After graduating in 2012 with a BA in photography from University of the West of England, Bristol, Max Ferguson became quickly disillusioned by the lack of viable career paths or platforms that would publish his or his friends’ work. Growing frustration quickly turned into inspiration, however, and with that came the idea for Splash and Grab.
“The magazines I really liked or wanted to work for were either shutting down or not in a position to reply to emails, let alone give me a job,” he explains. “So I just decided to start something myself. Lots of magazines start in those DIY circumstances I suppose, with some hot-headed graduate who thinks everything will be really easy but ends up finding it really difficult.”
Splash and Grab launched online in 2013 and in print in 2014, with Ferguson and a core team of five friends plus various other contributors releasing one print magazine a year ever since, championing the “new, global photography” that excites them. Every member of the team works elsewhere in the creative industries – Ferguson is photo director at PORT Magazine – but that has enabled the magazine to become a labour of love, and has actually worked in their favour. Free of the need to follow trends or appease others, they are able to show exactly what they want, covering any subject or style they choose.
“There is no money, but creativity can be stronger for that,” says Ferguson. “We don’t have to answer to advertisers because there aren’t any. We just push the work that we really love. We put all our time, effort and money into this. There would be no point in doing it if we didn’t love it.”
Splash and Grab doesn’t have specific themes per se but each issue does revolve around a central question – though Ferguson points out that, unlike other magazines, this question is only decided once most of the work is already compiled. But picking out these queries helps them understand subtle trends, tropes and topics, he says, which are influencing young photographers today.
“Doing it that way allows us to create a theme surrounding what photographers are doing at the moment,” he says. “It’s really interesting to work out what common ground these seemingly unrelated projects have. Last year our theme was ‘identity’. It was produced around the time of Brexit and things like that and so a lot of photographers were producing work around those ideas.”
This year – on their fourth issue – the central question revolves around “intimacy”, and in his foreword Ferguson outlines the notions that pervade the issue – from physical intimacy, humanity and love in the digital age, to friendship and fandom. It is reflected in Lewis Khan’s Dog Days, in which the London-based photographer captures a day in the life of a Florence and the Machine fan club in Poland. Elsewhere it’s seen and in an interview with Adama Jalloh, who won the Undergraduate Single Image award in BJP’s Breakthrough Awards in 2015.
The images on the front and back cover are from Hungarian photographer Gábor Arion Kudász’s series HUMAN, which explores metaphors for humanity in bricks, inanimate objects and industry. “I found it amazing that someone could make a project out of factories so intimate,” says Ferguson. “That he could make the most mundane objects into something human.”
Also featured is an interview with Los Angeles-based Molly Matalon, an emerging name who Ferguson was excited to have involved. “She’s definitely one of the best known photographers in our age group,” he says. “We really wanted to interview her as we know she has a lot to say about photography itself. Young photographers really idolise her. We wanted to ask her questions that people would find interesting and insightful.”
Ferguson hopes that Splash and Grab will work on different levels – insider enough to appeal to photographers, but also accessible enough to appeal to a wider audience. In future they hope to expand their online presence, but they remain committed to both the magazine and the print format.
“There’s no sign of us stopping any time soon,” says Ferguson. “But we have to be considerate about what we’re printing. It’d be a waste otherwise. We only want to print things that are worth it.”
You can buy the fourth issue of Splash and Grab (£10) here – https://www.splashandgrab.co.uk/shop/3m714vabtvfgy5xiffgrt9e8x0w37y-wxcfp