Behind the scenes: GUP magazine
I met Peter Bas Mensink, publisher of international photography magazine GUP magazine, while hosting an event at Amsterdam’s Athenaeum at the start of the year. We were surrounded by fantastic independent magazines, and he remarked that they simply didn’t exist 10 years ago when he launched his first issue.
It was fascinating speaking to him about the changing face of the independent publishing industry, so when the new issue arrived with me last week I called him up to revisit our earlier conversation.
You’ve been doing this for 10 years now, across 44 issues. When we met in Amsterdam you said that in the beginning GUP was the only magazine of its type, so how have things changed since then?
When we started there were two other international photography magazines from Amsterdam and we considered them to be our competitors, in a friendly way. They were a different size and had different ideas and different content, but they were basically our competitors.
These days it’s not the photography magazines we compete with, but magazines in general – there are so many of these independently published magazines that now we’re just one of hundreds. Back then self-publishing was just taking off and it was a completely new area – we were discovering everything for ourselves. There’s still no fixed business model for publishing an independent magazine, but these days there are lots more of us!
Is that a problem? Or is it a good thing?
I don’t see it as a problem at all – I like it a lot. The people buying these magazines love print, they love independent publishing, and I think this niche is growing.
GUP stands for Guide to Unique Photography – that probably says a lot about why you started the magazine, but maybe you can elaborate?
I started GUP with my friends, Roy Kahmann and Jochem Rijlaasdam. We were in our late 20s, we did some photo editing and writing for magazines, and we became more and more interested in photography but when we went to the shops we could only find high-end photography magazines, mostly about technique. There were some conceptual photography magazines but you really needed to know a lot about the art of photography before you could read a magazine like that – it was all a bit snobbish, like the sort of thing you’d see in a museum.
They were also expensive, and we weren’t willing to spend €25 on a magazine when we didn’t really get what was going on in half of it, so we wanted to make a more accessible magazine about photography.
This was all at a time when we saw digital photography growing rapidly. It used to be that you needed a lot of money to buy the right equipment to take photos, but around 10 years ago there was a turning point because equipment became more affordable, so then it became about what you were going to do with it, and we wanted to provide people with inspiration for the things they could do with their cameras.
The most recent issue is the “raw” issue, and there’s a lot of stuff that’s genuinely quite difficult to look at. Is it important for you to present challenging imagery?
Absolutely. We like to think about reading photos – it’s not just a case of looking at nice pictures. All the photography we feature has a strong idea or concept behind it – after all we’re a guide. We like to guide people through the landscape of contemporary conceptual photography; we like to show them what’s happening, where it’s coming from and where we think it’s heading.
Use the coupon code GUPxSTACK in the GUP magazine shop for 25% off everything until 1 May
Lead image by Cyril Costilhes