LAW Magazine unearths
“Fashion is an industry. Style is an inherent quality.”
This quote from Welsh photographer Jason Evans could be something of a mantra for LAW magazine, an independent publication that’s as hard to define as style itself. Initially conceived as the final project for Editor-in-Chief John Holt’s university fashion course, the magazine has grown in size and now benefits from worldwide distribution to readers in Paris, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
The pages of LAW feature dispatches from everyday life in the UK. Disparate people and places, united by a singular aesthetic, are pulled together and – often – their stories are elaborated on in accompanying text; poetry, lyrics, short essays and interviews. Issue 6, which was
released back in May, featured an eclectic list of subjects: female toilet attendants, Scunthorpe fans, Subaru Imprezas, water towers, conceptual artists and a woman called Monica who “fucking hates her job”.
The magazine positions itself outside the constant flux of the fashion world, where a throwaway culture can easily break an aesthetic under the strain of shifting trends. “I don’t really like LAW being associated with fashion, as such,” explains Creative Director Joe Prince. Starting the magazine, he says, was a reaction against the exclusionary and inaccessible world of printed fashion mags that bore no resemblance to his fondest memories of reading print. “Growing up I was always into the Argos catalogue and the Free Ads and Match and Shoot football magazines. Angling Times. These sorts of magazines. I couldn’t really relate to i-D, you know? We used to fight over the Argos catalogue. We weren’t really ever fighting over i-D.”
A quick look around John’s studio will testify to his taste. British Homing World, the UK’s premier pigeon racing weekly, lies neatly on the coffee table beside a book on fly fishing. It’s an off-kilter taste for two contemporary creatives, but one that sincerely influences the spirit of LAW far more than any haute couture fashion journal. The truth of this is evident from the infectious sense of wonder both have when they discuss the great outdoors.
Growing up in the Fens, John was surrounded by countryside, and he discusses the area with the same raspy, wistful optimism Joe exhibits when remembering summers spent riding crosser bikes around the abandoned railways and Coal Pits of Gedling, Nottingham. The Fens and Gedling are a far cry from East London, but it’s clear that both John and Joe would like to remain true to the spirit of those places today.
“A lot of people are in their own world, especially in London,” Joe argues. “Everyone just rushes past each other, no one spends any time to stop and appreciate the smaller things in life.” It’s an observation which ultimately underpins the LAW view of the metropolis. It’s why they dedicate whole essays to understanding multi-use-games-areas, or conduct lengthy interviews about Walthamstow Bowling Green. It’s an approach learned in the country and applied to the metropole: take the time to stop and appreciate the world around you.
“We’ve got this longing to go back to our roots and just be outdoors. At the end of the day, we love being outside and photographing and experiencing everything, not being sat in front of a computer and having to send emails.” It’s no surprise, then, that Issue 7, the first ever themed edition of LAW, is going to be entirely based on ‘The Outdoors’. In order to inspire work around the theme, John sent out a hand-made Contributors’ Letter featuring three pieces of his bespoke artwork, and the lay plan pinned up against the wall shows that they’ve already commissioned insightful works, many of which are nearing completion.
But just as I’m getting curious, I’m shown a framed scrap of receipt paper with an address scrawled on it in the shaky handwriting of an elderly woman. It’s something of a non-sequitur, but turns out to be a decent illustration of what to expect from the forthcoming edition. They’ve just been to the Fens to photograph for the new issue, Joe explains. On the way they drove past an old woman on a stall with a sign saying ‘Plums and Damsons’.
“She looks amazing and we’re like, shall we stop? Yeah, fuck it. Let’s stop.” When they spoke to her, they discovered that her name was Grace and she’d sat on the same stall for 56 summers and never missed a day’s work. She was glad to have her portrait taken in front of her four acres of orchard, and she subsequently wrote her address down so that they could keep in touch. “We could print that in the mag and just say to everyone, ‘Send Grace a note or a nice letter,’” Joe says. “If we want to do that we can, there’s no restrictions”.
But even if Grace doesn’t make it into Issue 7, it’s not an admission of defeat. The spontaneous humanity within their exchange – the sense of connection – will certainly feature in one guise or another. John is particularly excited about a shot taken of an ex-serviceman taking his daughter fishing for the first time on Deal Pier in Kent, as well as some beautiful photographs of an abandoned power plant, and a shoot they did with James Pearson-Howes of the audience at Speedway race track.
None of these places or people are conventionally beautiful, of course. I’m curious about why John and Joe are so set on documenting people.
“LAW isn’t an opinion of the world in terms of politics,” comes John’s clear answer. “It’s just extremely personal”. His is a creative mind honed not in the world of fashion’s elite, but in the front room on a Saturday night watching Blind Date. LAW is ordinary people’s lives captured not for some gritty appeal or unwholesome curiosity, but for the simple, timeless beauty of the everyday. If there’s one message the magazine communicates more clearly than any other, it’s that style is a precious entity, and if you stop to look you can find it just about anywhere.
Issue 7 of LAW is out mid October. For more information, visit law-mag.com