Off the Page: Terence Byrnes

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Terence Byrnes (Photo: Patricia Woodburn)

Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. In this interview, we chat with Montreal-based writer and photographer Terence Byrnes. Last year at the NMAs, Terence was awarded the gold medal in the category of Photography: Photojournalism & Photo Essay for “South of Buck Creek.” Byrnes succinctly captures the premise of the photo essay by way of a subheading: “A Canadian memoir of black and white in America’s unhappiest city.”  Read on for Terence’s thoughts on maintaining sympathetic neutrality towards the residents of Springfield, Ohio; smart phones and the democratization of photography; and his advice for emerging photographers.

First, congratulations on winning gold at the NMAs for “South of Buck Creek,” published in Geist. Your photo essay describes Buck Creek as a “cabinet of wonders.” In your career as a photographer, have you found other subjects, or places, that could be described as such?

I shot for a while in Buffalo when that city was among the rustiest of rust-belt towns. The industrial desolation, abandonment, and sense of fallen empire were awe-inspiring. In a residential area, I saw a man, wearing only dirty white briefs, roasting a wiener in a hubcap where he had built a fire with twigs. This was at the end of a street of McMansions protected with black iron grillwork over every door and window. Is that a wonder? I don’t know.

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The essay portion of your piece notes that you took approximately 10,000 photos of Buck Creek, over a span of 45 years. How do you organize all of your photos?

Ten thousand was a guess. It’s more than that. Many are negatives, with some chromes. I worked from proof sheets to produce scans on a Nikon scanner. I moved to digital capture in 2003. Lightroom keeps track of it for me.

Do you have an absolute favourite from those 10,000 photos?

One day, I was photographing an oddly shaped building—it may even have been a skinny parallelogram—that housed a bar. “Bob City” was painted on one end of it. Railroad tracks, a sidewalk, and several streets converged and diverged behind the building, and dandelions had popped up in a patch of grass in front of it. I spent about 45 minutes finding the right position and height to put these elements into proper relation with each other. When I processed the film (this was probably 30 years ago) air bubbles had stuck to the best frame in the series, rendering it unusable. Wanting to salvage that frame eventually led me to early digital scanning of negatives and moved me out of the darkroom to the screen, where I patched the bubbles. I can’t say if this image was an “absolute favourite,” but it’s got a lot of history stored in it.

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Within the first few pages of the photo essay, we jump from the sixties with “Terria (1966)” to the early 2000s with “South of Buck Creek” (2001), then to the 90s, with “Joy (1999).” What were your intentions behind the non-chronological organization of this photo essay?

“Intuitions” is probably a better word that “intentions.” When you establish an order for a photographic series, some arrangements just look better. I suppose I want the eye to re-orient itself to the formal elements of each image so the photograph is actually seen. Also, ordering by year suggests development of some sort, or it implies a narrative. As it was, the images themselves were my first priority.

Very early on in the photo essay, you state that your role in Buck Creek shifted from spectator to participant. Certainly, that theme—of your enmeshment in the Buck Creek community—runs throughout: there’s the “crazy moment” when you “fantasized about adopting” one of the boys from the Vision for Youth residence; you carried the “Friends (1977)” photo around for years, hoping to eventually deliver it to one of the photo’s subjects, “scary guy.” What challenges came along with crossing that line from spectator to participant?

Great question. I had to maintain sympathetic neutrality toward everyone and to learn—more than once— that folks who looked down-and-out could be as smart, respectful, and as deserving of respect, as anyone else. Honesty and openness were crucially important. A subject might say, “Take my picture, but don’t ever use it,” and my agreement would have to be as good as gold.  People were blown away when I would come back a year later with free photographs. That’s how the street cred developed. Of course, there were rough spots and challenges that were both emotional and physical. I saw families living in misery and stripped of dignity thanks to bad luck, fear of gang activity, and profound physical and emotional disability (with no health care or institutional support). You want to help, but you can’t.

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“Marriage (1998)” features a woman in her bikini, with her two twin daughters. The narrative portion states, “In the later years of this project, women wouldn’t so easily agree to have their pictures taken. They were afraid, as one told me, that their faces would appear atop a nude body on the Internet.” It seems that while the Internet has encouraged people to document their lives—via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram—it’s also made it more difficult for photographers to act as the documentarian. Are there other ways in which the growth of social media and the shift to digital have impacted your career as a photographer?

