The making of a magazine: sharing our process

He shoots/she writes. Want to know what it takes to make a magazine? 

Kyle Ford, Creative Director

What inspired you to make a magazine? Honestly, a great question to which I have a two answers. First, I have an affinity for thoughtful printed publications. With information and entertainment in our day to day lives having gone nearly completely digital, I find myself having a certain romanticism for something you can hold. Print is only dead until you pick it up again. However, I do believe that the quality of printed projects today needs to start with the intent of being non-disposable (think bi-annual publications like Cereal and Drift). Otherwise, digital channels will certainly eat your content and work alive.

As for 1806 magazine, specifically, I spent 7 years working in the spirits industry, 5 as a brand ambassador for Rémy Cointreau. While traveling the world, training bartenders, bar owners, and consumers on the merits of fine spirits, I got to know a lot of people. It was my job, after all. I learned that the bar industry attracts some of the most creative minds with intriguing back stories. The idea eventually formed over conversations (and martinis) with Rachel to somehow tell these stories. The intent of the project was to do something completely disruptive in the cocktail space. Instead of creating just another magazine about cocktails, why not make a magazine about the people who make and enjoy cocktails? An interesting recipe that we’ve since realized can be applied to any industry. Stop talking about the product! You know? Talk about the people who make it and the people whose lives are enriched by it. That is far more interesting.

What is your process for taking photos for the magazine? For 1806 magazine, I wanted to visually capture three things: the people we chose to interview, their individual context, and their shared context. For Volume 1, this meant portraits, scenery and textures from bars, and photos evocative of the uniqueness of New York City. Photographing the portraits was the most challenging, as I intentionally shot the majority of them while Rachel was interviewing the subject.  

What do you aim to capture in your portraits? People in thought. I actually credit this project with helping me develop this very specific style of portrait. I tried to avoid taking posed portraits as much as possible, often utilizing Rachel as my “squeaky toy” to engage the subject in thought. While it is not simple to capture the right moment, when it is done correctly it reveals to the real person behind the stories being told. This can sometimes produce difficult images to look at, but that is okay with me. I want to portray the underlying emotions that make people who they are.

What do you hope to convey with your photos? Going back to my process for taking photos, I would say context. I want the reader of 1806 magazine to gain a sense of who these characters are – within their environment. Only then can we truly begin to understand each other. This is one reason I included so many photos of the textures of the bars and surrounding city. For someone who has never been to New York City, I wanted them to get a strong sense of what it feels like to be here.

Rachel Ford, Editor in Chief

What is your process for selecting contributors for the magazine? Our aim was to tell the stories not often told. As one bartender recently put it best, "Most people get into bartending by accident," which generally alludes to an interesting backstory. Over the years as a brand ambassador, I met and connected with so many talented individuals and got to know details about their lives beyond the bar; these stories were worth telling. For volume 1, we were able to draw upon the bartenders in our own backyard; for volume 2, we relied upon the eyes and ears of local bartenders to help fill in the blanks of our storyboard.

What is your process for interviewing contributors? I require only three tools for contributor interviews: a spiral-bound notebook, a pen, and listening capabilities. I take all of the notes by hand and am repeatedly asked why I don't record the interviews to either electronically transcribe or play back later. My answer is that there's something about writing as I listen that keeps me present in a way that transcribing afterward does not. By the end of interviews for volume 2, my hand was perpetually cramped and I was rethinking my strategy!

What questions do you ask in your interviews? I remember our first interview in NYC clearly. Having minimal experience interviewing people, I was worried about being adequately prepared, so I purchased a spiral-bound notebook and wrote five or six questions inside as prompts. An amazing thing happened when we sat down for that first interview: I only had to ask question number one. This question became so powerful in eliciting the response that we wished to capture that it has been the only question asked of all contributors to date: Where are you from? 

What do you hope to convey with your writing? My goal is two-fold; I feel both a responsibility to the city and to the contributors to tell their stories with authenticity, accuracy and respect. From the standpoint of the city, it is important to us to include as comprehensive of a snapshot as possible. For the contributor stories, it is important to us to convey the uniqueness of the individual and a relatable human element. I hoped to write something that would read like an inspiring biographical story and draw interest from readers both inside and outside of the world of cocktails and spirits.

Have any other questions for us? Leave them in the comments below.