The photographer, editor-in-chief, and designer Bror August discuss a new shoot in the ‘all inclusive’ magazine – that also features Rose McGowan, Grace Dunham and Fran Lebowitz
“Why be ALL–OUT when you can be ALL–IN?” So reads the description of ALL-IN’s third issue, which celebrated its release last weekend at London’s newly relocated Claire de Rouen Books. With an unapologetic and off-kilter approach to its content, what’s special about ALL-IN is that it isn’t here to dictate what to wear or who to listen to. In fact, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Benjamin Barron, does not want it to be defined by what the magazine is about – rather, he wants ALL-IN to “be about everything”, its visual and verbal narrative promoting inclusivity through its diversity of both clothing and subjects. Speaking of inclusion, ALL-IN provides an outlet for emerging talent to find a place to create work – one that is more than accepting of improvisation.
The issue features powerful voice Rose McGowan speaking about sexism in Hollywood, writer Fran Lebowitz on life after Donald Trump, as well as Elysia Crampton and Grace Dunham in conversation about being the author of your own life. The magazine knows that all subjects work together to create a dialogue of independent and intellectual spirit that is a stark contrast to media machines, with contributions from Torbjørn Rødland, BLESS, Marfa Journal, Bror August, Joyce NG, Isamu Noguchi Foundation, Mya Taylor, Aurel Schmidt. and more.
We played a fly-on-the-wall as Barron spoke with contributors Joyce NG and Bror August the night before the issue’s release. Taking place at NG’s home, the trio sat around her dining table eating cheese, drinking wine, and looking at the new issue.
Benjamin Barron: Joyce, how do you know Danny (Kwee, the model in your story)?
Joyce NG: I ended up in his house one night when I was in Berlin because he was living with my friend Preston (Chaunsumlit). We connected because I took a look at his two fridges, and he has just as much shit as I do.
Bror August: He has two fridges?
Joyce NG: He has two fridges. He’s German-born Chinese Indonesian, and instantly I felt like he became my Chinese brother. I always wanted an older brother. I’m not saying we clicked and talk every day – not even. We rarely talk, but we were on the same wavelength and he looked after me.
When we went to Berghain, he was so nervous – he goes every week, but he was so nervous that I wouldn’t get in. He made sure I got in. The fridge thing really connected us both.
Bror August: Why does he have two fridges?
Joyce NG: He’s so organised, and such a good cook, and has all the ingredients for every type of dish he could cook.
Benjamin Barron: At what point did you ask him to be in the shoot?
Joyce NG: He’s kind of a strict dad that you have to tip-toe around. I was staying across the street and every day I’d come over to organise the shoot, so I was slowly seeping the idea into his head day-by-day. At the right moment, I was like, ‘Do you want to model for me? And also in your house?’
Benjamin Barron: Have you talked to Luisa (Fernanda Alfonso, the other model) since?
Joyce NG: No. How is she?
Benjamin Barron: Good! We saw her this summer – she visited us in Norway.
Joyce NG: With her man?
Benjamin Barron: No. But she sent me a photo of her boyfriend’s dick. I’m not sure if it was intentional – I think it was though.
Joyce NG: I think so! Even her Instagram almost shows her boyfriend’s dick. She’s Colombian, right?
Bror August: Yeah.
Benjamin Barron: August, how do you know Luisa?
Bror August: When I moved to New York and knew no one, Luisa was my first friend. We met through Instagram, and adored each other. Neither of us had friends, so we hung out every day until she had to leave for dance school in Germany.
Benjamin Barron: Luisa was telling us this summer that she recognised Preston (who helped on the shoot) from New York. She had been sitting on an almost empty car on the subway looking at him thinking, ‘That guy looks amazing, and funny, and I love him!’ And she just stared and smiled at him until he noticed.
Joyce NG: And then she showed up at the shoot and didn’t know Preston would be there, right?
Benjamin Barron: No, because she was only asked to be in it twelve hours before and just got on a train across Germany immediately. How did Luisa and Danny get along?
Joyce NG: I don’t think there was much interaction! (laughs). You really need to meet Danny…
Bror August: The shoot looks so intimate.
Joyce NG: But intimacy not really between the two of them.
Bror August: They’re not really connected much.
Benjamin Barron: They’re mostly connected through objects, like the string, mouse, or bench.
Bror August: It’s true, they’re never really touching each other – just the same object.
Joyce NG: It’s kind of like the most real and common type of marriage.
Bror August: You think the shoot’s about marriage?
Joyce NG: Now that I look at it…
Bror August: There’s so much joy in your photos, so much fascination with things. There are so many things you see that you love.
Joyce NG: Yeah, there are so many things that have personal resonance – things that I’ve just seen for a day even.
“Casting has always been so personal for me – I used to cry over casting. When I cast on the street, it’s all about connecting with people. I’m a very shy person, and it’s my way of overcoming that” – Joyce NG
Bror August: Your photographs are never simple.
Joyce NG: It’s a bit weird, because casting still means so much to me. It’s difficult to shoot away if you’re not connected to the person, the face, and the character. Even so, it’s still so hard for me to take a beautiful, straight up portrait.
Casting has always been so personal for me – I used to cry over casting. When I cast on the street, it’s all about connecting with people. I’m a very shy person, and it’s my way of overcoming that. I’m a Virgo, and I’m so aware of all my flaws, so I try to fix them. Talking to strangers and telling them how beautiful they are is the easiest way to overcome my shyness and try to become a sociable person. That’s also because I’m not very confident in myself, and I see that in a lot of people – it’s nice to tell people they’re beautiful. They’re normally quite shocked.
In my photography, I can’t get myself to just focus on beauty, though – I find it to be very one layer. Obviously a close up of Luisa would be beautiful, but…
Bror August: But you have a hole in the wall and some food in one image.
Joyce NG: Yeah, that’s German cheese. It’s disgusting but kind of good – it tastes like rubber.
Oh, and liquorice. I used the shoot as an excuse to buy thirty euros worth of different types of liquorice. Every time I go to Berlin, I make time to go to this one liquorice place, Lado – it’s like the museum of liquorice… The graphic design is so good – this is the best I’ve seen in magazines.
Benjamin Barron: We did so much work on the layout – my designers, Hudson Shively and Elif Tanman, are the best.
Joyce NG: The colours are everything.
Bror August: Ben did so much colour selection.
Joyce NG: Why did you call it ALL–IN?
Benjamin Barron: I was starting to work on a project with a friend, and at the time we thought it was going to be a restaurant.
Joyce NG: In New York?
Benjamin Barron: I was living in Rome at the time. I made this Google document for the restaurant project, and came up with a working title, ALL–IN. I took the first three letters from my friend’s name, Allison, who I was working on it with, and the last two from my name. But it also had the energy and meaning of what we wanted the project to be about.
Joyce NG: Never half-ass anything, at all.
Benjamin Barron: We all like to define everything, but I never wanted to define what the magazine is about. I’ve always wanted ALL–IN to be about everything at some point.
Joyce NG: It’s about everything, but it’s also important to have a voice. That’s what most magazines are lacking right now – they’re not driven by purpose. So it’s everything, but at the same time not.
Benjamin Barron: It’s definitely not everything, but hopefully one day it will be… So guys, ALL–IN or ALL–OUT?
Joyce NG: ALL–IN, of course!
Bror August: ALL–IN!
ALL-IN issue 3 is available at Claire de Rouen books, 4 Herald Street E2 6JT.