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NY Art Book Fair 2016 | See the World with “Hamburger Eyes”

Photographer and publisher Ray Potes, the mastermind behind “Hamburger Eyes,” talks about the joys independent publishing in 2016.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen
Photo: © Xiouping

The Hamburger Eyes crew has been on the scene since 2001, when it launched their first issue of 30 xeroxed pamphlets. Over the years, the zine has become on the illest photography magazines in the world, combining the documentary approach of National Geographic and LIFE magazines with the relentless intensity of a graffiti writer bombing the scene.

Also: NY Art Book Fair | Everything You Need to Know

Dedicated to the pictorial history of both unseen and iconic moments of everyday life, every issue of Hamburger Eyes illustrates its motto perfectly, capturing “The Continuing Story of Life on Earth” to a T. Printed in black and white, and designed with the photographs running full bleed, every page is fresh, crisp, and clean.

© Nick Sethi

© Nick Sethi

Over the years, Hamburger Eyes has expanded to take on publishing photograph books, zines, and magazines, with more than 100 titles to date in its catalog. It includes works by the core members of the collective including Ray Potes, David Potes, Stefan Simikich, Brian David Stevens, Jason Roberts Dobrin, Ted Pushinsky, David Uzzardi, Michael Jang, and Uri Korn. The titles alone are enough to draw the eye, whether Slag Hag (John Oliver Hodges) or Sweat Stains (Mark Murrmann), you might just wonder, “What’s inside?”

Now’s your chance to find out. Hamburger Eyes returns to the NY Art Book Fair once more, proving it’s self one of the most consistent independent publishers of magazines and zines in the world. Issue no. 22 debuts at the Fair, with 68 glorious pages of photographs by Xiouping, Todd Gross, Kappy, Nick Sethi, and Ray Potes.

© Xiouping

© Xiouping

Xiouping’s portrait of Big Pun graces the cover, and it will stop you dead in your tracks. The intensity of the deceased MC is something that Hip Hop seems t lack. You know he didn’t need a ghostwriter; he just stayed spitting facts. This is just one of Xiouping’s photographs from the ‘90s that appears in the new issue, alongside the likes of Q-Tip, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Red Alert, among others. Potes reveals thy selected just a few of the images readily available on her computer. You can only scratch your head in wonder at what more exists, for this little taste of the ‘90s makes you remember how good Hip Hop was way back when.

Potes reveals that the magazine changed its format to be based in the classic tradition of photo essays. “We have five photographers and they each get 12 pages in the issue, rather than having 100 photographers getting one photo each. It gives them more room to breathe.”

© Ray Potes

© Ray Potes

This new approach gives each issue its own distinct look and feel, allowing the essays to stand on their own while simultaneously dialoguing with each other. Potes makes sure to provide a balance between stories, taking care to keep each issue from slanting too far in one direction or another.

He observes, “We always have photographs ready to go for future issues. We’ll be working on two or three issues at the same time. Things have changed a lot. We’re always experimenting. I’ll go through a phase where I like zines, and then another where it’s books and expensive things. We’re trying to get an issue out once a month.”

© Todd Gross

© Todd Gross

That’s a tremendous undertaking for an independent publisher, but Potes has both the wherewithal and the content to make it happen. “We’ve gotten so many photographs from so many people over the years that we have a worldwide network. I like looking at submissions more than ever. With social media, people can reach us easily. Before it was friends, friends of friends, and word of mouth. Now people can submit directly. I go through all the submissions, that’s how I meet people. I can’t answer all of the emails but I look at everything. I consider it my job.”

A dream job! Perhaps it’s the influx of images combined with the passion of the photographers that allows Hamburger Eyes to carry forth. Though the world of print has changed radically in the past decade, but Potes is optimistic. “I always thought, ‘Print is dying,’ but it made it. The book fairs have kept it alive. There are huge book fairs in every city that didn’t exist ten years ago. Maybe they did, but it wasn’t the same. It has driven a demand. We used to have distributors and more stores to sell to, but after 2008, things changed. The economy crashed and half the retailers closed.”

© Kappy

© Kappy

But the fairs have brought things full circle—at least they have for me. I first discovered Hamburger Eyes at a photo fair in San Francisco back in 2006. It was primarily for galleries, but a few publishers were exhibiting, and I found myself returning to the Hamburger Eyes booth over and over again. I picked up a copy and saw a photograph of Roger Gastman and I was sold. It seemed to me we must be long-lost cousins in “The Family of Man,” so to speak. And from this small encounter, we went on to publish Hamburger Eyes: Inside Burgerworld, (Miss Rosen Editions/powerHouse Books).

And perhaps that’s what makes these fairs so special; they’re more than commercial events, they are opportunities to build bridges between like minds and expand the possibilities of print. Potes observes, “My favorite thing about the NY Art Book Fair is seeing other publishers, meeting people, reconnecting with people, and just seeing what people are up to. A lot of publishers are photographers and we’ll be in each other publications. I have them photographs and they give me photographs. It’s a community working together. It’s so exciting. It’s not easy. It has its ups and downs, but it’s fun to keep going.”

© Nick Sethi

© Nick Sethi

All photos: From issue No. 22, courtesy of Hamburger Eyes.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.