Magnified: Rotten

Posted June 15, 2020 in More

Rotten is a print-only, punk-inspired, photography magazine. Volume One includes lengthy features from Joshua Gordon, Ciarán Óg Arnold, Dani Lessnau, Ivaylo Donchev and photography collective GORSAD. We speak to its creative director Joel Seawright.


What is the concept behind Rotten and how did you settle on the title?

I wanted to create something that was a homage to the Irish and Japanese photobooks that I love. It only felt natural to make some kind of hybrid between the two, combining it with a usual magazine format which allowed us to make a magazine that feels personal.

Lucy (Jackson, lead editor) and I were stuck for the issue’s title, and we got so bored of trying to come up with something that we started looking at Ralph Wiggum quotes to use. None of them really worked, but it definitely put us in the right mindset as we soon came up with “Look, Daddy, I made a magazine!” (which is something he could have said) – once we settled on the title, the whole theme of the issue clicked into place.


What criteria did you set yourself for discovering and selecting photographers for the first edition?

We never really set specific criteria, we mostly had a very long list of photographers that we are just huge fans of and wanted to let their work influence the aesthetic.


You have decided to lay bare the machinations of creating a magazine, including correspondence with contributors and The Guardian over licensing. At what point did you decide to pivot in this direction?

I think it was really because we were struggling to write content and figure out what our voice was. The logical step seemed to be that we should begin to document the struggle we were having instead of just writing about the work.

I think something my generation value a lot is authenticity – I wanted to be completely transparent with how we go about everything and showing the importance that anybody can make a magazine, you just have to work at it to figure it out.


The design of the magazine is a mix of dark and voyeuristic mixed with childish scrawlings – it’s almost digital in a glitchy, disruptive way. Is this intentional? 

The childish drawings were a massive reflection of the theme. They work incredibly and surprisingly well in contrast with the very adult nature of the photography, bringing a more playful feel to the magazine.

I wouldn’t say that the digital aspect was deliberate, but we wanted to take inherently digital elements, such as the screenshots, and place them into a different context giving it a more timeless feel.


Who is the audience you hope to connect with Rotten?

I mainly made Rotten for myself and to get approval from my dad, but since launching the first issue we’ve gained our own little niche audience of successful photographers, artists, graphic designers and a variety of people who are incredibly supportive and who we would be nothing without their help!


Who is inspiring you in the world of photography and publications at the moment?

So many people that I have no idea where to start. I guess if I have to list a few, Buffalo Zine would definitely be close to the top – I met them at their studio in Hackney in the early days of making Volume One and they gave me some good advice. Another magazine would be Civilization, a massive fold-out newspaper that is littered with conversations and interviews from every-day people in New York.


In terms of photographers, well, you’ll have to just wait to see them in Volume Two…


What has your Dad’s reaction to it been like? Have you made him proud? Am I right in assuming he is the photographer Paul Seawright? If so, what challenges are presented when you are the son of a well-known photographer? What advice do you take and to what extent do you attempt to plough your own furrow?

Yes, that’s him! I think there’s definitely been a bit of pressure to do well, probably mostly been put on by myself. He’s always known that I am creative, and I wanted to prove to him that I could do something with it.

My dad built his career all by himself which inspired me the most and gave me the drive to make Rotten without the help of anyone, with no helping hand (apart from Lucy). I actually didn’t show him the magazine until it was printed.


Are there plans afoot for Rotten vol. 2?

The plans for Volume Two are well underway. We started at the beginning of the year and it’s moving along quickly and already into the editing stage. We have some really exciting features and I’m happy with the direction it’s going in.

Issue One, £20

Words: Michael McDermott


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