June 24, 2010

Fiona Hayes: DayFour

Interview with Fiona Hayes
June 2010

You have been the Editor and Art Director of DayFour magazine for over eight years now. How did the concept for the magazine evolve?

I have spent my whole career art directing magazines, in London, Moscow and Munich, and now in New York as well. One part of the job that I have always loved is commissioning photography. Over years of looking at photographers’ portfolios, it often struck me that the pictures which photographers take for themselves are more exciting than those they are commissioned to do. People tend to be more inspired by love than by money (which I guess is obvious really). The more I talked to people about this, the more enthusiastic feedback I got, and that’s when the idea of creating a magazine about working for love took hold.

What does the title “DayFour” mean?

In an ideal world, we could all work for a living three days a week, and on the fourth day we could work on what we want to: whatever we love or are excited or inspired by. DayFour is all about personal work: the work we do for love. (And in an ideal world the three-day weekend is a given.)

How do you typically find artists for the issues? Do artists come to you, do you seek out specific artists, or both? What do you look for in an artist?

There are a few people who have been involved from the beginning, and some who contribute every few issues. New people continuously find me, often through the website, I am still amazed at how much incredible talent is out there, and how much passion for photography. I really don’t have to seek it out at all.

What do I look for in an artist? First and foremost, honesty. Much of my career has been spent working with fashion and beauty photography, and with portrait-making for commercial magazines, where a great deal of effort goes into “improving” on reality. But with DayFour, I seek out photography that engages with reality. I believe that the access to photography we have today is a privilege. The camera is an amazing tool for looking at the world and looking at ourselves, and the more openness we can bring to this looking, the better.

Occasionally this honesty can take the form of reportage – for the last issue, Polish photographer Aleksander Bochenek submitted a gory (but beautiful) story about a blood festival in Lebanon. There are any number of independent photography magazines that showcase fashion and beauty, but far fewer for reportage. However, the next issue, Ulysses II, is a day-in-the-life project, with contributors from around the world, and the very ordinariness of the subject-matter is its strength. My contributors had to acknowledge, ‘Well, it’s boring, there’s nothing going on here, but it’s my day, it’s my reality’ – and to shoot that reality. The best of them found ways to look at banal situations with fresh eyes.

I like people who don’t wear rose-tinted glasses. I look for photographers who THINK about their work. I prefer artists who are engaged with the world rather than self-contained, who can play by other peoples’ rules and maintain their creativity.

That said, not every story I have ever published fits my criteria – I think it’s just as important for me, the Editor, to be pushed a bit out of my comfort zone as for my contributors!

Recently, you organized and curated and exhibition for the seventh issue, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at theprintspace in London. How did this idea come about? Will you continue to curate exhibitions in tandem with your DayFour issues?

Each issue of D4 has a theme, and the themes gestate in my head over long periods of time – literally years, in fact. A theme is always something that is meaningful to me and that I want to get other people to debate, discuss, or think about. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is a phrase that has always resonated with me: I find as one gets older that it becomes more and more important to think about what you really want, what you need, what you actually can do without.

The show at theprintspace was the sixth DayFour exhibition. I’ve curated shows for most of our issues, and am already in discussions about the next exhibition, in London this autumn. The exhibitions and launch events are a way of extending the dialogue that the themes begin. And of course they are a way to have lots of fun with my wonderful contributors, who are the ones inspiring me to keep doing this!

Fiona Hayes
London June 2010