More than porn – inside Talc

by Steve Watson in February 2014
Erotic

It must be a strange time to be making porn magazines. The entire publishing industry grumbles about the impact the internet has had on business, but publishers of porn have been hurt more than most. Of course it’s hard to feel sympathetic for the porn barons and their seedy decline, but there’s another type of porn magazine out there.

As ever, independent publishers can be relied upon to do things differently, and a raft of magazines have hit the shelves bringing a different perspective on the old theme. I’m thinking the likes of Tissue, Extra Extra, and most recently, Talc, a magazine that seems more to be about porn, rather than a fully-fledged porno. I caught up with editor-in-chief Edward Vince to find out what Talc is all about. (NSFW images after the link)

Talc
Why make a porn magazine now?
That’s a very good question. We’re actually trying quite hard to not refer to it as a porn magazine these days.

It kind of originated as that – we wanted to market it in that way, as a soft porn magazine for men, because it came out of an observation about the sexualisation of contemporary culture across the board, from music videos, to publishing, to film, television and everything – it’s all becoming more sexualised.

And in our opinion men’s magazines are becoming quite homoerotic, because in many cases they’re art directed by gay men. For example Fantastic Man, which has that aesthetic sensibility and incredible production, or even Arena Homme Plus, which was a super-straight boy magazine that has become quite homoerotic. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing at all, but the straight man appreciates the same things and we think he’s being under-served.

That was the original catalyst, but over the year and a half that we developed the concept we realised that we didn’t want to make it for men only, so it became more generally an adult magazine. And it’s proven to be successful in that way – the readership is probably about 50 / 50 split.

Really?
Yeah, it’s been really interesting. We get so many orders from women, which has been really satisfying. I think one of the main reasons is that one of the editors is a woman, so she came in and the aesthetic didn’t change, but the way we communicated did. It became something that’s for everyone rather than just aimed at men.

Porn is obviously mentioned a lot throughout and in the main essay in the centrefold we discuss the ‘pornification’ of mainstream culture, referring to architecture porn and interiors porn, and the shifting definition of this word. But when it comes to the whole overarching magazine we’re trying to steer away from using the word porn to describe what it is.

Talc

That’s interesting, because reading Talc two things struck me. One is that it’s a magazine that’s about porn rather than a porn magazine. And the other is that looking at the cover you wouldn’t expect to open it and… well, have a wank. It looks more like an interiors magazine than a porn magazine, so what, in the crudest terms, do you want someone to go and do with this magazine? I ask because I found myself on the tube with this in my bag, and I didn’t feel that I could take it out and read it. So how do you see people reading it?
Erm. Well with the cover there are two things. There’s the practicality that you can’t have nudity because then you can’t get it on the shelf without a protective bag. But we also wanted it to be intriguing enough for people to pick it up, and that’s why the only element of sex on there is the back of the model. We think that adds enough intrigue to make you wonder what it’s about.

In terms of what we imagine people doing with it – that’s a very good question. I mean, yes, you could quite possibly be aroused by it and perhaps get off with it. Maybe.

But I think it’s more about being excited about what’s within, because it’s slightly risky in a way – the aesthetic is slightly risky, but you can justify reading it in different contexts because it has smart editorial. It’s not smutty like a Nuts or a Zoo, or even a Daily Mail. It’s got really great editorial and if you’re focused on that you might have the confidence to pull off the fact there are boobs in there as well. But to be honest I haven’t take it out for a walk and got on the tube with it, so I’d probably be the same.

Well this is it – it’s all very well me knowing that I’m reading a very poetic description of a car park, for example, but the person sitting next to me just sees the boobs! But how has it generally been received so far?
Very very well. We’ve been pretty blown away to be honest. We’d had a few offers from various companies we’d worked with for funding, but we wanted to do it ourselves to make sure we weren’t in someone else’s pocket. So we did the Kickstarter and that’s really helped with spreading the word, and we got a lot of promotion off the back of it. It’s gone global pretty quickly and we’ve been sending copies all over the world, which is great.

I think the time was right for it to come out, and I think it’s kind of hit the zeitgeist – people are hungry for this kind of thing. It’s stocked everywhere you’d want your first issue to be – we’ve been in Dover Street, we’ve been in Colette, we’re now in North America with a distributor over there taking 200 copies, so I think it’s being received very well.

Instagram has been very useful to help spread that story, because sending this stuff out – the magazines but also the t-shirts we made for the Kickstarter – people are posting images of themselves wearing them in different parts of the world, and it’s really created its own story around what we’re doing.

Talc

It can’t hurt that you’ve got an amazing masthead that lends itself very well to being a logo on stickers and t-shirts and stuff. I love it.
I’m really pleased to hear that. We went through phases of asking is this even right – is it too clichéd? But that was exactly what we were aiming for. We’re interested in making a magazine, but we’re interested in making a brand too, and instead of reverse-engineering content for a brand, we’re creating content that has an opinion; you know what it stands for, and off the back of that you have a brand. And hence the reason why we have the t-shirts and the rest of it, because I think that’s the future of publishing in terms of if you want to make money you should probably also be selling products and services, because print on its own isn’t going to pay the way.

Let’s talk about that for a minute then – where do you see Talc in, say, five years?
I see us still producing it biannually – we’re working on the second issue at the moment, and we want to always keep the print going because that’s so important to us – the tactility of it. We’ve got no interest in running a blog or an online magazine – we don’t have the time for it apart from anything else. We want to keep doing it in print and we want to keep using online for short films. We’ve produced three so far, and we’ve still got two to release. (See below)

So it’s about focusing on the appropriate media, and as I say it’s about products. One product per issue, on each theme, so the next theme is going to be comfort, so we’ll hopefully be able to create a product around that, and in the long term I don’t know… it would be amazing to be doing a furniture collection or working with a hotel to curate their space or… Something big.

TALC magazine – Visual Stimulus from TALC magazine on Vimeo.

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