I’ve always been a big, big fan of magazines, and love getting my hands on the latest issues of some of my favorites. The publishers of CREATIV magazine, a new publication with pretty lofty goals. It wants to “celebrate[s] the creativity of our community in tangible form and extend[s] the dimension of our platform by working in concert with our objective for CREATIV: empowering people around the world to connect through creativity, inspiration, and ideas.”
Big ideas, big dreams, and yes, big names. Big in the creative world anyway, and I imagine, hopefully even bigger in the near future, partly thanks to the efforts of the dreamers behind the magazine.
First, let me say that my initial reaction to hearing about the launch of the magazine was, “Wow, that’s amazing. I’m thrilled to see that there remains a dedicated community of folks who still believe in the power of print, its ability to make a difference in a world gone mad for bits and bytes.” Knowing the substantial financial resources required to print even one issue of a magazine, let alone one a dozen a year (yes, CREATIV appears to be a monthly periodical), I’m in awe at what surely must have been tremendous effort expended to see this to fruition and into people’s mailboxes and offices.
Still, what about the magazine itself? Does it deserve a place among the glossy tomes at your local Barnes & Noble? Does it merit spending a few dollars of your hard-earned salary to subscribe?
Well, it depends on what’s missing from your life. If you don’t already subscribe to a well-written, beautifully photographed, and edgy magazine — oh, like Fast Company — about the dysfunction, delirium, desire, and drive of the up-and-coming creatives that seem to dominate media coverage of business nowadays, then sure, CREATIV might be worth checking out.
If, however, you already devote a couple of hours a month reading Fast Company front and back, and were looking for something not quite so relentless in its coverage of the smartphone-wielding “artistes”, designers, developers, and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley’s creative class, to the detriment of all other creative artists in plenty of other artistic fields, well, then you need to keep looking.
That’s what I sort of assumed CREATIV would be about: a sophisticated, respectful, and in-depth journey exploring the many ways that creatives carve a life out in a world that is suspect of their devotion to their art. I thought it would look past the household names, the artists with an established foothold in the world, the figures with a dubious claim to the title of “artist.” I thought it would be somewhat like Fast Company, but instead of shining a spotlight on the same old familiar faces, it would uncover unknown, maybe even up-and-coming artists with ideas, either bold or intimate or even both.
It’s not. At least, the two issues I recently read (April 2015 and May 2015) certainly aren’t.
Don’t get me wrong – some of the photography is gorgeous, lush and literally finely textured. The cover of the May 2015 issue features a photo of Sam Crossman, a self-styled adventurer, descending (or perhaps ascending) into the inferno of Marum crater, a volcanic lava lake on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. You could almost imagine the angry backdrop of fire and lava behind him as he lowers (raises?) himself on a slender bit of rope along a black wall melting the publication’s thick cover. Maybe I should check the mailbox outside to make sure the package didn’t scorch the metal.
You can literally feel Crossman himself, his rope, pack, and the wall he’s balancing himself against under your fingertips as you run your hand across the cover, as those parts of the image (plus the magazine’s title itself) were printed in what I would guess is raised ink. It’s a striking touch, and one you notice immediately when you pull it out of its plastic sleeve, but it does raise expectations that I don’t think the magazine itself fulfills.
I pore over its stories and, while the full-color, often full-page photos (some of which were given two-page spreads), are stunning on occasion, the stories are surprisingly bland, the profiles unremarkable. There’s a beautiful shot of a bioluminescent jellyfish early on in the May 2015 issue, but the actual story of the photographer behind it, a scientist and diver in Russia, would likely have merited no more than a paragraph or two, in a scientific journal. It’s not that Alexander Semenov himself is uninspiring – I bet he has plenty of riveting stories to tell, and I’m sure his work is groundbreaking, seeing as at the time of publication he was about to embark on a “three-year, 35,000-nautical-mile trek on a 70-foot yacht, to discover the unknown and document the world’s most extraordinary sea creatures.” I’d say that’s a fairly grand ambition to undertake, wouldn’t you say?
