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Vanessa's world in more than 100 zines

An interview with Vanessa Berry
Sydney, Australia

by Elke Zobl
November 2002

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After reading a couple of Vanessa's zines and a recommendation of Michelle de Cean, editor of A Show of Hands, to interview Vanessa I wrote her and asked for an interview. Read here what the creator of over 100 zines has to say about zine making!

Can you tell me first of all a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?
I haven't moved very far from home, I live in the city I was born in (Sydney), though over the other side of the harbour now, and have spent twenty four years investigating my surroundings closely. I still have more to see.

What do you do besides your zine?
Dress up, collect trinkets, paint pictures of animals, read library books, cook biscuits, engage in dramatic daydreams.

Adjective Stories

For how long have you been running your zine now? How many issues did you put out until now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?

I have written many zines over the last seven years, on last count more than a hundred. This is mainly because I have written a zine a month ('Laughter and the Sound of Teacups') for more than five years. It is about what I do on the 23rd of the month. As far as 'I am a Camera' goes, I started it about three years ago, and am now working on my seventh issue. I've collaberated a couple of times, but mostly I like to do all the work myself.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
I was handed a cut out headline from a newspaper which read "I am a Camera", and decided to put together the writing I had been doing recently under this
name. I had started to write more fiction, as my zines before this had been personal observations and fairly lighthearted. I thought "I am a Camera" was a good name because of my penchant for in depth, photograph-like descriptions.

What topics are most often discussed in your zine?

The fascinating topic of myself and my surroundings. I hope to think this is a charming, idiosyncratic topic, it is after all the one I am best qualified to write about.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?

Communication with others, mostly. I enjoy the process of making zines, putting it all together and coming up with a finished product, I feel very proud of myself every time I finish one. It gives me something to be proud of.

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you? What do you love about zine making? What's the most challenging aspect of making zines?
I spend a lot of time on my zines, thinking about them, writing, distributing them. They are a very important part of my life, they have given me a lot of confidence which I didn't have before. Having people reading and responding to things I have written is a rewarding feeling.

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
I found out about zines through music zines I found in record stores, I liked the idea of people making their own magazines. I have always been fond of writing letters, and zines seemed a bit like long letters to a general audience. When I started making zines I did not expect them to have such a profound effect on my life - I spent a lot of my life feeling very lonely and very wrapped up inside myself. I believed I was doomed to a life surrounding by people who did not understand. Some of the people I have met through zines quite unexpectedly changed this rather bleak outlook. I never really expected to make friends from it, but I have met people who have had major influence on my life. Breaking into abandoned buildings, dressed up in a rabbit suit for 48 hours, visiting a margarine factory, purchasing giant boards of pinned butterflies - it could be said zines are responsible for all this.

Do you consider grrrl zines as an important part of a movement of sorts? Do you think zines can effect meaningful social and political change?
I think zines can effect meaningful personal change. They are individual by nature, and whilst they can bring people together, and distribute information about social and political issues, I don't think they are widespread enough to have much of a broad effect in these spheres

I am a Camera

What does the zine community mean to you?
A steady upkeep of delightful mail, friends, and occasionally some nice people to wave hello to.

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
Be confident about what you want to put together, create the zine you yourself would be thrilled at discovering.

What are some of the zines you admire?
I admire zines in which the creator builds a vivid picture of their world, and zines that are put together with care.

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
The zine community is Australia is fairly small, and although there are grrrl zines out there, I wouldn't say there was a definitive grrrl zine scene. Grrrl zines tend to operate as part of other active grrrl networks, I suppose, activism, music and so on.

Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
The internet has been wonderful in terms of distributing zines, and finding information about zines, but the attraction of the photocopied zine will never pale for me. I find I can't read long slabs of text on screens without becoming bored and skimming, so I've never got into e-zines.

Laughter and the Sound of Teacups

Vanessa Berry
PO Box 1879
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012

Distributed by Moon Rocket Distribution (New Zealand)


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