Interview w/ Michael J DeMeo of No Thoughts Magazine

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I have a fascination with printed material. There is something about feeling the paper and ink on your hands that beats any screen of a tablet. This is probably why I literally refuse to read books on the iPad. Discovering new photozines and publications is somewhat of a borderline hobby/obsession, so I was thrilled to discover No Thoughts Magazine. I got the chance to ask Michael DeMeo, the editor some questions on the future of print and how he is inspired by the new online media culture. Enjoy! 

What prompted you to start No Thoughts? 

I started No Thoughts in late 2009.  Prior to that I had been working as a photo curator at Sugar Gallery in Portland, Oregon.  At Sugar I managed to bring some huge shows to Portland.  We were one of the first galleries to ever show Peter Beste’s “Black Metal” photos.  We showed Jimmy Fontaine, Cory Smith, and Elizabeth Weinberg when they were all really just beginning in their careers.  We did an insane Polaroid show with Ray Lego.  We did parties with Dead Meadow, Amps for Christ, and a slew of other heavy rock and noise electronic musicians.  We worked with so many amazing artists.   Then came the recession and the gallery closed.

I wanted to continue to work with other artists and I had made a lot of connections with Sugar.  I thought about another gallery, I thought of just doing a website but I settled on doing something with the printed page.  I’m definitely Generation Y, and I was impacted by zines in the late 90s in my more punk rock days.  I liked the more personal zines that were pretty popular in that time frame, just before the internet exploded.  Cometbus, Scam, and Burn Collector were some of my favorites as well as all the obscure titles you find around at shows.  I did a perzine called “Woken By Silence” and published a handful of issues.  With No Thoughts I really wanted to recreate the intimacy of those post-grunge perzines but blend it with the gloss of fashion and lifestyle publications most notably  Purple.

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How do you think print/online media is evolving? 

Print is dead.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those anti-internet, anti-blog kind of people.  Quite the opposite.  I love online media.  It’s the easiest way to reach such an incredible amount of people for the least amount of money.  Thousands and thousands of people can look at your work as soon as you publish it.  But there is so much information and different photography related projects online that they become almost disposable.  People don’t take the time to really digest photography online.  To let it resonate.  They just scroll.  But that’s why No Thoughts is so special.  We believe in these photographer’s work so much that we went through all this trouble to make a printed document.  It’s not disposable, it’s important.  Stop and look.

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What do you look for when curating an issue? 

We usually decide on a certain theme.  Our latest issue No Thoughts 10 is based on what it’s like to live in the city.  We wanted to mix autobiographical images with professional editorial photographs.  So we have images of Danny Brown, The Stone Roses, and Method Man next to purely documentary or autobiographical work.  This style of mixing professional and autobiographical photography is really what we’ve become known for.

I solicit work from professional or fine art photographers I know, but I also open submissions to the public.  I also use the internet a lot, and constantly find new artists that way.

We look for strong photographs that are capable of telling a story in one image.  The photograph also has to able to work in the collective whole of each issue.  We curate the photographs to tell a story and sometimes we decline amazing images because they won’t work in our story. The quality of the photograph is very important to us.  We have a high-standard for what we publish.  Even if the image is auto-biographical it should be presented professionally.  We want to show work that makes the viewer say “wow”.

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You are heavily influenced by the grunge aesthetic and scene. What do you think of this resurgence in 90s culture? 

I love it.  But there are some important distinctions to be made.  The original grunge movement was definitely more of a political statement than what is happening today.  This current trend is a romanced version of grunge fashion only, mostly by people who were not even born during the grunge era.  They know this image of grunge that they learned from the internet, and movies.   I don’t consider it to be anything as serious as what was happening in the nineties.  I’m not made at it though! It’s really fun aesthetic to explore!  Especially in the digital age where people are starting to want to try and explore style with a little more soul than H&M and Forever 21.  I love new grunge as a fashion movement and I love it as an inspiration for art, and music.  I’ve forever been effected by that aesthetic myself.  The fashion and style is all about being yourself and staying unique.  I definitely think this new grunge movement is fun and will be interesting to watch it evolve.

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What or Who are your inspirations? 

We are hugely inspired by fashion.  No Thoughts is like a luxury fashion magazine without any of the clothing.  The energy,  creativity, aesthetics and presentation in magazines like Purple are a direct influence on the zine.  I’m also influenced by a lot of Japanese photo books and photographers.   Nobuyoshi Araki’s use of black and white is hugely inspirational.  I love the intimacy of Hiromix.  How she uses photography like a diary.  Corinne Day, and Juergen Teller are also huge inspiration.  Ari Marcopoulos, for both his photography and his dedication to printing such an insane amount of personal photozines.

You recently released a photobook zine called Vegas with Joseph Zentil, how did this project come about? 

VEGAS is a limited edition release between myself and Joseph Zentil.  Zentil is a great dude, he’s most famous for doing music videos for Kreayshawn, and spaceghostpurrp.  The photozine is a collection of photographs from when a bunch of our friends went to Las Vegas last summer.  It’s a fun little look inside the lives of young creatives on holiday.

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What is your future plan for No Thoughts Magazine

We have a lot of plans, namely publishing more solo works.  We’re working with Jimmy Fontaine right now for a new release.  I’m also going to release a title based on work that I shot in Portland, Oregon.  All the weird shit that happens there.

We’ll continue pushing the magazine further and further improving the quality as much as possible.  The best paper, the best photography, the best printing, the best packaging.  We want to give people the best presentation of weirdo contemporary photography that we can!

Buy Issue 10 of No Thoughts here!

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images c/o No Thoughts Magazine

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