ASTRO: The zine championing New York’s self-expression

The new iteration of photographer Tom Ivin's ASTRO Zine launches this week… 

If there’s anywhere in the world full of vibrant, memorable, confident and entirely unique people, it’s New York. All you have to do is look at the streetstyle from New York Fashion Week, or photographs of the designers’ creations, or Instagram accounts like Johnny Cirillo’s Watching New York to see the full extent of self-expression. So when photographer and director Tom Ivin set about working on the second issue of ASTRO Zine – a dissectional ode to youth culture and the identities within – the big, smoggy apple was the place to go.

Having worked with the likes of Kate Moss and Dua Lipa, Ivin’s ASTRO Zine tilts the spotlight away from the billboards and shop windows and down onto the streets, into apartments, onto rooftops, into parks and what nature NY has to offer, on benches in the midday heat and the shores of the Hudson River at dusk – they’re photographs that capture the city’s inhabitants in the places that they feel like they belong. In Ivin’s words, “all of it is about identity and community”.      

Ahead of the zine’s launch at The Photographer’s Gallery in London, we sat down with Ivin to discuss his motives behind making something new in a crowded publishing landscape and how to champion identity…

Hey Tom! To start us off… Why did you want to launch ASTRO Zine in the first place? 

Tom Ivin: It’s a document of specific people at a certain place at a precise time in their lives. A celebration of self-expression and personality. There’s never not a good time to log what and who you surround yourself with – whether in words, images, charcoal drawings. As a general rule, always make art about what is in front of you.

That’s a nice mantra. What did you set out to capture? 

I set out to capture photographs in varying formats of a selection of young people, each with their own identity, environment, poetry, music and so on. I’m a documentary maker, so I don’t like to change too much about people’s appearances. I like to turn up and meet people as they are, at that moment.

The images present people and their wonderfully unique personalities so well – How did you ensure you’d capture that? 

Mostly, it’s about being generous to the individual. They choose their clothes, the location, they pose how they like to pose. I’m just there for the ride.

How long was the process for creating the whole zine? Where did it take you? Who did you meet along the way? 

Along the way I met individuals who shared their hopes and dreams with me, their big desires and their daily lives. The zine was shot during a short trip to New York at the beginning of summer and I wanted to capture every type of typical New York location; high rises, a yellow school bus, downtown store-fronts, as well as non-traditional ones; park ponds, train tracks, river banks, and salt hills…

The publishing landscape is pretty dense. How did you want to go about creating something new and fresh with this issue? 

So much of what I do is digital, it’s important for me to explore other forms of making work, like designing the flow of the images in a 40 page zine, rather than a 5 image swipe post on Instagram. It’s also stimulating to think about how everything is an extension of everything else. I tend to think quite clearly in terms of format, and I like the spidery interaction between everything. If everyone else is making print media, why couldn’t I too?

How much of the zine is about identity and community?

All of it is about identity and community!

Which part of the issue stands out to you the most for whatever reason? 

Three images stand out when I flick through the book: Kasamba, in his apartment, pulled a lizard from nowhere (that he’d rescued from the trash in Florida) and put him on his head to cool down; Kimasa, at her favourite store LAAMs on the Lower East Side, a joint between her lips, opening a book from a rack beside her on architecture; Gabriel on a magical readymade set close to his apartment, a marble-swirled brown and greying salt hill where they keep grit for the roads, we squeezed through an entrance and there it was, waiting for us.

Beautiful. What stories do you hope the zine will tell? 

The stories I hope to tell are snapshots of lives of the amazing people I met during that week in early summer, New York City. The images will tell you what the stories are.

What’s one final thing you want people to know about ASTRO Zine?

ASTRO Zine celebrates personality, individuality and self-expression. It was shot urgently on the first humid wave of NYC summer, in about 8 days. You’ll have to imagine the images that I didn’t get time to shoot!

Thanks, Tom! And see you at the launch tomorrow. 

ASTRO Zine launches at London’s Photographer’s Gallery on Thursday 14 September.

WriterRy Gavin
ImageryTom Ivin