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New Tough on the Block

The lack of originality and relevance in many contemporary publications prompted photographer Robin Black to launch her own magazine, The New Tough.

Los Angeles-based photographer Robin Black describes herself as a “pragmatic anarchist” and, in many ways, that’s the best definition you could give about her. Black spent her childhood on a sailboat in the South Pacific and, as a teenager living in the final conservative years of the Reagan administration, she rebelled to the system through her passion for music, eventually falling in love with California. One day Black, encouraged also by her friends, decided to turn her passion for taking pictures into a proper job. Since then, years have gone and the photographer has been collaborating with various publications, her most recent work appearing on Butt Magazine’s “Straight” issue.
In the last few months, feeling there was something missing in her life, Black worked on a new and engaging project, her own magazine. Entitled The New Tough, Black’s magazine features photo shoots, essays, poems and interviews. The first issue, entirely dedicated to America and California in particular, is a tribute to freedom, but also tackles vital issues such as women’s roles in society through Emily Winton’s striking work, and features a photographic reportage by Ivory Serra about the now abandoned sites where the US government conducted early atomic fission tests and an exclusive interview with Fidel Castro’s personal photographer Roberto Salas.

Dazed Digital: What prompted you to launch The New Tough and how would you define it?
Robin Black: The New Tough was born out of late night conversations with my boyfriend that started with “wouldn’t it be cool if...” I felt I wanted a space to play in without the restrictions that commercial magazines have. I’d rather not give a definition: it’s whatever the hell you want it to be!
DD: The current issue also features an interview with Roberto Salas: was it exciting for a photographer like yourself being able to speak to him?
Robin Black: It was great. Nick Tamburri and I were in Havana and managed to get Roberto’s personal number from a local photography institute. Nick called him and he offered to come and meet with us. The following day, he showed up at our hotel with two huge portfolios of his images.  While smoking an entire pack of cigarettes, Roberto cracked jokes and told us the story of how he came to be Fidel Castro’s photographer. He would show us a photo, then tell us exactly who, when, why and what made it happen. It was quite honestly one of the most fascinating afternoons I’ve ever had in my life. I’m intrigued by documentary photographers, I think that creating art while recording history is a particular talent.
DD: Which themes do you think you may be tackling in the next issues of The New Tough?
Robin Black: The theme of the Winter issue, launching the first week of December, is “Heretics”. It’s a loaded, socially relevant word.
DD: If you could interview/do a photo shoot with a famous designer, writer, artist or director who would you choose?
Robin Black: That is a really difficult question because there are so many talented people I am interested in. Specifically for the next issue, artists that jump to mind are Leigh Ledare, PJ Harvey, Bill Henson, Richard Hell, John Waters, Glen Friedman and Vivienne Westwood. As soon as these interviews will be finished, I will probably be thinking of twenty more!
DD: Will you be looking for contributors from other countries as well?
Robin Black: The theme of the first issue is “America” so we kept the focus on American artists. In future issues, we will be featuring artists from all over the world.
DD: What do you think magazines are missing at the moment?
Robin Black: Originality. Risk. Relevance.
DD: What are you working on at the moment?
Robin Black: I take pictures every day. Aside from commissioned shoots, I carry an old Contax with me and take at least one roll of 35mm every week. Having damaged my memory during a misspent youth, I rarely remember what is on the rolls. When they are developed, it’s always a surprise and many of my favourite shots actually came about this way!
DD: Will there also be a print edition of the magazine?
Robin Black: The project is mainly available to view online and you can also download a PDF of the magazine. We are planning to do four issues per year – Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer – and we will be printing limited edition books for each issue, available upon request.