Since it was founded in 2004 by photographer Sophie Mörner, Capricious magazine has been issuing photographic narratives organized around broad themes. The three most recent issues tackle water, masculinity, and boundaries.
It’s an ongoing experiment in how you present emerging fine art photography, from the conceptual to the concrete, in a biannual journal, as well as the Capricious 88 space on the Lower East Side, where they’re currently exhibiting work by Petra Collins. (Fair warning: the Capricious website is much harsher on the eyes than the magazine.) Although they’ve been publishing for a decade, even in these past three issues you can see the format evolving to something more slim and glossy for the recent Boundaries issue published this February. But what’s ongoing is a hands-off approach to explaining each photograph; sometimes all an image has is a name, no date, no title. That can be both good and bad, as you’re left to focus on the images, but sometimes without context a greater meaning is lost that could root it in a time and place. As Mörner writers in her Boundaries introduction, “I will leave it to you, to perceive, rather than telling you about what I see.” (There is some text related to the theme, but it feels more like its own mini-issue on ideas of separation caught within the current of photos.)
In the Water issue from December 2012, ideas of conservation and daily interactions with liquid flow from oil spill photographs by Daniel Beltrá, to Stepanka Peterka‘s “Have Mercy” with a rainbow dappled over the spray from a hose on a suburban car, to Sarah Soquel Morhaim‘s “Accidental Sea” of cassette tapes, bits of plastic, and bottles strewn in a manmade wave. Guest editor JOFF writes in an introduction: “I wondered how aware we are as artists? And to what degree do we use our work to make a change? And should fine art consciously be created to address these problems of he world? I realized the answer lies somewhere in between.”
In Boundaries, there is a similar dichotomy between interpretations, with Virginie Rebetez‘s Tokoloshe series on South African witchcraft including those who practice it and their tools that morph from a perceived reality to a conjuring device; Charlotte Lybeer‘s portraits of members of the furry fandom in their costumes contrasted to their mundane homes; and Bindi Vora‘s Lustre series examining just the surface of processed chromogenic color paper.
This mix of ideas from around the world, from vastly different perspectives, feels strongest in the Masculine issue published in the fall of 2013, something of a chaser to the 2008 Feminine issue. Looking at “what masculinity might be today,” the Capricious team combed through around 500 submissions to excavate a “masculine” that is “gentle but still aggressive, it’s violent, but safe, it is things that we can identify with, but also things that we never understood.”
As with the other issues, it’s really the images that convey this tenuous link of attributes into a narrative, with the cover going from a sneaky reveal of an actual reptilian snake emerging from the zipper of some tight jeans, to a woman wearing no pants with a motorcycle helmet. There are charging bulls, mounds of dirt, guys using chainsaws, stoic-faced horse jockeys, scraped paint from car wrecks, and everything phallic both literal and suggestive (ex: locks on a chain etched with the words “hardened” and “tuff stuff”). As with all of the Capricious issues, it is a bit all over the place stylistically and conceptually, but that is the engaging experience created through the magazine with its culling of the unexpected, along with a blurring of clichés from the expansive world of contemporary photography.
The Water, Masculine, and Boundaries issues of Capricious are now available.