As Sam Ashby's publication screen films as part of London's Fringe Festival this weekend, his magazine's second issue examines how sexuality is portrayed on our screens
While it may be only on the second issue, queer film magazine, Little Joe, has already earned itself a cult following. Started last year by editor and designer Sam Ashby, the magazine documents both the emergent history of gay film, how it evolved, what it meant and where it stands today. While the first issue focused mainly on discovering older gay film, the second issue has evolved to include lesbian and trans Directors and newly made work.
Contributions include Stuart Comer, Tate Modern film curator, interviewing the institution that is John Waters and a rare interview with the late artist, Frank Ripploh, translated from German for the first time. Inspired by the discovery of Andy Warhol's 1968 cult classic, 'Flesh', the magazine has very much been about getting information about these often missed films to people. With a series' of film screenings as part of the London's Fringe festival, including Ripploh's Taxi zum Klo, issue two launches and screenings planned for Berlin and New York, Little Joe is doing just that.
Dazed Digital: Have you always been obsessed with film?
Sam Ashby: Ever since I was a kid. I grew up in Hampshire, in the middle of nowhere, and had quite a secluded life, film was my escape. Growing up gay I really felt that I pushed myself into other worlds and tried to recognise myself.
DD: Was gay film always a particular interest?
Sam Ashby: No, I was just interested in sexuality on screen. I would record things obsessively on Betamax and then VHS. I still have old copies of BayWatch on Betamax actually, I was completely in love with Pamela Anderson. Or at least I used to tell people I was, but maybe I was just into Billy Warlock.
DD: How did you start to discover the sort of things that get into Little Joe?
Sam Ashby: I have weird late night Google odyssey's and then also through art magazines and friends. For the first issue I got a lot of support from Stuart Comer, film curator at Tate Modern. For the second issue, Thomas Beard and and Ed Halter from Light Industry in New York have been massively helpful. They have influenced me to broaden my taste.
DD: How has that developed in the second issue?
Sam Ashby: This issue moves away from more obviously gay films, it is a bit more theoretical and serious in some ways. I am trying to dig a bit deeper and discover the histories behind these films and the people that made them. I was inspired by my trip around the States last summer, many of the people I met were directly involved in contributing. It builds on the personal endeavour of the first issue by developing a community.
DD: Do you have certain Directors you are always interested in?
Sam Ashby: Not really. I think, as with most things, it's hard to be consistent. When I was younger I was really into Ang Lee, I know he is kind of obvious and mainstream but there is something that I really like about him. Even Hulk I kind of love.
DD: Do you think there is a homoerotic undertone in Hulk?
Sam Ashby: Maybe. I kind of fancy him.
DD: Which version, as Bruce or as Hulk?
Sam Ashby: As Hulk. He'd be fun. I'm also really into Stanley Kubrick's films, Eyes Wide Shut is amazing to me. Even Nicole Kidman's terrible drunk and stoned scenes are compelling. I think Sally Potter is great but she also made some real duds. Derek Jarman has made some great films. Roman Polanksi and Michael Haneke as well of course.
DD: Has making Little Joe opened you up to new film makers?
Sam Ashby: Yes definitely, Frank Ripploh for one, who directed Taxi zum Klo. He was an incredible artist. I think he was presenting himself in a really open honest way which was astounding at the time and still really holds true today. Fred Halstead I wasn't aware of before I saw LA Plays Itself. It is art porn in the truest sense.
DD: Do you think art can be porn and vice versa?
Sam Ashby: Yes I do. There is actually a piece in the second issue about Community Action Centre, a new video by A.K. Burns and A.L. Steiner. The film is art porn, that is the only way to describe it. I was really turned on by it, but it also has a real political purpose.
DD: Is purpose what makes the dividing line between porn and art for you?
Sam Ashby: I think so in some cases, but if you look at someone like Fred Halstead you can perceive his work as art now, but at the time he wasn't doing it in that context. If you look at how he was making the films, how really he was kind of making them for himself, I think that is the work of an artist.
DD: So overall what is it that you want people to take away from reading Little Joe?
Sam Ashby: I want people to go out and discover new films and not just open Time Out and be faced with the obvious. For me producing the magazine has been an amazing journey that has led me to meet people, to come across work. I guess that's what I want you get from it. To be inspired to be educated.
Tickets for Frank Ripploh's Taxi zum Klo, showing as part of London's Fringe Festival are available here