Exploring Independent Media in Portland Through Zines

This past weekend, I had the chance to check out the Zine Symposium in Southeast Portland. For those who might not know, zines are independent, self-published magazines usually made on a low budget. The first known zine was created back in the 1930s, but zines really started to get big in the 1970s with the emergence of the punk rock scene and the DIY movement. The art has only been growing since, as technological advances have made it easier and easier for people to self-publish more volumes of their work.

The symposium itself was an all-weekend event, with panels, workshops, tabling, and discussions. I was only able to stop by on Sunday afternoon, when different zine-makers were tabling to promote and sell their work. The event took place in a building that used to be a furniture store. Rows of tables created a loop around the room that visitors could circuit through, with a station of snacks and water for those who planned to stay awhile.

The room was packed when we arrived around 2 o’clock in the afternoon and it was a little overwhelming at first, being surrounded by so many different artists and their work. It was hard to decide which zines to buy—there were too many amazing ones to choose from! Everyone’s styles were so different and covered a vast array of topics.

The zines I did decide to buy were pretty different from each other. One of the first ones I bought because the drawing style really drew me in. It’s called The October Country (Volume 3), by an artist named Sage Howard I talked to for awhile. It is a collection of drawings he made during Inktober, a challenge that artists from around the world participate in each year where they complete an ink drawing every day of the month. Another zine I had to get because it’s so relevant to what we’ve been learning at MISC. It’s called How to Make Radio #2. It’s simpler in design, but has a great structure where it walks you through some basic tips for getting started in the radio and podcasting world. The creator is even a producer on a podcast! Combining zines and audio—how could I say no?

At the symposium, I had the chance to actually stop and chat with the artists I was buying work from, which for me, made it a better experience than just reading the zines online. With the internet, the fact that everyone can make their voice heard can be both empowering and suffocating at the same time.

Putting everyone on the same platform means anyone can put their thoughts, art, content, etc out there for the world to see, but with so many other people doing the exact same thing, it’s easy to feel lost. Being able to actually connect with the people making art and media you admire is such a different experience. That’s why I love that Portland has so many different outlets for people to actually promote and share their work in a way that doesn’t feel like just shouting into a void. I feel like I’ve been exposed to local, DIY types of media and art in Portland more than any other city.

From community-based stations like Open Signal to individual artists hand-drawing zines to trade and sell at the Zine Symposium, there’s a place for all kinds of media-makers to share their work here. When we give everyone ways to actually create and promote their own work, you can actually get voices and stories that aren’t heard as often - the ones we don’t get from Hollywood or other mainstream outlets.

At MISC, we’ve had the chance to meet so many independent media-makers, from Skye Fitzgerald producing his own human rights documentaries about refugees to our radio mentors, Sarina, Phoebe, and Alex, all making their livings as freelance audio producers. It has been really exciting and inspiring to meet so many people involved in the community, and have the chance to make my own pieces to share as well.

–Kienna Kulzer