Ahead of the launch party tomorrow night for Muff, the London based queer print magazine, we caught up with the two ladies behind the publication to find out a bit more about what’s in the latest issue and why they do what they do…
Muff Magazine came to global acclaim with its moving photo series of lesbian couples living in Russia, together despite the difficult circumstances. What led you to commission this and were you surprised by the attention it received?
Bukanova: I wouldn’t have dreamed of the story going viral! With muff we want to change the way lesbians are represented in today’s media and challenge out of date stereotypes. Therefore I wanted to portrait couples in the intimate environment of their own home, showing that they chop onions, watch TV and do everything a straight couple would do. Originally from Russia myself, I’m very touched and upset about its anti-gay propaganda and the consequences, which I think can improve if gay becomes – and remains – more visible. It might be hard to accept the unfamiliar, but having to deal with it on a daily basis will hopefully, one day, make it the accepted and normal thing it is.
Kate: Bukanova struck up a friendship with the photographer Anastasia Ivanova while she was in London and basically the next thing I knew they’d created a photo series together. After that, all I had to do was bring the photos to life with a few words from the subjects themselves. As soon as the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed took it, our inboxes just went crazy. I still can’t believe how far that piece travelled – it really made an impact. Even now, over six months later, I still come across the most unlikeliest of people who want to talk about that photo series.
Now that the spotlight is for the most part off Russia’s treatment of LGBT people, do you think this is something you hope to highlight again in the future? Perhaps revisiting the same couples?
Bukanova: Maybe. We are very grateful to have the couples and thank them for standing up despite the fact that a majority tries to silence them. I think, for now, we made our point.
Kate: Perhaps in a few years when things have hopefully changed – but not for now. I think we made a really strong point with the piece and I wouldn’t want to dilute its message by banging the drum too much. Anyway, the whole point of muff is that we try not to overly politicise issues, particularly negative ones. In the new issue, we have a different photo series, still based around people but this time about those who moved to Berlin and why. It’s a really beautiful, emotional piece which hopefully has a more positive vibe.
You’ve stated the next issue of Muff Magazine is a bit less political… why did you choose Lovecats as a theme?
Bukanova: Because everything isn’t that serious. And we love cats, of course.
Kate: Mainly because Bukanova and Piczo shot a beautiful fashion editorial with her favourite, sphinx cats. But, yes, also because we wanted more of a lighthearted, upbeat feel to this issue – and creatively we felt a lot more confident to express that this time, both in the content and design.
Why did you both choose to champion print as a medium?
Bukanova: Form follows content, and muff isn’t a trend-led magazine. It is illustrating stories, picturing the life of individuals and reflecting on issues in our society – I think this is a beautiful thing to last.
Kate: Because print is beautiful – you can savour and share magazines in a way that you just can’t with the immediacy of the web. Things like content, photography and texture shape a really strong statement and I think muff really deserved that kind of medium. You know, you can make a really great website and it can have the biggest audience in the world, but it will never endure like print and one day, who knows whether that website will still be online? Financially, of course, it’s not that simple…
Muff Magazine seeks to redefine “lesbian” through an exploration of queer culture- what would say exemplifies that ethos in the latest issue?
Bukanova: The deliberate choice to avoid stereotypes. Not because of personal taste, but more the will to challenge existing perceptions.
Kate: We try to explore queer issues and creatives without focusing on sexuality – because it doesn’t really matter whether somebody is gay or not. In the latest issue, we look at creatives who have moved to Berlin. I can tell you now that some of them happen to be gay, but at no point do we feel the need to mention that or define their work through it. We also have a couple of amazing interviews, with people like Jake Arnott and Molly Nilsson, as well as our own take on the famous Barilla pasta controversy. Virginia Woolf makes an appearance too.
What are your personal favourite pieces of enduring queer literature or art?
Bukanova: I never thought of literature or art to be solely queer.
What would you improve or change about London’s LGBT scene?
Kate: When I was young and single I loved London’s gay scene. From what I remember, I have to say it’s one of the best in the world – there’s something for everyone. Nowadays I don’t tend to frequent it so much and if I find myself in a gay bar it’s unlikely I’m in there solely because it’s gay. Maybe I’d change the beer selection…
Who are the Muff Magazine icons (and why)?
Bukanova: Fellow independent publishers like The Gourmand and Buffalo Zine.
Kate: I come to muff from a slightly more serious, editorial background so for me, my personal icons are people like Glenn Greenwald, George Monbiot, Naomi Klein. Muff-wise, I’d say we took a lot of hope and inspiration from magazines like BUTT and Girls Like Us.
What’s your favourite feature each in the new issue?
Bukanova: The cats, gay pasta, our still life follow-up that can be seen here, a visual diary of past crushes, and our collaboration with Berlin based creatives. Did I mention cats?
Kate: I’d say it’s a toss up between Partner Look, which is our response to the Barilla pasta affair that we came up with over the kitchen table one rainy afternoon, and the Berlin photo series.
As this is an interview for Dalston Superstore and we are all about dancefloors… if you had a time machine and could go back in time to any dancefloor anywhen/anywhere where would you want to go?
Bukanova: In the ’80s, somewhere between a gig of the Russian band Kino, Klaus Nomi – or just dancing to Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones & co, wearing tons of make-up, studded over knee boots and über-oversized jumpers.
Kate: 1920’s swing? I basically spent my entire childhood wishing I’d been in the Bloomsbury Group.
For more info on the launch of issue 2 of Muff Magazine tomorrow night visit their Facebook page.
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Tags: arts, Bukanova, lesbian, London, magazine, Muff Magazine, photography, queer, Russian