Camera phones have, in a sense, radically democratized photography and, for many people, have done away with the cachet of the physical print. Academic criticism and identity politics have also had a less than salutary effect on the documentary form. Some months ago, I glanced outside my window here in the Point-Saint-Charles district of Montreal and saw an 11-year-old boy got up in a home-made superhero costume, holding a garbage can lid as a shield. I knew it was pure Arbus, but couldn’t resist. When I asked the boy if I could take a photograph, a teenage girl ran up and began shouting at me. Her assumption—thanks to her familiarity with internet images—was that I was about to do something that was immoral as well as illegal.

Your first camera was an Agfa Ambi Silette loaded with Tri-X film. These days, what’s your camera of choice?

Actually, before the Agfa, there was a Kodak “Pony,” which I had forgotten. You’ve caught me at a crossroads now, though. Should I move up from my Nikon D810 to the new D850 or switch to the mirrorless Sony A7R III? Probably the new Nikon.

In 2008, you published Closer to Home: The Author and the Author Portrait, which you had worked on for 10 years. That means that there was some crossover between the literary portraits and Buck Creek. What similarities were there between these two seemingly very different projects?

Both were closer to the subjects’ homes than to the studio. I tend to shoot on-site and to make it up as I go along. This can produce really banal results, but also great surprises in lighting, posture, expression, and mood.

What was the impact—personally and/or professionally—of winning a National Magazine Award?

I think it makes me an easier sell to editors who don’t know me. And if I pitch an idea, I’m more likely to be listened to.

What advice would you offer to a young photographer?

The advice I give myself is often so disastrous that I should keep my own counsel. That said, I think of current work that catches my eye. I love the work of Tamas Deszo, Sebastián Liste, and Ruth Kaplan. Or Michel Huneault’s photographs of Lac Mégantic after the train disaster. There are some wonderful documentarians out there who do far more than record event. I would have been interested in photographing the refugees/migrants who streamed across the border in Quebec’s Eastern Townships in the belief they would find a home in Canada. Good projects don’t have to be topical, but they do have to be fresh.


Previous to Byrnes’ NMA gold award, he received two NMA honourable mentions. The first was in 2009, for “The Imagined Portrait” published in Queen’s Quarterly. The second was in 2012 for “The Missing Piece,” published in The Walrus. For more information on Byrnes’ photography and writing projects, please visit his website

Interview conducted by Leah Edwards.

The call for entries for the 2018 National Magazine Awards is open now until January 22. 

Off the Page, with art director Anna Minzhulina

Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. In this interview we chat with award-winning art director Anna Minzhulina, who spent 10 years at the creative helm of Maisonneuve. “Maisy” was named Magazine of the Year at the 2016 National Magazine Awards, and over the years it has been among the most lauded and decorated magazines for design, illustration, and photography (as well as its writing and reporting).

 

NMAF: Let’s start with Maisonneuve. You spent over a decade as the art director of the award-winning Montreal quarterly.

Anna: Maison-who?! I have never heard of it?! Is it any good?!

(Sorryyyyyy, I just could not help myself!) Indeed, my tenure at the magazine was exceeded only by the logo itself–the infamous Maisy dude. I could easily be a special edition Maisy mascot!

I joined Maisonneuve in 2005, shortly after I graduated from the Design Art program at Concordia University. Then in the summer of 2006, I became the Art Director. At the time, the magazine was in its fourth year of publication.

Looking back, we were both wild spirited newbies! Maisonneuve was just getting noticed, but still in the early stages of fully developing its editorial and visual personalities. And, there I was…an idealistic designer taking my first steps into the professional art world I felt so passionate about…excitedly searching for the special place to house my creativity. There was maison and it was neuve.

We complemented each other very well. And in a retrospect, the collaboration blossomed into a fruitful and long-term relationship.

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NMAF: Maisonneuve is one of those magazines that is sometimes difficult to describe, yet always attracts alluring descriptions: quirky, bold, refreshing, imaginative, passionate, delightful, thoughtful, exciting…

Anna: For people who are familiar with Maisy (the affectionate in-house name), you may say…A versatile humanitarian with socially and culturally inclined tendencies and some very personal issues, who welcomes anyone into its Open House, obsessively collects Letters from Montreal…in addition, has strange Fictional fantasies, whole-heartedly laughs at the Comics…at times gender confused, but very intelligent and oh! such a visual feast for the eyes to devour ;)!

