Fifteen pages of fame

A quick flick through the pages of Birds reveals the ingenuity of a sub-culture that has been lingering underneath the mainstream world of media for decades.

With photocopied pages and handwritten issue numbers, the mini-magazine provides the opportunity for anyone to have their fifteen pages of fame.


Birds, a minizine. Photography: Mary-Helen Daly

Zinesters, as the authors call themselves, are the personal and contemplative members of generation Y. The generation that many believe, has lost itself in the self indulgent life online. Rather, this unique culture thrives on new ideas and originality, and the motivation of a person to put their thoughts where their paper is.

Built around the DIY ethic of an entrepreneur and carried along by the punk rock culture, zines emerged in the 1930’s to serve the minority and cover the topics ignored by mainstream media. These days, the topic content is wide-ranging and almost impossible to categorise. Zines cover everything from comics, dogs and diaries to politics.

There are few hard and fast rules for zines. Traditionally circulation must be below five thousand to truly be a zine, although some have surpassed this point.

zines adjusted

Photo: Jacqueline Wales

Dave Roche, 26, is an old substitute teacher from the United States and has moved on from the mini-zine to the mini-book. OnSubbing, the first four years is a published version of Dave’s mini-zines and is well-known to zinesters.

“I laughed, I cried, I nearly pooped my pants…his style is captivating, his imagery amazing,” one of his readers says in a review.

Although zinesters cling to handwritten notes and plain white paper, the digital world has helped forge links between zinesters across the world.

On a trip to Australia, Dave Roche dropped in to visit one of his fellow zinesters, Susy Pow, and delivered a reading of his mini-book in her share-house basement.

The online world has also expanded the circulation of zines. Fans can now easily connect with each other and trade their zines world wide.

Putting one’s opinions or hobbies on paper is personal enough for most, but many zinesters have taken their diaries out from under the bed and photocopied them onto the pages of a personal zine, also known as the ‘perzine’.

“They’re popular because they’re intimate,” says Susy Pow.

“Some people write about their illnesses or their divorces. Some just write about their general day-to-day life.”

crowd resized

Photo: Jacqueline Wales

The Zine Fair is where it all comes together.

Zinesters of all ages and interests descend on a day filled with chocolate-frosted cupcakes and badge buttons. Hobbyists come together to trade old and new zines, explore ideas and techniques and to share opinions. Workshops on how to save time and money on your bedroom production lines attract a fair crowd. Beneath the lively chatter you can almost hear the itch of each aspiring zinester, eager to get home and apply their newly learned tricks of the trade.

Zines are not only churned out by amateur writers, but also by artists and graphic designers still sketching their way through academic acknowledgment. Some have turned the self-publishing technique into their own personal art galleries.

This is the case with Flaps, an artistic zine designed by two Sydney career artists. Their latest edition is a collection of paintings, sketches and photographs of the Architecture in Smith Field.

flaps adjusted

Flaps, an artistic zine. Photo: Jacqueline Wales

Curiosity draws people in to explore this sub-culture and zines have everything needed to attract and retain a crowd. Unique content, an unpolished style and personal appeal, makes these crafty mini-zines both attractive and addictive.

Zinesters have escaped the orthodox methods of the mainstream publishing market, and without rules, there are simply no limits when it comes to zines.

May 8, 2009.


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