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I am a Camera #20 / 20 years of I am a Camera / 2020

March 21, 2020

I am a Camera zine, #1 – #20 (2000 – 2020)

By the year 2000 I’d been making zines for four years. Over that time it had become the activity my life hinged around. It’s not an exaggeration to say that zines saved me, for over the time I’d made them I’d grown from being an isolated and unwell teenager to an adult who, however shakily, was beginning to feel as if she did have a place in the world after all.

The first issue of I am a Camera was a combination of diary entries and short stories, shaped in part by what I was reading at the time, – women writers who I felt an accord with: Virginia Woolf, Janet Frame, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood – and by the energy of finding my voice. Although I’d been making zines for four years I hadn’t regarded what I was doing as writing in the way an author might write a book, or a short story, or even a diary. I had thought of the writing in my zines more like the transmission of my thoughts. But in this new zine, I am a Camera, I thought about the shape of the words as I wrote them, about how they worked alongside each other, and how they might create their own world independent of me, on the page.

Today when I open up I am a Camera #1, from 2000, and read the first line, a line from my diary from June 1999, and it says “Things are too hard to take in”, I can’t help but wish for that naivety. I remember it and still get echoes of it sometimes, that sense of feeling too much, noticing too much. Over years this has settled, the more I have felt in control of my powers as a writer and an observer. But now, in the time of the pandemic, it’s true again. Things are indeed too hard to take in. Even reading over the beginning of I am a Camera #20, written at the start of this year, seems to describe a way of life that is now of the past or rapidly becoming so. In it I  am sitting in a cafe, watching a turtle swimming in a fishtank and drinking a cup of earl grey tea, and considering what it means to have been making a zine for 20 years. Thinking about potential, about promise, about time and life and the writing of it.

This new zine is coming out in a world now operating under threat and fear. A difficult time is ahead. Writing this post wasn’t how I imagined I would launch this zine, sitting quietly in my room, listening to the wind outside and the cars going by, watching the leaves of the oak tree move. On the surface, nothing has changed. These are all familiar details, and I’ve spent many afternoons sitting here, exactly like this, but now I feel the edge, wondering (afraid) how things will change. I am sending out this new zine into an uncertain time, as a chronicle of a time before.

Thank you to all my readers, supporters and correspondents over the last 20 years of me making this zine. There are copies on Etsy if you’d like to buy one, though if you’re a regular reader and are under financial stress due to reduced/lost work in this time, just let me know, and I’ll post you one for free. Take care everyone. Look out for each other. Organise. Make things. Write. Rest.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. joevc permalink
    March 22, 2020 2:48 am

    I will certainly order one. Thank you for this post, and stay well.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      March 22, 2020 9:22 am

      Thanks Joe 🙂

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