Undoubtedly, Canadian readers have a variety of great magazines to choose from. Just as easily, dozens could fit the description you gave. But even so, I feel the major difference between other publications and Maisonneuve is the consistency. It’s Maisonneuve’s extraordinary ability to remain uncompromisingly true to its philosophy of high-quality editorial and visual story telling, from one issue to the next and throughout the years.

 To sum up…Maisonneuve is a voice of organic harmony, which with equal strength speaks to and of both human experience and human expression.

 

NMAF: How would you describe the creative vision you set out to achieve at the magazine?

Anna: I feel successful visions are the ones that are flexible in nature. They adapt to the circumstances and times. With enthusiasm and passion, there is nothing impossible…as long as it’s based on the principles of honesty and integrity.

I always strove to design the best magazine I could possibly create in spite of the numerous limitations. In my mind, there were Plans A, B…Z and, if none of those worked—well…I would do it myself!

Over the course of a decade, those visions and approaches evolved beyond simply design aspect/aesthetics and into an understanding of such important values as creative collaboration and the conceptualization of emotionally deep visual narratives capable of touching and evoking lasting impressions and intelligent conversations.

Furthermore, I like to think of the magazine pages as the walls of an art gallery, where art is displayed for practical reasons, such as the pictorial entourage to an article. The words and pictures co-exist.

But at the same time, the images exist in a realm of their own and are appreciated as a separate entity with their own story. Usually, that story is connected to the written one, but it does not have to be in a literal way. I liked to commission illustration that, if there were just empty pages with no words, the images would still have the visual power to stand on their own.

If you think about it, that’s the natural state of the words before they arrive on the designed page. Why can’t the images create their own sustaining presence? That’s one reason why I think Maisonneuve has been so successful… it has had these multiple strong presences that can stand alone and also interact.

 

NMAF: Is there a magic formula for directing such a unique publication, or do you re-invent the wheel, so to speak, every time you start work on a new issue?

Anna: Hmm… yes and no?! Each issue is a new experience, for the team and for the readers. Be that as it may, you don’t reinvent the philosophy—it’s the anchor. You adapt and modify the approach to the underlying design to provide individual and suitable reflection of each story and its characters, which are unique in their own right.

 

NMAF: It’s fair to say that Maisonneuve has been one of the most celebrated magazines in Canada over the past decade, as judged by its peers in the industry and its readers. As its art director you have collected 6 National Magazine Awards for your work—3 for Best Magazine Cover and 3 more for Art Direction—among more than a dozen nominations. Maisy has also won Magazine of the Year twice in that span.

Anna: The number of people, who defriended me on the Facebook skyrocketed! 😛

Truthfully, I am humbled and very honoured for every nomination and award. Thank you!

 

NMAF: What has been the significance to you of the National Magazine Award recognition from your peers?

Anna: Aside from what it personally means to me as well as everyone else involved in Maisonneuve’s production, the recognition of effort, sacrifice, time, sleepless nights, grey hair, broken promises, cancelled dinner dates…it is the acknowledgement of women’s visibility within creative fields.

I believe in the vital role women play in diversifying the publishing world by exposing it to their sensibly strong perspective. So kudos to National Magazine Awards Foundation! I hope it will inspire young women illustrators, photographers, and art directors in Canada to persevere. So that in the future, there are more female voices such as Marta Iwanek, Gracia Lam, Selena Wong, Suharu Ogawa, Genevieve Simms, Heidi Berton, Ness Lee…and the list goes on and on.

 

NMAF: Let’s take a closer look at some of your most celebrated work, and perhaps you can tell us a quick story of how it came together:

In 2011, you won a Silver Medal in Art Direction for a Magazine Story for “Monuments: The City in Three Parts”—a progression of towering illustrations by Amy Casey accompanying a suite of poems by Roland Pemberton. What was your inspiration here—was it the poetry itself, or something more?

Anna: The challenge with poetry is: it’s an art form naturally open to interpretation. Overly strong visuals can clash with or even crash the delicate aesthetic of poetry itself. But no visuals at all, in a magazine like Maisonneuve, would be a cop out.

