AINT–BAD was founded on a necessity of community — a way to hold on to friendships from college but also to create something together. It was originally intended to be about us, a collective of photographers, then it turned into the promotion of other photographers. The original website had our work on it, as well as just a handful of other people. It always was and still is a platform for critiquing work, and at the time it was a way to critique work outside of the classroom – a way to extend that critique beyond the university. Establishing those friendships outside of the classroom can be hard, so we filled a void.
A similar platform called Piece of Cake was a big influence for us, just in terms of the general idea. It quickly transitioned into not being about our own work. We became so interested in the aspects of print and curation, so our own photographic work took place on the back-burner very early on, both in promotion and in the amount of work we were actually producing individually. As AINT-BAD work increased, our own photographic endeavors decreased. So every few months we get frustrated and realize we need to make some time for our own work.
Our first issue was called ‘We Are Here’ and featured about 20 photographers, most of them SCAD Alumni that had just graduated that May — so it was kind of a way to hang on to those friendships. We printed 100 of them and they sold out, so we thought it might be sustainable and tried for an issue 2, which we printed 250 copies of. It was called ‘A Symptom of Being’ — it was more thematic and related a lot to what us as individuals were going through at that time. We were definitely more philosophical in our approach early on, trying to communicate our life experiences through photography.
Now, though, it’s transitioned into more of something like ‘Curator’s Choice’, our newest issue – which is less about themes of life and living, and more about understanding what’s being made in contemporary photography, what the trends are, who the players are. And so these curators we’ve brought on board are doing various things in their fields and the photographers are all emerging artists from all over the world, so we’ve kind of blended it now. The work still speaks to the human condition and what’s happening in society and culture and other cultures all over the world, but it’s also become this larger platform and not as niche. You just can’t survive if you’re only making these super critical themed issues.
Those critical themed issues really continued until ‘American South’ – that’s when we really opened the door. Hyperlinked was our first offsite printed run, 1000 copies printed in Iceland – we did that with a Kickstarter campaign. That literally 'kickstarted' us to the next level, allowed us to get to the quality of publication that we’re at today, and we’ve continued to improve upon that. We’ve printed in Iceland, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, the Netherlands, and Lithuania – and have learned a ton about printing. Obviously, we're always trying to produce the highest quality product for the most affordable price. And now we’re trying to work without the middle-man taking a cut by making personal relationships with our printers. And so we’ve kind of just learned how to run this business by doing exactly that – running the business. We’re still making mistakes every day. It’s been good, in a sense, to make the mistakes and learn from them. And so 7 years later, we’re still here.
AINT-BAD started out as a website – it was really just gonna be an online thing. At first, each post was a separate project on Cargo (Collective). But eventually we moved to Wordpress. The printed publication has always been an extension of the website. We’ve always understood that the website has a much wider reach and have leveraged that to our advantage. As we’ve grown, we’ve continually created more content for the website. As more people have found out about us, we’re continually getting more content submitted to us too - we’ve really streamlined the entire process from submissions to curation of the issues. We try to allow the online content and physical publications to act and exist as simultaneously as possible. And with Curator’s Choice, having 800+ submissions really helped us produce a good bank of content to pull from for web content.
We’ve always treated the magazine as a fine art object, and made sure to not include ads within physical publications. But the website having ads now has really helped fund not only the production of the website, but the publications as well. As we’ve grown as a publisher, online content has also significantly increased. It’s kind of gotten to the point where it’s outside of our capabilities, so we’ve started reaching for help to run things as well.
We’ve always dreamed of having a brick-and-mortar, but we realize that our product doesn’t necessarily warrant it – I mean, we’d have to make it a gallery, a book store, a gift shop – all these things just to pay rent. So it’s really nice to see shops like DNO that do what we envision doing in a sort of fantasy world. Savannah just doesn’t have that market.
Our goal as a publisher of photography was at some point to be publishing monographs – single artist books, which we finally did in 2015. We were just learning how to run the business, and eventually realized that it isn’t impossible to make books. So we’ve made 13 artists book over the past couple of years, and in the process we've dropped ‘magazine’ from our title. Now we’re doing more books a year than magazines. Photographers really want books, and photographers want to make their own books – it kind of closes a chapter in their lives, completing a project in that manner. It’s interesting, because they want to move on from the project but we’re left to sell it, so there’s some tension there in some instances. But since our audience does appreciate high-quality printed content, things have worked out.