This is part three of my multi-part series The New Magazines on the excellent new magazines currently being published in Montreal.
If the The Alpine Review (part 1) explores the massive trends happening around the world and Rake & Co (part 2) focuses on what is happening in Montreal now, CITTÀ magazine proposes to put Montreal in dialogue with other cities around the world through international artistic collaborations.
Founded in 2012, CITTÀ is a bi-annual magazine where each edition is focused on a given pair of cities. CITTÀ #0 focused on the relationship between Montreal and Berlin, while CITTA #1 focuses on Montreal and Casablanca. By bridging two cities, CITTÀ also becomes a reflexion on our own city.
Cities and multiculturalism are a key part of the formula. CITTÀ relies on a deep network of multi-disciplinary collaborators living in many cities in order to produce its very full multi-perspective view on urban life. Distribution is also international with the magazine available in Montreal, Vancouver, Paris, Rome and soon Casablanca.
I met Léa through the entrepreneur group Entrepreneurs Anonymes that I co-founded. I was impressed from the start with her ambitious vision to, each issue, tell the tale of two cities.
You can follow them on Facebook. Get ready to pick up a copy soon for a unique window into international urban culture.
5 Questions Interview
1. How did your first get interested in magazines and get the idea to start CITTÀ specifically?
I like reading magazines, but I especially like making them. My first experience in editing got me really passionate about the editorial process. My friend Adèle Flannery had suggested we start astudent paper when we were in University and that’s how it all started. Editing encompasses everything that I love: curating, writing, working with authors on their writing, graphic design.
I came up with the idea for CITTÀ between Montreal, Seattle and Rome, between May 2011 and June 2012. I’d spent that year searching for what it was that I wanted to do with my life (!). The idea of linking different cities came to me in a Eureka moment, while flipping through the pages of an Italian magazine called Urban. I’m really passionate about languages, foreign cultures, and especially the City, with a capital C. And as the daughter of a French-Canadian mom and a French dad who was born in Morocco, I myself am a product of multiculturalism. Plus I truly love Montreal and sincerely want to contribute to its blossoming. And there you have it, all the key ingredients that were needed to create CITTÀ.
2. Can you tell us a bit more about CITTÀ and its mission/purpose? Who is your reader?
CITTÀ’s main focus is on photography and urban culture (art, design, music). But the concept, which is unique, is to draw parallels and become a platform for collaboration between Montreal and other metropolises in the world. Those parallels are drawn with the “portrait croisés,” which are deeply rooted in the traditions of photojournalism, interviews and “carte blanche” creative projects with collaborators from Montreal and abroad.
The aim is two-fold: open the horizons of Montrealers to what is happening abroad while touching on what is happening here (local talent, cultural communities, etc), but also to put Montreal on the map internationally. I’ve travelled quite a bit, and I know that NO ONE knows Montreal to be the cultural metropolis that it actually is.
That said, the magazine’s concept is still taking shape. I see it as a continuous creative approach. Of course you need an audience, and a main guideline, but most of all I want the project to remain an “artwork,” not commodity. I want to keep exploring and, to be honest, enjoying myself.
Our readers are so different from one another that there’s no way of pigeonholing them. It would be like assigning a single identity to someone who considers themselves to be a “citizen of the world.” The magazine doesn’t glorify any particular niche culture. To me, the more open it is, the better it is. Generalizing isn’t good for sales on paper, but our magazine has actually been selling very well. In Montreal, I think the magazine’s intent is felt. Abroad, the magazine is seen as an object to be discovered and to keep nicely in a bookshelf.
3. Why is publishing a print copy still relevant in the digital world of 2013? How do you think about distribution?
Because we’re sensitive and sensual beings! We’re starting to see things through the prism of utilitarianism: they have to be lucrative and efficient. But we forget that pleasure most likely lies in what’s isn’t. Art is a good example of that. Creating a magazine with your own hands is something digital media can’t replace. The same goes for running your hands on silky, matte paper, and that’s something people are still searching for.
Paper will always be around and there’s prestige attached to it. It invites a moment of pause and of quality time to discover quality content. This is all very important to me, because art needs hindsight to survive. The speed at which media evolves encourages overconsumption, which I think is the best way to kill culture.
From a personal point of view, choosing to go with print gave me credibility. I’m not well known; I’m not part of an agency or a network of terribly successful people. This magazine allowed me to make a name for myself. A lot of people take the Web route, but it takes a lot more determination to make a printed magazine, a lot more sacrifices. I see it almost like a business card that opens doors and lets me live the life I want.
For now the magazine is self-distributed. We carefully select where we’ll sell, both in Montreal and abroad. When you deal with a distributor, you incur losses, and because of the investment the project demands, we can’t afford that. I rely on our readers’ responses to determine how relevant our distribution points are. People find CITTÀ and contact us to congratulate us. That’s when I know we’ve reached our audience.
4. What is the editorial process of CITTÀ? How are the topic for each issue chosen?
It’s a very intuitive and organic process. It all begins once I’ve chosen the city. At this stage, the project is still very much tied to my personal life, so that’s what I turn to in order to write the editorial. Once the city’s chosen, the magazine takes shape around encounters and touching base. I also do a lot of research on new talents; I approach people with whom I’d like to work. When the city is chosen, many contacts seem to magically manifest themselves to become part of the narrative.
Also, if everyone’s talking about something, it doesn’t interest me. I always dig deeper, searching for something a bit unexpected. For example, because it’s my hometown, I could have easily centered CITTÀ’s first issue on Marseilles, which is the European Capital of Culture this year and all the magazines have thrown themselves at it. Instead, I stayed I chose Casablanca, for many reasons. Why? Because Montreal has a huge community hailing from the Maghreb, because it’s taken a backseat vis-à-vis other cities in the Arab revolutions, because our political context lends itself to it, because I wanted to celebrate my dad’s photography in the city… So many reasons that lead to a cohesive theme and a unique outlook.
5. What are you working on now? What’s next?
As of October, I’ll be working on the magazine’s second issue, focused on Mexico City, where I’ll be living for five months. I am also working on limited edition CITTÀ numbers, which will be mini publications to highlight my collaborations with photographers from Montreal and abroad. A lot of people have contacted me spontaneously, so I think this’ll give us a great opportunity to collaborate. I’ve also been thinking about having CITTÀ “ambassadors” in other cities, to really promote Montreal abroad. The magazine’s concept is so rich, so lush, that we really have a lot to choose from. My only wish is to keep things balanced. I’m curious to see where it’ll take us. The best part of the project is the unknown.
Photo (top): Anaïse Camilien
Read more from LP Maurice's The New Magazines series: