Most magazines build a reputation for themselves through consistency—finding a formula that works and sticking to it. But for The Motif Magazine, the new venture from SSAW Magazine editor-in-chief Jakob de Tobon, the reputation will be one for variety. Each issue of the new title will be themed around a specific motif, be it visual, conceptual, or theoretical. As de Tobon explains, “The motifs can be anything: a feeling, a piece of clothing, a flower, a person, a year in history.” For the inaugural edition, he decided on blue, both as a color and an emotion. MDC Icon Vivien Solari takes to the water in her feature, with pared-down portraits by Emma Tempest paired with Solari’s own rich images of sea and sky captured during her open water swims. Famed hair stylist Rudi Lewis gives two local kids vibrant electric blue hair in Casper Sejersen‘s feature, while Marcus Ohlsson captures Marte Mei van Haaster in gentle blue and white.
After years at the helm of SSAW, de Tobon says the inspiration for The Motif came from both a search for something new as well as memories from his time working at the art publication Visionaire—where issues can come in the form of scent vials, a stack of postcards, or a polo shirt—a decade ago. “I have to admit I took a lot of inspiration from that publication,” he says. “I love how every issue is a new venture. Nothing happens twice. If anyone sees that connection I’m more then happy.” The contributors, who also include Kacper Kasprzyk, Amanda Harlech, Carlotta Manaigo, Boe Marion, Camilla Pole, came together through personal connections. “To keep it close is one way to make it special,” de Tobon adds.
Many of those collaborators took advantage of the freedom de Tobon gave them to create something completely unique and original. Solari, who named Tempest as her favorite photographer of the moment when asked with whom she wanted to shoot, describes a personal attachment to her feature as well. “I love taking pictures in the waves and trying to record the changing colors, textures, and conditions, and it was great to have a specific direction to focus on for this story and think about how the pictures would go together,” she recalls. “I enjoyed feeling more involved in the creative process over a period of time rather than just the day in which I modeled. I love that Emma’s pictures of me really convey my feelings with the sea and also it felt really good to put into words some of these emotions.”
Harlech, who invited Boe Marion and Heather Kemesky to her home near the border between Wales and England, feels a similar connection to their story. “Our days together in Shrawardine will remain with me forever,” she says. “We will never know exactly that other spirit that we traveled with in search of the blue, but we lit the touch paper that flamed our mad breakfasts, the climb up Boulder Hill, the children whooping down the bank field with Heather as their goddess and their Pied Piper. We discovered ghosts by the river at dusk and laughter under the table. We turned day into midnight navy and evenings into dawn.”
As for the next issue’s motif, de Tobon admits it is still up in the air, although he has plenty of time to decide, given he doesn’t expect to release until 2019. The only thing he can promise for now is that it will be, as this inaugural edition is, full of surprise and wonder. “That is the whole purpose with The Motif Magazine,” he says. “The aim is that it should not only vary from other publications but also from itself. The next motif will be nothing like The Blue Motif.”
Photographer – Casper Sejersen