Ten things on my mind
Good things, new things and future things
It’s been a long time since I gave an update on what I’m enjoying, working on and thinking about. So here goes: a stream-of-consciousness screenshot of my brain. (And if you’re waiting on more interviews and life wisdom from awesome small business owners and creatives, sit tight. They’re coming soon.)
01. Adios, Courier
I’ve bid adieu to Courier and started a new gig as editorial director at Mailchimp. Feeling lots of emotions. Big transitions are always weird. Leaving behind something that’s been your life, your passion, for so long. I’m sure you know what I mean.
With Courier it was love at first sight. In 2017, I left behind a stable, globetrotting job at Monocle to join a curious, tiny magazine that had only just begun to stretch its legs. Courier’s strapline was stories of modern business. It was stocked for free at cafes and coworking spots in London. It came out only a few times a year. But I was hooked.
There was something different about Courier. No one did what it did: fill a magazine with genuinely cool businesses, then inspire and show you how to start one yourself. When it launched in 2013, Courier was smart. Of-the-moment. Forget about billion-dollar tech startups—why not finally launch your side hustle? Or sell jewelry? Open a cafe. Build an animation studio. You could live a life on your terms and make some money doing what you love. That was Courier’s raison d'être.
I don’t know where the past six years have gone.
We built an incredible team, got stocked in dozens of countries, made 50 issues, signed a publishing deal with Gestalten, put out 3 coffee table books—including a new one called Dream Businesses (buy it here! I profiled Tok Kise, a Desire Paths alumnus)—grew our email list to 2m subscribers, organised an annual festival, made some films, launched a fund for amazing Black founders, ran a daily podcast during Covid, and then got acquired by Mailchimp.
So what’s next? At Mailchimp I’ll be working on creating top-notch editorial content, injecting more storytelling into the brand’s DNA, and helping to build out our thought leadership. It’s in the sweet spot of what I’ve always enjoyed doing: telling stories of people doing what they love.
See you on the other side.
02. Look at this car
Kim and I have watched a unhealthy amount of 1980s French films lately. One result: I’ve developed a major crush on Sophie Marceau…
Another result: I’ve discovered this insane vehicle. In La Boum (The Party), the family drives a wild orange French machine called a Matra Rancho. I had to pause to Google it. Do you know about this thing? I want one. Go down the rabbit hole…
03. LA vs Paris
Speaking of, we were in Paris recently. It rained. We were hyper-vigilant for (non-existent?) bedbugs. Pompidou tickets were delayed because of strikes. Severe jet-lag. And yet… god, I love Paris. Have been dozens of times in my life (the benefit of 12 years in Eurostar-able London, plus a French wife) and I still never get tired of it. Living on the westside of Los Angeles this past year really rewired my brain (in both good and less good ways). So this is what a walkable city looks like! It’s jarring when you make that transition: Saint-Germain and Santa Monica, the Marais and Abbot Kinney. Two different universes. We love lots about LA, but also really miss Europe.
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You’re reading a Diversion edition—a personal roundup of ideas, links, brands, recommendations and other good stuff on my radar.
04. Leica world
I’m not a gear guy. I don’t know, or care, about the latest bluetooth speakers, mobile phones, VR headsets, game consoles, whatever. It’s like Raihan said in the last edition of Desire Paths about spec sheet paralysis. I want a high quality thing, but then I want to ignore gear guides for the next 10 years. I don’t want to constantly look over my shoulder for version 2 of something. Who has time for that? Upgrading till you die.
As a street photographer I take a similar perspective. I try to stay zen, minimalist. One camera and one lens at a time. Less gear chatter, more taking pictures. For the past few years, my only camera was a Fuji X100V. It served me spectacularly well. I picked it up when it came out in 2020 (before it became as unfindable as a rare Beanie Baby). I’ve taken some of my favorite images with my V. It’s been with me on many trips and in many crazy situations. It’s a bit battered but still works perfectly. I’m convinced it’s the best all-around street, travel, take-anywhere point-and-shoot you can buy (or, again, try to buy…), for the price.
And yet. I saw Leica was releasing the next model in its Q series. Despite my philosophy, and despite the steep price tag (I mean, really, unreasonably, are-you-kidding steep), I was intrigued. And the more I learned about the Q3—and I’ll spare the nerdy details—the more intrigued I became.
