Isobel Rae didn’t set out to create a physical artifact of young, queer talent but sometimes, these things happen. When the Canadian fashion image maker graduated from Emily Carr University with a BFA in Photography, all she wanted to do was create a casting agency. A place where people could exist, thrive, and feel beautiful, as is.
From that initial spark, As.iZ was born. As Rae’s passion project grew into a casting agency, she couldn’t help but realize she’d tapped into something much bigger than the confines of casting. “I was surrounded by talented people that felt like they didn’t have anywhere to showcase their work, outside of the digital space,” she told OUT. “I wanted to create something that allowed for people to be creative and put their ideas out there.”
By “out there” of course, she doesn’t mean an Instagram feed or website. Instead, she began As.iZ Magazine, a publication guided by a mission to create an “inclusive and diverse space for emerging artists to showcase their work.” By all metrics, As.iZ has not only succeeded, but has blown away all expectations.
One need only flip through the publication’s four issues to realize how important Rae’s magazine is. Page by page, As.iZ has become an invaluable incubator for young artists from around the globe that span the spectrum of sexuality, gender, and artistry.
With every issue, Rae focused her vision on a singular theme—THE INTERNET, NOSTALGIA, THE FUTURE, and THE NOW, respectively. With the first four issues falling into Volume 01 of As.iZ, Rae’s begun work on Issue 05, grounded under the narrative theme of THE SELF, a topic our selfie-and-Instagram generation should be well-acquainted with.
As she huddles alongside Issue 05’s guest editor and photographer Harrison Glazier to pour over submissions, we caught up with the mastermind behind As.iZ to talk about identity, expanding online, and her grandma and auntie’s 1980s magazine, Take 5.
What sparked the idea to create As.iZ?
I had just graduated art school and started As.iZ as more of a casting agency. Soon after, I started to realize how many talented people I was surrounded by that felt like they didn’t have anywhere to showcase their work, outside of the digital space. I wanted to create something that allowed for people to be creative and put their ideas out there and, so far, we’ve had an amazing response and get to see such a variety of mediums from such a variety of places—it’s really cool!
What are the guiding principles of the magazine?
As.iZ is all about fostering the creative process and experimentation. Each issue is quite different and acts as an evolution of the magazine. We receive so many amazing submissions each issue and unfortunately not all of them can be shown, but we’re working toward creating a digital presence where we can showcase a different artist each month. We’ve also just compiled a directory, bringing together all of the artists that have contributed to As.iZ in one place on our website.
What will the next issue focus on?
Issue 05 will be THE SELF ISSUE. Our call for submissions just opened recently and we’ll be focusing on the notion of “The Self”—individualism, autonomy, identity. We are very lucky to have photographer Harrison Glazier guest editing issue 05, so we have a lot of exciting things in store for the year ahead.
How do you find the artists and writers for each issue?
For the first volume, Issues 01-04, we worked on a submission basis, responding to a specific theme. This was really great, as I got submissions from all over the place! This was what I really wanted to do—to create a community of artists all over the world that are tied to each other through the magazine. Issue 01 involved sourcing most of the artists, or at least nudging them in the direction of As.iZ. That was a really special issue for me, because I had people that I had known through many different circumstances all come to submit such a different and amazing array of works. Once the word got out a bit, submissions started coming in from people and places I wasn’t connected to, which was really exciting. Now, we’re always looking for contributors—no matter where or what experience you may have.
(Art: Nathan Levasseur)
What’s been your proudest moment for you since starting the magazine?
Probably walking in to a real live newsstand and seeing As.iZ among all of the other amazing publications! It’s really exciting stuff. Seeing it in the MOCA bookstore [in Los Angeles] was pretty amazing. CASA Magazines [in New York] is a big one for me, too.
What magazines or specific sources do you draw inspiration from?
AdBusters is probably my number one inspiration. I had a subscription to it when I was a kid and would read it religiously. I think it’s probably a huge part of why I was interested in getting into magazines. Playboy also holds a lot of inspiration for me, especially in regards to the covers, typography, and comics. My grandma and auntie also used to run a Canadian magazine in the 80s called Take 5. I look back to those a lot, and I used my grandma’s horoscopes from a Take 5 issue for Issue 03.
You started the magazine through Kickstarter. How vital is the Internet to your mission statement? Why make a physical issue rather than just doing an online platform?
The original intention of As.iZ was to create a tangible artifact, something you can hold, to showcase artists work. Something that took your work out of the infinite pages of the internet and put it into a physical object. However, the internet has been a vital part in connecting As.iZ to the world, too! And without the Kickstarter campaign, it would have never happened, so I’d say the internet is immensely vital to As.iZ, not to mention it was also the theme for Issue 01.
Since beginning the magazine, what’s been the biggest change you’ve encountered?
I would say having to give in to digital. Running a magazine nowadays definitely benefits from having a digital presence, and I’m actually really looking forward to continuing the development of our new site. The process is a slow one, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Do you intentionally seek out LGBTQ-centric artists or does it happen naturally?
It happened naturally! We seek creative minds that are trying to say something with their work. We’ve been lucky to have showcased so many amazing artists so far, and I can’t wait to see what else comes our way.
Submission guidelines for Issue 05: THE SELF ISSUE can be found here.
Feature Image Credits:
Photography/Art Direction: Matthew Burditt
Styling: Lacey June Berry
Makeup: Oz Zandiyeh
Hair: Erin Klassen
Top and bottom: ADAM
PVC and Fabric Bolero Jacket: Comme des Garçons
Black blouse: Simone
Rocha Shorts: ADAM
Shoes: Jimmy Choo