And yet the piece itself conveys little (okay, none) of that, and instead just devotes a couple of paragraphs to the logistics of the expedition and its points of call. Sure, it’s bookended by some pretty jaw-dropping photos, but it begs the question, “What exactly is this piece doing in a magazine titled CREATIV?”
Thumb through more pages, and you’ll be invited to read more about a Danish academic who shares his ideas on “how free mobility, not technology, is the most effective way to help the world’s poor;” an extensive profile of the CEO of a company called Dragon Innovation that I guess is some kind of 3D printing company that is announced as heralding a new “Industrial Evolution;” a shorter, but no less dull profile of a stunning Lebanese photographer that’s illustrated by a self-portrait of her dangling by her arms from a chandelier while wearing a wispy red skirt (why no, of course this magazine doesn’t have sexist undertones; how dare you even ask that?); and a handsome (see a pattern here?) young jetsetter (he’s literally photographed climbing into some kind of fighter jet) who also happens to be CEO of some company that produces apps. Yes. Oh, and he’s also been “hand-picked to join Virgin Galactic’s mission to space.”
The April issue, the magazine’s debut, wasn’t much better. It featured a “sonic architect” who, among other things, musically scored a video for the shoe company/philanthropic endeavor TOMS; a 24-year-old Irish woman who is CEO of a company whose rather vague purpose is to “spread creativity around the world;” a former model-turned-philanthropist whose day job is host of programs on HGTV, the History Channel, E!, and MTV, and who devotes her free time to building sustainable clean water projects in Africa; and an intense young Brit the magazine hails as an “international music star.”
I kid you not.
Now, I’ve no doubt that these fine young folks (and this is no casual turn of phrase – the vast, vast majority of profiled individuals here look as if they were born no earlier than the ’80s) are making a difference, dedicated to their art and their mission, and are bursting with creative ideas.
It’s just that, well, for a magazine about creatives around the world, one purportedly laser-focused on the creatives who are “disrupting the status quo, changing the perception of life as we know it,” etc., etc., etc., the lens it uses to focus on that big, wide creative community is awfully narrow. The magazine reads like a cross between Outside and Fast Company, but without the prize-winning storytelling each of those storied magazines are known for. CREATIV claims to share untold stories about the trailblazers among us doing great things, and I commend them for that. But when page after page after page reveals photos of young, white (with a couple of notable exceptions), attractive European or American faces, it’s hard to feel inspired. Especially when you dig further into the stories and the same privileged themes come up again and again. Hedge fund? CEO? Startup accelerators? TedX talks and African wildlife photography? These aren’t the pursuits of most creative compatriots I know, nor would they ever describe themselves as entrepreneurs. And while I, a former entrepreneur myself who still occasionally misses the tempting pull of the startup dream, would never assume that entrepreneurship and creativity are mutually exclusive (you have to be creative in order to succeed in today’s fiercely competitive business world), I also know that entrepreneurship is just one tiny, tiny slice of a giant creativity pie.
Most artists I know just want to create art that resonates with their soul and fulfills an unspoken hunger to share a message that’s uniquely their own to whoever will listen and see. Most would probably love to change the world, disrupt the status quo, or gain a huge Twitter following, sure, but in the grand scheme of life, at heart they just want to make art. For all the recognition and fame and fortune they crave, the world can go screw itself as long as they get to do that.
I’d love to see CREATIV pursue stories that span the breadth and depth of the world’s creativity. What about the dazzling array of talented comic book artists who once ruled the thriving, busy industry of consumer comic books in the Philippines until their decline in the late ’80s? What about those quiet, unsung artists scattered throughout the Caribbean who rely on tourist dollars and near-daily cruise ship traffic to support their families and selves with quaint folk art pieces? Or the self-published writers who really care about the books they publish and practice and hone their craft while bypassing the crumbling traditional publishing industry? They’re not “content creators” but actual artists possessing boundless creativity and big imaginations. Where are their stories?
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