Quarantine Zine

A Project Overview

6 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .
Quarantine Zine’s purpose is to be a boredom breaker for the film community who may be in lockdown or unable to fully enjoy their life due to COVID-19. The idea is to be deliberately low-tech and low quality, much like an art zine that students would put together using school resources, like scissors, glue and photocopiers and a stapler. Partly it’s to avoid cannibalizing demand from other people’s zines and photobooks, partly to set low expectations, but mostly to just be fun. Fun to read, fun to edit.

Dan K.

Quarantine Zine was born in the spring of 2020 when COVID became a pandemic.

Found by Dan K and operated with help from Daniel TimTim Norman, and Dominik  Koenig, Quarantine Zine is a monthly publication with a distribution list limited to the participants.

The copy I have here is from Dan K’s stash, which he sent me even though I haven’t submitted anything 🙏. This magazine’s editions are also available as free PDF downloads through links found in this Twitter thread.

In this article, I will describe the zine itself and talk about the project, the techniques used to create its distinct style, and the people whose work and contributions make it possible.

Whether captioned or not, the images tell the stories of the people’s journey through the health emergency. Many are expressing worries, some are recollections of pre-COVID life, yet others are expressing hope.

The zine.

The booklet is a no-frills stack of monochrome printer paper, stapled in the middle and folded in half. This is one of the most common bookbinding methods for homegrown publications. My copy has 60 pages, which seems to be pushing the limits of the simple assembly; the pages are forming a “V” at the book’s right edge, making flipping through a little tricky.

The office paper, gleaming laser printer ink, and simple binding are matched by the design. In line with Dan’s lo-fi vision, this publication is laid out via cutting, tearing, and pasting printouts into collages and then scanning them into ready spreads — by Daniel Tim. This technique is the OG zine method that made micro-publishing possible back in the 1980s when laser copying machines became available.

This layout method isn’t as common nowadays since most choose or only know to work with software. Though having experienced the pains of creating a perfect page flow in Adobe InDesign, I think it may be worth a try. Less screentime could be a great thing.

My copy is printed in black and white, though the collage scans do have some colour: the backing paper the monochrome images are pasted onto is bright red. Newer editions, #2 onward, have been printed in colour to highlight Daniel’s background choices. #6 is to have colour photographs as well.

Quarantine Zine is an international film photographers’ community’s effort.

Being a community effort, the content is quite diverse. My issue features 39 photographers from 20 countries. All participants are from the loosely connected group of people who often conjugate on Twitter under #BelieveInFilm and #FilmPhotography hashtags. Some images come with short stories or paragraphs of text; most are singles or spreads with no captions.

Whether captioned or not, the images tell the stories of the people’s journey through the health emergency. Many are expressing worries, some are recollections of pre-COVID life, yet others are expressing hope.

I had to pause and go back a few times to ingest what I was presented with entirely. Deceived by the light package, I thought it would be quick a flip-through; in reality, there’s enough material for up to an hour of viewing time.

Dan’s long-term vision for the zine is for it to live on the shelves of its creators, eventually turning into a story piece for the kids, friends, and family. I think it will do just that.

The project/your chance to participate.

Besides the time and effort required to create the zine, finances for materials/shipping are also to be taken care of.

Dan estimates the costs to be about 6-7€ per copy, for which no receiving participant ever gets charged. Multiplied by 30-40 authors per issue, of which [issues] there are five already, this is no small sum of money. Film Community Fund, operated by VishalEmulsive, and Dan K, is paying most of those bills.

Submissions are accepted via Twitter DMs to Daniel Tim, who then takes about a week to process them and another to layout the design. The resulting files are then sent to Dan K who prints and distributes his set of booklets from Hong Kong. When the HK mail got suspended due to the pandemic, Tim Norman (UK) took over printing and distribution — today it’s often split halfway. Tim has also partially funded some of the print jobs.

Once all of the work on the issue is complete, Dominik or Tim performs the final piece of distribution, which involves downsizing 100MB+ uncompressed PDF files into something a bit more internet-friendly.

Note: Digital images are accepted. Since lab and chemical availability has become sporadic due to COVID, it is the group’s understanding that the analogue way may not always be possible.

When I asked Dan about the post-plague plans for Quarantine Zine, here’s what he said:

As lockdowns seemed to be easing, we took a break for a month or two, but now many countries are seeing a second wave and new lockdowns we have started up again. A new edition is currently closing for submissions and will be sent out at the end of the month.

I understood that as “both COVID-19 and Quarantine Zine are yet to cease.”