In the case of “Monuments” the inspiration came equally from both—the beautiful text and Amy’s wonderful work. I created a collage of collapsing imaginary houses so the text could interact with Amy’s images in a way that allowed both to stand on their own and coexist in peace on the same spread. That’s hard to do! So often with poetry there is a love-hate relationship with surrounding images, but this one worked.

Amy was reluctant at first, but when I showed her what I have done as a mock-up she was very excited and happy for her work be adapted in this creative way.

 

NMAF: In “Gays for God”—Silver Medallist in 2013 for Best Magazine Cover—you created (with photographer Kourosh Keshiri) an irresistible image of a contemplative Jesus draped in a rainbow flag, which accompanied the cover story by Clancy Martin about a new LGBTQ-friendly evangelical movement. This is an image of infinite subtleties—from the blue eye to glowing halo and the soft edges. The mood is very inviting to the story. What were the questions you asked yourself as you worked on this design?

Anna: Perhaps, at one time or another, we all contemplate being draped in the fabric of our own fears and doubts, while waiting for the divine to show the way…it’s the concept that talks to universal experience while personal as well. A close-up portrait was the best way to capture the dichotomy.

As for the questions…I am asking myself the same ones today, as I have done then. One of them is how can I, a gay woman myself, shine the light on the relationship LGBTQ community has with spirituality in a singular iconic image to the broader audience? To create a bold and intelligent visual statement to inspire pride in one side and to engage into conversation the other one.

 

NMAF: How did it come together?

Anna: Well…it’s not that easy to find Jesus wondering the streets, more so to convince him to be gay for the photoshoot! But hey, drop the Maisonneuve name here and there and you might be surprised! 😉

Usually, I have a lot of ideas and sketches for the cover (story). Drew Nelles [the editor-in-chief at the time] and I agreed on this concept as the final one—the stand alone powerful image and the direct reflection of Martin’s story.

With the help from dear friend and brilliant photographer Kourosh Keshiri, I was able to get amazing raw shots to work from. Subsequently, I photo edited and photo illustrated the selected image (the most sincere and devoid of pretence) into the final cover version.

In other words, I deliberately de/emphasized and added specific details (such as halo, blue eyes, serene lighting, deep shadows)—the visual signifiers, to create a stronger impact.

 

NMAF: The “TV We Hate Issue” cover (also a Silver Medal winner for Best Magazine Cover in 2015) looks like it was absolutely fun to create—a friendly poke at the subversive, gonzo style of MTV. Were any TVs actually harmed in the production of this cover?

Anna: Ha! Well, yes, twice. How many of us just get so annoyed with what is on TV we just dream of taking a hammer to it?…or in this case, a butcher knife! I deeply apologize to TV set lovers for butchering a very cool retro television…All in the name of art!

The amazing Ian Patterson and I worked on five covers together, the “TV We Hate” was the second one in that sequence. Ian is the example of someone you just click with. He has mastered an amazing skill—working with natural light.

For a start, there were many, many doodles and sketches for this cover. As I remember correctly, we narrowed it down to two main concepts. What made this one the final one was the minimalism and pointedness. The complexity lay in the precise execution–the limited (minimalistic) number of elements did not leave the room to hide mistakes. It’s something that either works or completely fails. This is why, when one element was off the whole cover had to be reshot. Afterwards, just as with the “Gays for God” cover, there was extensive photo editing to ensure the right details are highlighted while the unnecessary ones either overshadowed or removed completely.

Visual knowledge is important, but it’s not necessary to enjoy something from purely aesthetic point of view. That’s why the most interesting and iconic images successfully and equally merge both, concept and beauty, into one.

Here’s a peak at how the design evolved:

 

NMAF: Do you have another favourite creation from your Maisonneuve career?

Anna: For many artists, myself including, the favourite creation is the one yet to be created. Otherwise, what is there to strive for?

The favourite ones are the most memorable ones, which in one way or another enriched me with certain experience, insight or knowledge. Each image I worked on has a story behind it.

The ones that jump to mind, though, are:

…and so many many more…

Each one, no matter how big or small, was an unforgettable moment in time shared between kindred spirits.

 

NMAF: What do you look for in a creative partnership with an illustrator or photographer? What is your process of communicating an artistic vision for a magazine story that brings out the best in an artist?

