Interview with Hamid Sallali, art director at Foam Magazine
How do you choose the paper for Foam magazine?
The choice of paper for Foam Magazine is based on the photographic work of a portfolio and the order of the total of eight portfolios in the magazine. It’s all about the flow of the whole. For example, you don’t want three coated portfolios in the same kind of layout right next to each other; that just doesn’t work. On the other hand, the paper should do right to the portfolios.
Do you have certain types of paper which you use consistently in every issue?
Yes. Everything except the portfolios are consistent. Only the portfolios, that change per issue according to a certain theme, are printed on different paper. From novel-like book paper, to shiny white gloss, to creamy bulky paper. It’s the contrast between the portfolios in combination with the consistent uncoated offset paper of the portfolio texts that go in-between that set the flow of the magazine. All paper is kindly supplied and supported by paper merchant Igepa, that we work closely with. It’s a privilege to work with them.
What types of binding do you use and what are you trying to achieve with specific binding?
If I’m right they are called Schweizer and Otabind. Schweizer stands for the open back. Otabind is the way of binding that makes a book or magazine open nicely. These two are a great combination for what we tried to achieve.
The core of Foam Magazine is the work of the photographers that’s presented in the 8 sixteen-paged portfolios. So it’s of great value to us that the work gets presented well. The Otabind works perfect to achieve a good presentation of work that goes through the spine since it creates a total flat surface in an open spread, so you don’t lose too much of the image in the centerfold. Another reason is the double cover. We like it to be possible for the reader to fold it back inside. Without an open back the front cover would have to be a couple centimeters shorter because of the glue line of the inside cover.
What influences the decision to use either coated or uncoated paper for a specific portfolio?
Questions such as, does it strengthen a portfolio? Does it do justice to the work and the flow of the magazine? Or sometimes if might even add a certain quality to the work. Of course we discuss this with the photographers as well.
What role does paper play in a reader’s experience of photographs?
Experience I would say. Some buy the magazine for inspiration. Some buy it to actually read it. Some buy it to dream and wonder looking at the pictures. Some buy it for the design. And I’ve even heard of people buying two copies to tear one apart to make mood boards with. Personally I’m one of those nerds who likes to smell and touch the paper.
How is experiencing photographs on paper different from viewing them in a digital format? Which one is most effective and when?
Well, I think photography has an extra dimension on paper because there tactility and autonomous work get together and create a new experience. Viewing photography on an iPad is totally different because it’s backlit. Environmental light doesn’t really change the experience on an iPad and apart from the glass there’s nothing to touch nor feel (compared to photography in books and magazines). I would say the latter is least effective.
Do you have a favorite paper yourself?
To me that depends on the situation, the goal, the concept. Apart from that I always love the combination of different kinds of paper to create contrast. Really nice papers are Fluweel vol 1.5 (a very nice snowy white paper that feels thick and heavy but is actually pretty light because of the volume) and Chromolux, that has both a gloss and uncoated offset side. Always a surprise!