At a time when printed magazines in general are under pressure it’s refreshing to find a title out there that’s not only standing its ground but is positively blooming, with an enthusiastic and expanding army of readers who can’t wait to find out what’s going to be covered in the next issue.
‘Herring & Herring’ is the brainchild of two photographers, Dimitri Scheblanov (a Russian) and Jesper Carlsen (a Dane), who met up in New York seven years ago and began publishing their iconic biannual title in 2013. Steadfastly different, the magazine carries minimal advertising and is populated with striking imagery produced exclusively by the pair.
Every issue focuses on a different theme, with the latest, ‘OBJECT’ being packed with celebrity portraits.
And, proving the pulling power that this title now exerts, there’s an impressive line-up of talent inside: the likes of Hilary Swank, Ozzy Osbourne, Emmy Rossum, Lily Allen, Pamela Anderson, Michael Shannon and Terry Crews, all shot with the Dimitri and Jesper’s favourite camera, a Hasselblad H5D-50c.
First things first: where did that crazy name for the magazine come from? “When we started out working together we didn’t want to use our names, because it seemed strange to put one person’s name before the other,” says Dimitri. “We wanted to be democratic about the partnership so instead we chose something we had in common. A key Russian and Danish staple food is the Herring, so we thought this would be perfect: Herring & Herring.
It’s also a good reflection of our personalities in that it can sound serious, like a law firm or be a bit of a joke. That’s how we see ourselves: we’re very serious about our work but like to have fun and inject a sense of humour in to our pictures.”
Choosing a Camera:
The choice of camera came down to what could tick all the boxes in terms of flexibility and delivery of ultimate image quality, with the CMOS-powered H5D-50c having the extra bonus of being one of the fastest medium format models on the market.
“There is just so much to love about this camera,” says Dimitri. “It’s superbly built and is the first camera system we’ve ever used that performed flawlessly throughout every session. We both shoot and pass the camera between us and shooting tethered is a must, so we love the seamless integration we get with Phocus software. But above all it’s about the incredible image quality. You just have to see the pictures to experience the difference.”
This ideally suits the ethos of Herring & Herring, which is strongly visual: more of a coffee table book than a magazine, there are no written editorials, interviews, trend forecasts or beauty tips, just a striking set of interrelated images. “We’ve been putting out the magazine for the past two years,” says Dimitri, “and now go out to around 25 countries. We print on heavyweight art paper, with gold foil embossed text on the cover and credits band, and the printing, paper stock and finishes all have very high production values. Even so, we’re determined to make the cost as affordable as possible, just $20, and the cost of publication is met by issue sales and a selection of beauty and fashion brands and a single ad on the back page.”
The theme of each issue isn’t always clear until its finished – it all depends on the ideas Dimitri and Jesper have prior to shooting and what they actually feel once the whole thing has been put together. The pair shoots all of the content for the magazine and comes up with all of the creative direction and concepts. Outside of that there’s just a very small team involved that oversees production, talent relationships, casting and the general day-to-day magazine work.
“We really try to work together with the talent in the magazine to build portraits and editorials that we are all proud of and to which we have all contributed creatively,” says Dimitri. “There is a lot of back and forth with the celebrities we shoot before we get on set. We want them to be part of the process and not just”show up and smile”. It’s a lot more fun for us that way and we know they enjoy that process as well.
“We feel extremely lucky to have worked with such an incredible line-up of artists. For each issue we put together a list of entertainers that have inspired us; people whose personalities or work has somehow influenced us. We then reach out to their representatives and see if they are available and would be interested in collaborating with us. Since our publication and process is non-traditional, it takes a smart team (managers, publicists and talent) to recognise the value of investing time in to a project like the one we’re putting together. But with each issue it gets easier to attract talent, which is good because it’s important for us to have a great mix of characters in each issue. Turning a page and seeing someone unexpected or totally new to the scene next to a legend is really cool.”
Not only do Dimitri and Jesper photograph each issue of Herring & Herring, they’re also the publishers and are responsible for liaising with those who can organise the magazine’s distribution to newsstands, bookstores and museums all around the world. It’s a huge responsibility, and without having a handle on the whole process of magazine production from start to finish there’s no way an issue would find its way out into the market.
“It’s a big undertaking,” Dimitri concedes, “and the magazine does take up most of our time. However, we do still take on commissions outside of Herring & Herring, and it’s actually a great break for us to shoot for other publications and to do commercial work for brands. Sometimes the hard work of producing the magazine gets in the way of the simple fun of just taking pictures, so we love shooting for others. It’s also a great way to meet new people who might turn out to be future creative collaborators or subjects.”