Anna: My choice with whom to collaborate on projects is based on a great admiration for artists themselves and their work.

Imagine, you receive a bucket and it’s filled with stories for the next issue, you lift it up above your head and just turn it over…so the words just wash over you, like a waterfall. Most of the water will drain away, yet some will penetrate your skin and leave you with a sensation…a feeling or thought.

Out of the heart and straight to your mind, that will be your guide to conceptualize ideas and find the right voice to breath the life into the story. You can only bring out the best in others if you yourself believe passionately in what you do. Then your enthusiasm will ignite the alike spirits to join you on the crazy joyride called creative collaboration. And they will become your partners in art crime.

I love working with people who see creative process as an adventure. This requires trust, open-mindedness, and mutual respect. You are pursuing a common vision, yet ping-ponging ideas back and forth to create something spectacular. Some people can’t do that. It can be hard to find great collaborators. But when you do, it’s like a drug, the highest high.

 

NMAF: Now that you’ve moved on from Maisonneuve, what’s next for you? What would you like to achieve with the next stage of your career?

Anna: You mean, beside the grandiose production of the Maisy mascot costume?!

Well…it took me a while, but I finally launched my website www.annaminzhulina.com. It’s a collection of the work I have done during my Maisonneuve years. I invite everyone to come say hello! And reminisce of some of the Maisonneuve’s classics.

All in all, I still love publishing and want to pursue it further—magazines, books, other design projects…but I’m also curious about art exhibitions, conceptual design in larger spaces, on real walls, not just paper or virtual ones… it’s all fascinating to me, as long as it’s creative and/or collaborative.

In the meantime, I am working on a drawing series titled See You”portraits of random people sketched in shopping malls and plazas and other interesting, mundane places… my apartment walls are covered with them!

There is life beyond Maisonneuve… 😉 But I’m keeping my subscription! And so should you.

One last thing, before I bow my farewell to Maisonneuve, I would like to thank one very special person, whom I never got to thank at the NMAs:

“My dearest mom, Thank you! for giving me a precious gift— the courage to live my passion and to follow my heart.”


Anna Minzhulina is an award-winning art director, designer, artist and illustrator. For ten years, she was the Art Director of Maisonneuve magazine, where she was recognized for her imaginative concepts in cover design, design, photography and illustration. At Maisonneuve, Minzhulina collaborated with dozens of photographers, illustrators and artists, many of whom won awards for their work under her direction. More at annaminzhulina.com.

Check out more Off the Page interviews, including Maisonneuve publisher Jennifer Varkonyi and contributing artists Marta Iwanek, Gracia Lam, and Selena Wong.


The nominations for the 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards will be announced on Thursday April 20. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Twitter @MagAwards for all the exciting news.

This year’s National Magazine Awards gala is Friday, May 26 in Toronto. Tickets go on sale April 20 at magazine-awards.com.

Photograph of Anna Minzhulina by Florentine.

Interview by Richard A. Johnson for the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

Off the Page, with journalist Simon Diotte

Of the Page is an interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. This week we’re chatting with Montreal writer and editor Simon Diotte. He gained recognition for his 2016 National Magazine Award-winning travel story “Sur les traces d’un écrivain voyageur” (“In the Footsteps of a Travel Writer”) published in Oxygène, where he is editor-in-chief. The story recounts a multi-day hiking trip in France in the company of a donkey named Muscade, following the trail of the great Scottish adventurer Robert Louis Stevenson who hiked the same path in 1878.

NMAF: For the uninitiated, tell us about Oxygène magazine and your readers?

Simon: A newcomer to the world of outdoor magazines, Oxygène launched in 2013 and is published twice annually. We have a circulation of 25,000 copies distributed for free in Quebec, mainly at shops and businesses that specialize in the outdoors. Distinguishing itself from other publications that focus on all outdoor sports (trekking, climbing, alpine skiing, surfing, etc), Oxygène focuses on the classics—camping, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

NMAF: So which came to you first: A taste for adventure or a love of writing?