Fast forward to months of saving, planning, and putting myself on waitlists in official Leica stores from LA to Miami. It still didn’t generate a camera in my hands. Too little stock, too much demand. After desperate pleas on a call with Leica in West Hollywood and finding out I still had another 3-6 months wait, I was told, It’s good to have patience. Waiting is part of the fun. I mean, sure. But I don’t want a Stoicism lesson. I want a camera.
So in Montmartre the other week, I walk into a tiny, slightly haphazard, but very quaint independent Leica and Hasselblad shop. No way this place has a Q3. The owner, Sandrine, is standing behind the counter, helping an older guy with an older Leica. When he leaves, I step up to the counter.
You’re going to laugh, but… you wouldn’t happen to have a Q3, right?
Sandrine threw a mischievous smile.
You want a Q3? Sure, I’ve got one. But only ONE.
My Fuji will play tag-team every now and then. For the moment, I’m focusing on discovering what this beautiful thing (and 28mm) has to offer. So far, so very good…
05. New photo books
A friend and a mentor have both released new photo books...
Chloe Sherman, a San Francisco-based photographer who I met during the Alex Webb workshop in Oaxaca, just released her first book, Renegades: San Francisco, The 1990s: ‘a tender, joyous portrait of the thriving queer subculture in 90s San Francisco.’ Chloe’s a hugely talented photographer. Her work during Oaxaca was next-level, and I was so happy to see all the praise roll in for this book—including a write-up in the New Yorker. You can grab a copy here.
Richard Kalvar, the Brooklyn-born, Paris-based Magnum photographer who’s a master of a certain kind of black-and-white observational opera-in-the-street style—and whose photography workshop I joined last year in Paris—has a new book out called Selected Writings: ‘photographs taken during his career that capture the written word, expressed on public signs, graffiti, gravestones or t-shirts.’ All sorts of brilliant snapshots of life here. Buy a copy from Richard directly here.
06. The Santa Monica Pier project
Speaking of, I’m finally approaching the end of my Santa Monica Pier photo project. I think. For the past year I’ve been visiting the pier every week, shooting its inhabitants, trying to capture a new perspective on a very old and famous place. I’ve taken tens of thousands of images. Spent countless hours there, solo, wandering, learning. How do I know it’s time to wrap it up? I don’t. Maybe it’s not. But a project has to end at some point. I read recently in a book about the famous street photographer Gary Winogrand that he died without developing an unimaginable number of his own photos. That’s wild.
And so I think it’s time to start a new phase. An even more painful and tedious one. Self-editing. Sequencing. Hustling. Meeting publishers and designers. And getting a book out there in the world. Any photo book publishers out there? Let’s talk!
07. Two new magazines
My friend Austė Skrupskyte runs a Stockholm-based creative practice called Studio Playground. She also runs a Substack of the same name and has just launched the first issue of a new biannual print mag. I was lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes peek when it was still in development, and I’m incredibly impressed. You can read more about the mag here and grab a copy here.
And have you heard about INQUE? Graphic designer Matt Willey and editor Dan Crowe have created an annual literary magazine packed with world-class writers, designers, photographers, zero advertising, no web version, a giant format/size, and they're capping the lifetime of the magazine at 10 years (i.e. 10 issues). I love this experiment. Last year’s issue 1 was excellent. Issue 2 arrived at my doorstep recently and I’m still waiting to properly dig in. Get yours here.
08. Hitched (again) in Vegas
Kim and I spent Thanksgiving on a weeklong trip from LA to the Mojave Desert to Vegas to the Grand Canyon to nowheresville Arizona and back, with big stretches of Route 66, Navajo Nation, and terrain so alien I can’t even begin to describe it. We also renewed our vows after almost 4 years of marriage—with Elvis at Graceland Chapel, the self-proclaimed ‘home of the world’s first Elvis-themed wedding’. It’s sort of a long story. You only live once, right?
09. A new year ritual
For some people, the end of the year means making instantly forgettable resolutions. But I’ve got another ritual. In December I retire the previous year’s battered Hobonichi Techo Planner—a perfectly-sized, highly quirky, beautifully-designed, run-my-life-with-it daily diary from Japan—and replace it with a crisp, fresh edition.
10. Overcoming self-doubt
Finally, check out this 1965 letter from artist Sol LeWitt to sculptor Eva Hesse:
It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just
Thank you, thank you, thank you,
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