It’s been an unlikely path for Oklahoma City’s Morgan Tepsic, to say the least. An early adopter of new technology and media — from Nintendo at age 2, to AOL at age 6, and then on to blogging, Flickr, Tumblr, Kickstarter — 24-year-old Tepsic has now positioned himself at the helm of a creative endeavor that relies on one dying analog medium, sent via another, to fill the pages of yet another.
Tepsic Magazine is a poster-size print periodical that mails personalized disposable 35mm cameras to musicians. They mail them back, and the developed photos, curated by Morgan Tepsic, are then used to fill the pages of the magazine. There are no writers, no interviews with the artists or reviews of their work. The magazine’s fourth issue is currently available for presale via Kickstarter.
The concept of a magazine that contains only photos doesn’t seem so far-fetched for Tepsic if you consider his lifelong interest in photography. At age 6, Tepsic’s father gave him a handful of disposable cameras, which he used to take photos of his family. After they spent years in his childhood garage, Tepsic developed those rolls of film just one year ago.
“It was a very full circle experience,” Tepsic says.
At age 18, Tepsic moved overseas for a year and started documenting his travel through film photos. It was around this time also that he started developing his Lomography, a trademarked name for a community movement for off-the-cuff film photography, ideally using relatively inexpensive Lomo-branded cameras, which are known for their vivid photo colors and inconsistent exposures.
He kept photographic records of his travels, including a road trip across the United States funded by a private art grant, and he published his developed photographs via online media-sharing sites like Tumblr and Flickr, though there was some notable online news outlet coverage when Tepsic’s Flickr account was hacked and thousands of his photos were deleted. During this time, he also started what would become the precursor to Tepsic Magazine’s current incarnation, publishing a handful of issues before deciding on the current size and format.
“When I approached the concept of this magazine, I wanted to create a premium-quality product on a startup budget,” Tepsic says.
That meager budget is a primary reason why the disposable camera idea was born.
“There just wasn’t any money to spend on digital cameras, and I am not interested in printing Instagram pictures, so I got creative and decorated the most affordable cameras I can send out,” Tepsic says. “I try and tell Kodak and Fuji that I can save this failing market for them — all you have to do is make it look cool.”
The inherent “cool” of Tepsic Magazine is certainly the result of a combination of a few things, including Tepsic’s eye for choosing interesting people to participate and then carefully selecting from the resulting photos. His primary focus has been on musicians — The Flaming Lips, A$AP Rocky, Twin Shadow and other independent music favorites have participated in past issues — as well as celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain, whom Tepsic calls the photographer of the most surprising pieces so far.
“Anthony Bourdain had four cameras over the course of a year and half and went literally all over the world filming,” Tepsic says. “In some remote location in Africa, he’s ashore with women and children bathing and washing their clothes in a river. I had to take a step back and realize the (slim) chances I would ever receive pictures like his in a million years.”
Tepsic spends much of his time on the magazine researching how to contact potential photographers, and he says about 95 percent of the cameras he sends out make it back. Once the photos are developed, the painstaking selection process begins.
“It usually takes weeks for me to really make a decision about what pictures to print,” Tepsic says. “I am always finding new things to love in photos I normally would have discarded.”
This meticulousness comes through in the final product. Previous issues have caught the eye of Internet trendmakers like www.hypebeast.com and Urban Outfitters’ blog.
“People are drawn to the magazine because it’s an incredibly simple concept that completely supports each artist,” Tepsic says.
And artists like the concept because “it’s a format to show your life in pictures and to add whatever you want without the fear of us running photos you don’t want or getting negative reviews.”
As Tepsic Magazine’s notoriety grows, Tepsic has his eye on one potential contributor in particular: Yeezy.
“Kanye West is my dream artist to collaborate with,” Tepsic says, calling him “the biggest artist alive right now” and noting his “passion for design and art.”
Far-fetched? Maybe, but Tepsic has a point about what makes Tepsic Magazine unique, not only to his audience but to the artists who participate: “It’s only a matter of time before all of these artists realize there’s an outlet to get cool exposure without risk.”
You have less than a week to support the fourth issue of Tepsic Magazine. For details, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/142772529/tepsic-magazine.
People are drawn to the magazine because it’s an incredibly simple concept that completely supports each artist.” — Morgan Tepsic