Simon: Writing. I grew up reading L’actualité. I loved their “territoire” features which explored a particular region under a specific theme. I admired the journalist Luc Chartrand in particular, winner of numerous National Magazine Awards. I recall one of his reports that explored the wild regions of Haute-Mauricie. As I read it, I dreamed of walking in remote areas, a notebook in hand. It was stories like this that prompted me to choose to become a freelance journalist, and I started writing articles about the outdoors, which then gave me opportunities to go on adventures.

Paradoxically, in real life I am not necessarily a great adventurer. But I like to have the opportunity to travel in a professional context, where I can have access, as a journalist, to places and people (such as business leaders, politicians, etc) who are not easily accessible to everyday folks.

NMAF: So in addition to your role as editor-in-chief of Oxygène you’ve also been a freelance journalist for over fifteen years. Over the years, you’ve been published in magazines including que L’actualité, Les affaires, Coup de pouce, Châtelaine and Nature Sauvage. And you cover a wide range of topics, including personal finance, the environment, and tourism, to name a few. Tell us about the process of selection stories to pursue. And what topics are currently arousing your curiosity as a journalist?

Simon: Even though I love to work on adventure-oriented stories, I see myself as a jack-of-all-journalism-trades, which corresponds well to my personality. I enjoy stories on the performance of the stock market or the latest film of a famous filmmaker. And so I transpose my diverse tastes into my work as a journalist.

To succeed as a freelancer, you have to be an idea-generating machine. As soon as an idea starts to form in my mind, I immediately make notes on it. I do a quick search to see if it’s a subject that’s already been covered. Sometimes it takes years for an idea to grow into a magazine story—often because of the lack of time or opportunity to pursue it. I have tons of ideas in the bank, but unfortunately I lack the time and budget to pursue them all. Right now I’m working on several stories about hunting. Stay tuned.

NMAF: Your story called “Sur les traces d’un écrivain voyageur” won a Silver Medal at the 2016 National Magazine Awards. You weren’t able to attend the gala, but you responded almost instantly to the announcement on Twitter. What was the first thing that came to your mind when you heard the news?

Simon: I was really proud that a story by a freelancer writer in a small Quebec publication had managed to stand out among the panoply of high-quality magazines across Canada. As a freelancer I often have the feeling of being David against Goliath in various journalistic contexts. Winning the National Magazine Award is proof that with audacity and determination, you can do great stories.

NMAF: You also received an Honourable Mention last year for your story “Le ski change d’air” published in L’actualité. And in 2014 you also won an Honourable Mention for “Rares et précieux champignons” in Nature Sauvage. What impact has this recognition had on you at this stage of your career as a journalist?

Simon: In my many years as a freelancer, I’ve experienced periods where I’ve questioned myself. Should I continue or should I do something else? The recognition of the National Magazine Awards has affirmed my decision to keep living by the writer’s pen. And working independently gives me the freedom to work on the stories I really want to. Awards provide confidence to freelancers and raise our profile among clients. They help us stand out.

NMAF: The Canadian magazine industry has undergone some profound transformations over the past few years. One need only think of all the print publications that have migrated to digital platforms, or of the recent announcement of the sale of a number of Quebec magazines by Rogers Media, including L’actualité, the most decorated French-language magazine in the history of the National Magazine Awards.* In such an uncertain environment, what is the key to success for a freelancer?

Simon: As a freelancer, diversification is a major asset. The publications I write for trust me to handle a wide range of topics, as they know I’m versatile enough to do them. It’s also a great idea to get creative and pitch stories that seem a little off the beaten track. The work I do is about 50% ideas that I pitch, and 50% ideas that are commissioned.

That said, the future doesn’t look so bright for journalism, even for the best freelancers. With falling revenues, magazines have less and less money, and of course that has an impact on content. Like most freelancers, I often wonder whether I’ll still be able to do this exciting work in a few years.


Simon Diotte is the editor-in-chief of the magazine Oxygène and a National Magazine Award-winning freelancer writer based in Montreal. Follow him on Twitter @sdiotte.

This interview was originally published in French on the blog Prix Magazine. Interview by Émilie Pontbriand. Translated from the French by Richard A. Johnson.

* Editor’s note: Since publication of this interview in French, L’actualité has been purchased by MishMash Media.

Get to know Nouveau Projet: Canada’s Magazine of the Year

Nouveau Projet Issue no. 5, Spring-Summer 2014. Gold Medal in Art Direction of an Entire Issue, 2014 National Magazine Awards

At this year’s National Magazine Awards held on June 5 the jury awarded the prestigious prize of Magazine of the Year to Nouveau Projet, an independent French-language literary and cultural magazine published by Atelier 10 in Montreal.

