maven46 meets: BLOW Photo

We talk to the photo editor behind one of Dublin’s most creative publications…

Words by Michelle Hanley
May 2nd, 2017


In the wake of the launch of the 15th issue of BLOW Photo, we caught up with resident photo editor Monika Chmielarz about creating one of Ireland’s only design-focused and independent photography magazines, its influences, successes and the latest issue…

Monika Chmielarz, Anna Ciolkiewicz, Agata Stoinska, Joanna Zimnoch and Stace Gill

On how BLOW Photo came about…

Today there are seven of us on the team. Five are based in Dublin, one in London and one in Warsaw. We were all friends and we came together pretty organically. My role is to decide on the theme of the issue, research artists and supervise the creative process. Together with Agata Stoinska, Editor-in-Chief (and co-founder of maven46), we work on the final shape of the issue. Okan Zeyrekgunduz, who is based in London, looks after our social media. Stace Gill is the Managing Editor and is responsible for PR. Joanna Zimnoch does all administrative tasks and Anna Ciolkiewicz is the Graphic Designer. Our latest Copy Editor, Wiktoria Michalkiewicz works with us from Warsaw.

photo: Brenda Bionda

On BLOW Photo’s distinctive form…

Agata and I are both photographers and when we created the magazine we were coming from this perspective, not that of a publisher. We wanted to prioritise images over anything else. We wanted BLOW to be a handheld gallery. The photographs should speak for themselves, we believe. We also try to keep text to a minimum. It is hard to ignore the size of our magazine. Magazines avoid large formats like BLOW because shops’ shelf sizes don’t accommodate them. It is impossible to find us in stores like Eason’s. Apart from the size, we try to be minimal in a variety of ways. Each issue is bound with elastic, allowing the viewer to take the issue apart and handle any page with ease. This also allows the collector to frame and hang the images. At the very beginning of our journey, we worked with the very talented graphic designer, Tony Gilchriest who came up with the basic layout and look of the magazine.

photo: Elmer Vestner

On preparing for each issue…

As BLOW has become more and more recognisable we have started to receive more submissions. Today, I’d say 70% of the artists featured in the magazine come from my personal search and 30% from the submissions. Much of my work involves finding photographers. The production itself takes around three weeks. Research can take up to six months. The biggest challenge is financing BLOW Photo. It is fully funded by private money and the cost of production is very high. There were times when we weren’t able to publish all of our desired three magazines per year. Independent magazines do have an inbuilt survival feature in that they are not always motivated by profit. I think in 100 years, print will still be around and not under so much scrutiny. Producing the magazine can be an end in itself, which is kind of beautiful.

photo: Andrea Grützner

On BLOW Photo’s inspiration and achievements…

The biggest inspiration for creating BLOW Photo for me was the magazine, Colors, created by photographer Oliviero Toscani and art director Tibor Kalman in 1991. They built the concept of the magazine on one strong motto, “diversity is good”. Colors was innovative at storytelling and design. It made great use of photography. Sadly, they have stopped making it. People appreciate BLOW for all those things important to us. Our greatest achievement to date is that we twice won the Irish Print Awards for ‘Print of the Year’. We were also finalists in the Lucie Awards for Photography Magazine of the Year for three consecutive years 2013-2015. The Lucies are like the Oscars for photography and are held in New York.

photo: Stephan Zirwes

On the latest issue…

This issue is titled and themed ‘abstract’. As always, we tried to approach a theme in the broadest way possible. I recognise two categories of artists in the issue. Firstly, those that deal with abstraction in term of its form. Artists like Brenda Biondo or Richard Caldicott whose work references the tools and processes used to create the work. Caldicott creates custom negatives by cutting and splicing geometric shapes from card. Biondo, our cover artist examines the perception of the colour blue within photographs. Secondly, artists like Jan Roseel or Andrea Grutzner who use abstraction as a tool of exploring personal or social issues. Grützner uses the movement of light and precise shadows to symbolically reflect on her childhood memories. Rosseel questions the relationship between politics and aesthetics in images of violence. For the launch of our newest issue, we have partnered with the PhotoIreland Festival. The event will take place at the Liquor Rooms on Thursday, 4th May at 9pm. I invite all of you to come and celebrate with us.

photo: Brea Souders

On the first look at a new issue…

At first, I feel nervous about spotting mistakes and omissions. But after that little moment of terror, it feels great to see how everything has come together. It’s a sensory and sensual experience for me.

Launch Night: Thursday 4 May at The Liquor Rooms, doors 9pm. 

Issue 15 of BLOW Photo will be available in limited edition at the Gallery of Photography, National Gallery of Ireland and the Library Project. Previous issues available here.