In the latest of our features exploring the magazines setting visual and cultural agendas, we explore the slowed-down, otherworldly vibe of Kinfolk.
I’m holding in my hands a copy of the latest Kinfolk magazine. If there is a ‘soothing’ equivalent of a ‘contact high’ – I have experienced it through touching this object. On the cover, a grey-haired woman stares out of a beige background, just above sits the title “Kinfolk” on a white background with the upper-case strapline “Discovering New Things To Cook, Make and Do.” Like the content of the magazine, the Optimus Princeps typeface mixes the elegant and the offbeat, the ‘O’ of Kinfolk feels like an ‘O’ knocked out of a boulder.
Inside the cover there are flaps you’d get in the dust-jacket of a book, and light brown pages which note at the bottom of the page “Publication Design by Amanda Jane Jones. Cover Photograph by Neil Bedford.”
Founded in 2011, this 144-page quarterly “appeals to a young, photography-intensive audience full of artists and food enthusiasts.” Issue 8 has been published in Japanese and Russian, while issues 1-7 will be published in Korean this year. It’s UK equivalent would be something like The Idler magazine, but even that feels too media savvy for the ethereal Kinfolk.
The uncoated paper-stock absorbs the colour of this photo-rich publication, so although it is image heavy, it never feels noisy. All the text has some serious margin-action – though of course it doesn’t feel like action, more like stretching out on the grass on a summer’s day. The white space feels peaceful and because the photography is largely portraits, still life, food and utensils, the magazine doesn’t have the nervous intensity of an art magazine.
The previous issue was about defining your weekend (photo essays on “the Art of Bed Making, the Lone Wolf Weekend, the Life Aquatic and Unexpected Soirées”) but this issue is about ageing in all its forms: taking time; tradition; nostalgia and “Turning Into My Mother” to name a few. That’s the thing about Kinfolk, the concept allows the editorial to have a gentle stroll around a subject matter.
It’s also a lesson in how a single-minded design and editorial concept generates unique sensibility that informs everything. A good example being Around The Block, a feature based on a clever pun looking at chopping boards – they improve apparently over time. ‘Clever’ doesn’t belong in the Kinfolk world, it’s effortless, slow, and timeless in the way you lose yourself in the pleasures of reading a novel. Yet the pun works with a gentle humour, supported by Jim Golden’s photo, a curated collage of different shapes and textures of wood – the chopping board as nature’s own graphic design.
The inventive humour – titles such as ‘A Guide To Napping’, and ‘The Sweet Spot’ a feature on friendship and fruit illustrated with beautifully redolent photos of pears – preserve the magazine from being too precious. When you slow the pace of a magazine, book or movie down, things can seem mannered and artificial. For sure, it does take a moment to adjust to the atmosphere of Kinfolk country but the skill of the Editor and Art Director makes each feature feel like a found object – they just happened across this interesting item. This is the philosophy of Kinfolk – paying attention to the good stuff all around us; friends, food and conversation.
As part of our briefing into the evolution of the depiction of Seniors and Matures in photography, we spoke to Kinfolk Magazine to discover more about their pioneering publication.
‘Kinfolk’ is a wonderfully evocative name. Could you explain for our readers the content of the magazine and how it’s reflected in the title?
Our underlying purpose is to first, explore the social elements of gatherings — the relationships, people, and traditions. Second, we hope to encourage a more intentional and no-fuss approach to recreation and entertaining. And thirdly we want to showcase and encourage community.
Kinfolk conceptually aims to use paired-down design and beautiful imagery to inspire people towards a back-to-basics approach in how we spend our time, enjoy our meals, and find entertainment in our daily lives. We intend to bring value to certain pastimes and activities that have all but been forgotten amidst today’s constant busyness, illustrating both through word and image that a curious, hands-on approach to the world around us can be deeply fulfilling.
The simple intention for the name is to highlight the fact that we showcase a balanced, intentional lifestyle spent in the company of others (those we surround ourselves with – our families, blood or not, where we share new things to cook, make, and do.