Launched in 2012, the magazine’s mandate is to help us better understand the challenges of our time and lead a more balanced, satisfying and meaningful life. A catalyst and rallying point of progressive forces in Quebec in the 2010s, it seeks to encourage and nurture public discussion, while looking upon our time with a curious, sincere and thorough gaze.

In addition to winning Magazine of the Year, Nouveau Projet also won the Gold Medals for Art Direction of an Entire Issue and Words & Pictures, as well as the Silver Medal for Editorial Package and Honourable Mention in Fiction, Personal Journalism and Best Single Issue, marking a breakout performance that has piqued the interest of magazine readers and fellow members of the Canadian media industry.

Nouveau Projet editor Nicolas Langelier accepts the award for Magazine of the Year from NMAF President Joyce Byrne and Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Head of Prizes for Canada Council for the Arts. (Photo: Dave Todon / KlixPix)
Nouveau Projet editor Nicolas Langelier accepts the award for Magazine of the Year from NMAF President Joyce Byrne and Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Head of Prizes for Canada Council for the Arts. (Photo: Dave Todon / KlixPix)

About Nouveau Projet the National Magazine Awards jury said:

Nouveau Projet is a near-perfect symbiosis of subject matter, expert writing and exceptionally original design. It sets itself apart thanks to inspiring themes and bold covers. The magazine offers a fresh take on the genre and dares to cover topics that are virtually absent in other media. The energy of the editorial team is tangible page after page. Nouveau Projet embodies the spirit of print magazines.

Earlier this year we chatted with Nicolas Langelier, founder and editor-in-chief of Nouveau Projet–part of our Off the Page / En Marge interview series with National Magazine Award winners. You can read the original interview in French, or continue below for an excerpt translated into English.

Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc); Nouveau Projet numéro 6
Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc); Nouveau Projet Issue no. 6, Fall-Winter 2014: Silver Medal, Editorial Package, 2014 National Magazine Awards.

NMAF: What was your reaction to receiving a nomination for Magazine of the Year for Nouveau Projet?

Nicolas: It was both a great surprise and a source of pride. For a small independent magazine that has been published only for a few years, even to be a finalist for Magazine of the Year is an unexpected honour. I am grateful to the National Magazine Awards Foundation for taking into account the diversity of magazines and their resources.

NMAF: To what do you attribute the early success of the magazine?

Nicolas: From the start our obsession has been quality in everything we do, from the choice of our subjects to our presence on social media. Our readers can really sense this constant concern for quality; it’s something they are willing to pay for.

It also seems to me that we have a niche to fill in the Canadian media landscape. With the general trend towards shorter texts, more sensational topics, faster publishing — this environment has created a place for people to counter that trend with quality content.

Our readers tell us that we are doing a great job in delivering this, and I think it is because we offer something that many publications think their readers don’t need.

"La pointe des utopies" by Remy Bordillon and Pierre-Yves Cezard. Gold Medal in Words & Pictures
“La pointe des utopies” by Remy Bordillon and Pierre-Yves Cezard (Nouveau Projet). Gold Medal in Words & Pictures, 2014 National Magazine Awards.

NMAF: The excellence of Nouveau Projet has been recognized with several National Magazine Awards, including Art Direction of an Entire Issue, Words & Pictures and Magazine of the Year. What impact do these awards have for you and the magazine?

Nicolas: It’s certainly something that has had a positive impact for us, perhaps more by raising our profile among others in the Canadian magazine industry than among the public, which may not know them well yet (in Quebec at least). This recognition from our peers, advertisers, and current and future contributors means a lot to us.

NMAF: You frequently participate in the National Magazine Awards as a member of our volunteer jury. While you were president of the Association des journalistes indépendants, you created the Grands Prix du journalisme indépendant. How would you describe the critical role that awards programs play in the industry, for magazines and creators?

Nicolas: They are essential. To have these kinds of institutions that value excellence and support the entire industry; it seems absolutely necessary. This is true for breeders of cows, for architects, and for those who create magazines: we need these incentives to compare ourselves with the talent and rigour present elsewhere in our industry, and to demand the best from ourselves.

