Tell us about your early encounters with photography growing up… When, and how, did you realise that hip-hop was your genre?
Hayley Louisa Brown: I have a really distinct memory of seeing the video for ‘California Love’ by 2pac and Dr. Dre when I was young and thinking it was so incredible that I had to find out more. That – and driving around with my older cousin Rebecca listening to her BBK mix CDs – set the tone for me growing up. Photography wasn’t something I explored properly until I was older, around 15 or 16. I would tear pages out of my magazines and stick them up on my walls and make collages out of them, so I’ve always felt that visceral connection with images in one way or another. When I started BRICK I consciously took a step away from photography as my focus, and it really helped me to figure out who I am as an image-maker. I spent so many years shooting fashion images for other people that I lost my identity for a while – BRICK definitely helped me reclaim that and I feel like my work is more authentic than it has ever been before.
And how did you first get started with BRICK?
Hayley: Being a photographer originally, I was always reaching out to magazines about artists that I wanted to take pictures of. I was going to a lot of hip-hop shows in London and seeing venues packed full of kids moshing and going wild to the music, the energy was crazy. It was like a Punk show, and as a result of that, I wanted to make a hip-hop publication that physically embodied a punk zine. It just made perfect sense to me because I see so many parallels between the two. The idea outgrew that vision, got bigger and eventually landed at BRICK being this 250-page object. I now see BRICK as being my job more so than photography, although the two overlap at times.
So what’s been your proudest moment to date?
Hayley: I think printing the first issue is still something that sticks out in my mind, just because it was the first time. I really had no clue what I was doing at the start so actually making the idea a reality remains special to me.
Why is it important for you to celebrate independent voices?
Hayley: Because it’s what keeps subculture authentic, and so many talented artists are now working outside of the traditional record label and release schedule set-ups that it’s really non-negotiable to listen to independent voices – whether that’s in music or culture generally. One of my favourite artists, Ms. Boogie, is a great example of the power of independent voice – she recently came out as trans and shared her womanhood with the world and what she’s doing in hip-hop is unparalleled.
our contributors have free reign to create their vision
What excites you most about independent publishing?
Sam Butler: It’s a real privilege to have a platform where we can share the stories of some of the most interesting artists in the world who are shaping popular culture in front of our eyes. Each issue feels like a new opportunity to discover and celebrate more of those stories, and it’s extremely rewarding to see the artist that we feature be so engaged and excited when we publish the issue. For a lot of the younger talent in the mag, it is one of their first times being featured in print and it’s really rewarding to see the pride that they take from that.
What’s your approach to commissioning?
Sam: We’re extremely lucky to have such a talented network of contributors, all of whom bring something different to each project. For each feature we try to commission a team that will firstly bring something unique, but more importantly that their own style, taste and references will play off that of the artist that is being featured. That might be coming up with a particularly weird shoot concept to represent the artist as they have never been seen before, or taking the time to make sure that an artist feels comfortable with the direction we are taking a particular feature. The commissioning process always starts with a consideration of what we want the tone and aesthetics of the feature to be – that’s our start point. What was it that first attracted you to the publishing side of things?
Hayley: BRICK was created as a response to the throwaway nature of the content we see every day online. When I was growing up, going to the newsagent and buying a magazine like The Source or Elle Girl was a real event – it was a way to connect with the things that were important to me, and to understand that other people were out there who felt the same. Now the internet is so instant, so easy to navigate and find your tribe that print began to feel ostracised from culture, to me, in a way. I wanted to create BRICK to combat that, to put value and excitement into picking up a magazine. I wanted to make something that I’d have torn the pages out of and stuck up on my wall as a teenager – that’s always the goal.
How do you ensure that your vision is never subject to censorship?
Hayley: I think it boils down to the fact that we don’t really have rules. We’re the publisher so the only people we need to please is us. As a result of that, our contributors have free reign to create their vision – whether it’s through photography or words – and I think that’s super important. I always want BRICK’s voice to be authentic and trustworthy, and staying true to yourself and the people who are working with you is the most obvious way to do that.
Sam: By far the most satisfying thing about being wholly independent is not having to answer to anyone in terms of what we decide to feature in the magazine. I can’t imagine a time when censorship in BRICK would come into our minds. The only time I’ve even thought about it was after my grandma said she was “disappointed” with how much swearing there was in Issue 04. I’ve not given her a copy of Issue 05 yet.
Why is the Everpress X Amnesty International important to you?
Hayley: I think it’s incredible that Amnesty International cover so many landscapes with their work, and call attention to issues that aren’t often addressed on a large scale. One of the main things I’m pleased to see that they’re bringing awareness to right now is ‘The Gangs Matrix’ in the UK, which wrongly profiles young black men as being gang members and is something that’s inherently damaging to a generation of young men trying to lead positive lives.
What are your tips for aspiring young creators in the publishing space?
Hayley: Again, I think authenticity is the key. As long as you are being honest with yourself you’ll carve out a space. What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
Sam: Another issue in September. I don’t want to say too much and jinx it, but the range of artists that we have coming up in Issue 06 is the most diverse we’ve ever featured in the mag and are really excited to share it with everyone. Aside from print, we’re slowly taking our first steps into producing content that will live online, in the form of short documentary videos. We might try to make some more T-shirts too, people seem to like T-shirts.
Shop BRICK’s 50/50 tee design now. Each purchase raises crucial funds for Amnesty International as they champion freedom of expression for artists and all people around the world.