The design, typefaces and layouts invite the reader into ‘Kinfolk’ world – from the paper stock and the section dividers, to the contents pages, to the sheer variety of images. What were your reference points for the magazine both visually and in terms of content?
Kinfolk functions as more of a long-standing coffee table book than a quickly-read magazine with a short shelf life. The cover is designed to feel like a book cover, with scored flaps to use as a bookmark to tuck into where you’ve left off. As far as the style, we’ve tried to create a cohesive collection where the reading experience mimics the essence of what we are voicing in text and visuality. The essays and photos in Kinfolk encourage quiet time spent alone and frequent meals shared with friends. The magazine is designed to elicit the same feelings we have when we’re enjoying the traditional, simple, old-fashioned entertaining that we love. We use a lot of white space and clean layouts to encourage relaxed reading.
Which issue has proved the most popular?
The seventh issue, the Ice Cream issue, sold the most copies. It was quite different than our prior issues, and was the start of our shift in editorial to get more specific in themes.
But we heard the most response from readers about our eighth issue which was focused on the Japanese culture and customs we admire. It includes harvest stories and makers from Japan, as well as an exploration of words and philosophies that influence the ethos and traditions we value. The unique approach and admiration expressed resonated with a great deal of people.
Why the Aged issue now?
The idea for the Aged issue was developed in a team brain storming session. There wasn’t any particular reasoning for the timing. We knew it would be a tough topic to take on but relished the opportunity to explore it. We’ve heard some comments about how it seems ageist for a group of young people to put out a periodical and philosophize on age (what they don’t realize is we have several people on board who are flattered to have been assumed young). But, as you know, when you actually read the issue we only mean well and wanted to explore the natural process of ageing – an inevitable element of life, and of course we took it on with the charge to highlight the positives, displaying it both respectfully and beautifully.
Other aspects of life also improve with a little time: wine, truffles, a good jar of sauerkraut. Simplicity in design survives longer than the complex. Processes such as fermenting, pickling and curing bring out the flavors in foods through extending their lives. We wanted to dive deep into all of these concepts.
Could you talk us through your selection and briefing of photographers in general, and in particular for The Hands of Time and Slow Foods feature?
We gave our contributors a lot of freedom in their work, but encouraged them to focus on highlighting age rather than hiding it. We sought after profiles of people and things we treasure, such as leather, bags, raw denim, things that ‘improve’ with age. We placed emphasis on texture, the way things physically age; we suggested the capturing of hands, plants, stone, rocks, sand. We sought for a tone of admiration.
How would you describe your photo-aesthetic around food and objects? (you feature a lot of still life)
We like the art and photographs in the issues and on our site to speak for themselves. We include a lot of simple and raw images that don’t have a lot going on in the background or contain distracting and conflicting colors and patterns. Readers resonate with this style, and notice that it feels idyllic but is also, at a level attainable – as it’s included to inspire (we hope that readers find things to incorporate into their lives in whatever capacities).
You regularly tease out the notion of tradition and the past in various issues of Kinfolk, could you give us a few concrete examples of Tradition that you have covered and why it is so valuable?
Food is one example that brings people together in every culture around the world through traditions, customs, and, simple primal necessity. Additionally, more times then not, when food is present, people are more comfortable and at ease. When a safe environment is created to encourage and promote respect and shared moments, relationships can form and/or be repaired. Food can make a situation feel more comfortable and relaxing, but it is also a symbol of care and nourishment. When you share food with others, you are really sharing your love, you are nourishing them, you are giving them life. That’s a pretty great gift! Food, as you can see, is an incredibly powerful tool to bring people together. We do like to think that there’s more at work than just people getting together and eating or doing something they’re used to. We love the thought of food, or any shared interest, bringing people together to actively engage and appreciate the time they are spending and truly being present with each other.
See more of Kinfolk Magazine