"Faux-self mon amour," by Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Gold Medal, Personal Journalism, 2012 National Magazine Awards
“Faux-self mon amour,” by Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Gold Medal, Personal Journalism, 2012 National Magazine Awards

NMAF: What does the future hold for Nouveau Projet and your publishing house, Atelier 10?

Nicolas: I want us to become a reference for culture and ideas in Quebec–and the rest of the Francophonie, eventually. To publish the best authors and visual artists, and discover and engage new readers. To produce various types of publications, always with great rigour and quality.

I still believe much in paper as a medium to convey ideas, information, and values. Those who predict the death of print–I want to prove them wrong. This does not mean that we should neglect digital opportunities; everything we do is also available in digital versions. But paper has a special place in my heart, and I think this is also the case for the majority of the public. We enjoy both!

Ultimately, I hope that our work has a positive impact at the cultural, social and intellectual levels. If we do all this, in the face of obstacles and difficult conditions, it is because we believe that changes are needed in our society, and we also believe that the media continue to have a key role to play in advancing discussion and debate. Yes, the past fifteen years have been tough on our industry, but it’s up to us to find ways to continue to fulfill our role. It would be extremely unfortunate for humanity if a simple change in the economic environment deprived us of the essential service that is quality media.

This interview has been edited and adapted from its original French, published in January 2015. Discover more about Nouveau Projet at nouveauprojet.com and on Twitter @nouveau_projet.

Nouveau Projet in the National Magazine Awards Archive:
2014: Magazine of the Year
2014: Gold Medal, Words & Pictures (“La pointe des utopies”)
2014: Gold Medal, Art Direction of an Entire Issue (“Automne/Hiver 2014”)
2014: Silver Medal, Editorial Package (“Régénérescences”)
2012: Gold Medal, Personal Journalism (“Faux-self, mon amour“)

Honourable Mention:
2014: Best Single Issue, Fiction, Personal Journalism
2013: Personal Journalism, Essays, Art Direction of an Entire Issue, Magazine of the Year
2012: How-To

Events this week in Canadian Magazines

Spring is pushing its way through winter (with apologies to the Maritimes), and this week a number of Canadian magazines are hosting public events to give you even more reason to get out.

TUESDAY MARCH 24
Ryerson Review of Journalism
Spring 2015 Launch Party Fundraiser
TORONTO – Bier Markt, the Esplanade, 5:30pm
Come celebrate the launch of the Spring 2015 issue of the award-winning RRJ, produced by the students of Ryerson School of Journalism.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 25
This Magazine
This is not a Ted Talk – Feminism in Canada
TORONTO – Supermarket (Kensington Market), 6:30pm

A launch event for their March-April issue, This Magazine hosts an evening of speakers on the subject of feminism in Canada. Speakers include Jill Andrew and Aisha Fairclough, the amazing women behind Fat in the City and the Body Confidence Canada Awards; trans rights activist Christin MilloySheila Sampath, editor of Shameless magazine; plus a video feature from Project Slut.

THURSDAY MARCH 26
The Walrus
The Walrus Talks Arctic
WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Art Gallery, 7pm
The Walrus welcomes Erin Freeland Ballantyne of Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, artist and sculptor Ruben Komangapik, historian Whitney Lackenbauer, Michael Maltzan, architect of the WAG’s new Inuit Art Centre, explorer and authorJames RaffanLola Sheppard, Arctic Adaptations project lead, Tanya Tagaq, performer and Polaris Prize winner, and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, environmental and human rights advocate.

FRIDAY – SUNDAY, MARCH 27-29
Cottage Life
Cottage Life Spring Show 2015
The International Centre, Mississauga, ON
The 22nd annual Cottage Life show is a kick-off to summer cottage season. Meet more than 550 exhibitors showing boats, docks, builders, contractors, innovative building products, green solutions, decor and style, arts and crafts, food and entertaining, water toys and more.

SATURDAY MARCH 28
Maisonneuve
Maisonneuve Issue 55 Launch Party
MONTREAL – Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, 7pm
Featuring readings from Adam Kovac, Joseph Rosen, and Jessica Wei, the launch will be an opportunity to pick up the new issue, grab some refreshments, and hear what our contributors have written for the newest issue of the National Magazine Award-winning publication.