how is that going, can we look forward to this sometime soon? maybe present it on VFF2017? 5 years is a long time for an independent mag to run, specially when it’s free. How are you making it happen, and tell us why you think is important for a magazine like Grey to exist, and to be printed and not just online?
A: We actually just passed six years this May. I decided to put the book on hold because I think it’s more important to look forward and concentrate on what is happening now and how best to cover that, how to make the magazine and the website better. In terms of how we are making it happen, luckily we have the support of lots of advertisers, who still value printed skateboard media.
I think it’s really important that printed skateboard magazines still exist. Instagram is well-suited to skateboarding, especially now with video, but with Instagram, you’re still looking at skate photos so small and in a digital format. With a print magazine, we make all these decisions about paper stock, and print processes and how we prepare the images so they look a certain way. You don’t get that with digital. Also, and this sounds obvious, but you can see them bigger in print. I think Sam Ashley mentioned this, that a lot of photos we shoot don’t work on Instagram, shots where the skater is small in frame, for example.
With print, you get to lay out the photos in relation to the spread and the text, and also in relation to other images, which is really important. All this is lost on Instagram.
Q: Your photos are exeptional, we are all very fond of your style and tehniques. The moment we saw the works you sent for the exhibition we knew it was going to be great, and it really was. Nikola was all hyped when he got the mail, calling me at work, like: “Man you got to see this! You are going to love it!” And i did. So did everybody else of course. So, the question is: what came first: the love for skateboarding or photography? Or can you even exclude one of them as a greater passion above the other? How did it all start for you?
A: Definitely skateboarding first. I got into photography quite late on. I’ve had pretty bad problems with ligaments in both ankles, so didn’t skate much for the first five years of shooting skating. More recently, my friend persuaded me to try some new ankle supports, which worked, and I got fully back into skating myself. Now we skate three or four times a week and go on skate trips a few times a year. I love both, but maybe skating is more important to me than photography at the moment.
I got into photography on a round-the-world gap year trip to places like India and Vietnam. When I got to LA, I met Mike O’Meally, who looked through my photos and said I had a good eye. He was probably just being polite, but that was enough for me to study when I got back to the UK.
Q: Who are some of the photographers that you feel are of quality, names with growing potential or even fully-developed artists that you would sugest to us for consideration for the VFF program?
A: Joel Peck, Rich West and Rafal Wojnowski are amazing photographers. I work with Joel regularly now and would like to work more with Rich and Rafal. In terms of more established photographers, Marcel Veldman, Nils Svensson, Sam Ashley, Fred Mortagne and Lex Kembery are my favourites. I’m biased towards Lex, because he shoots a lot for Grey and he’s a really good friend. His portrait work is incredible and his skate stuff has developed in a really interesting way recently – he takes no flashes, and works only with ambient light, even if it’s dark, producing some really interesting work. Alex Pires too, but he exibited last year already.
Q: Vladimir film festival – what is your take on it? Last year was your first time visiting the festival. What was your experience of the whole thing: the program, people and places, visuals and trailers, vibe? All the up sides but the down sides too. There’s always space for improvement.
A: I was blown away. It was such an amazing experience. Oleg is some sort of genius, making better prints himself than I could get made in London, building frames for everything, making our amazing installation with old pallets, then screen-printing all the posters and booklets by hand. Nikola too: such good taste in picking films to show and a great host. Pula and expecially Fažana are really beautiful places and great settings for the festival. The local skate scene is really strong, and everyone is very friendly and very happy to help with anything. The visit to the forts in the forest near Fažana was a big highlight – hopefully we’ll go back this year. The branding of the festival was perfect – everyone wanted to take posters home. The only negative thing was that the DIY park in Fažana has gone. It looked so incredible from footage and it was sad to see the land not being used for anything else.