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Long Beach Zine Fest Celebrates Its Biggest One yet This Sunday, but Why the Explosion of Interest in The DIY Print Scene in 2019?

Why Bring Me Flowers When I’m Dead? When You Had the Time to Do It When I Was Alive is just one of the engaging titles of the zines that will available this weekend this Sunday, September 8th, the Long Beach Zine Fest.

It’s a photography and poetry zine in honor of Jaklin Romine’s grandmother. She is a visual artist from El Sereno and performing art activist who creates zines as a creative outlet and safe space to simply be herself and share ideas about her upbringing. “I never thought I’d have a story to tell...and this  is the first time I am making them.” For the series, Romine traveled to the L.A. Flower Mart once a week selecting identical flower arrangements for her home and for her grandmothers. 

 Romine is just one of the 130 independent and diverse exhibitors providing one of the widest range of topics to date. The fest itself is one of the longest-standing zine gatherings in the Southern California area. When LBZF began there were only three zine fests in the area ( L.A., O.C., and I.E.). Since then there has been an influx with the count somewhere around twenty-six fests currently happening all within the Southern California area. 

Which begs the question: In an increasingly digital world, why the explosion of interest in this DIY print scene?

Like Romine, there are many newcomers to the zine scene of southern California. As well as many of the zine OGs who have maintained a steady output since the 90s and early to mid-2000s. Zine fests now make up a large part of the distribution model for independent zines, replacing the mail order and bookstore consignment model from 20 years ago. 

Jaklin Romin. Portrait by Texas Isaiah

Organizer Sarah Bennett who has been with the fest since its inception attributes the rise of zines to the younger generation diving headfirst into zine-making as an alternative to the increasingly digital generation they were born into. The idea of self-expression within a strong supportive community is one of the many reasons that zine culture has been allowed to thrive and be successful. 

The recurring theme amongst zine creators is that it’s not about making money or selling zines, but instead creating something they are passionate about sharing with the rest of the world.  

Sophia Zarder's zine. Photos courtesy of Sophia Zarder.

Empowered by the process, zinesters are free to flex their creative identities without fear of repercussions from the internet trolls and naysayers of the world. “This is where it starts...” Bennett mentions referring to the creative realization process that many who attend the fest as well as those who exhibit. “I love it cause you to get an insight into what the future looks like.”

Sophia Zarders

Sophia Zarders is an illustrator and comic artist who will be exhibiting at the fest this year describes the need to make zines as a type of catharsis. “Zines had really been a good outlet for me to make things in a way that I could print myself and distribute myself and share all the ideas and thoughts in my head.” Zarders will be selling her most recent work “You're Funny for A…” a zine celebrating trans comedians, non-binary performers. Zarders who has been attending since 2014, sees the importance of zine fests as a gathering because of the platform it provides. Since she started attending she’s seen more inclusive and diverse zinesters being showcased. “It's really important in showing different voices.”

Daniel and Vanessa Garica started Influentza Independent Press in 2012 as a way to express themselves when there weren’t many opportunities for young people to do so, though they have recently taken a break because they had a child. Coming of age in the indie rock scene during the pre-social media internet age, they heard about zines but it wasn’t something that was regularly accessible to them. In 2012, zines were only available in certain bookstores in Los Angeles like Skylight Books, but not much else. “We didn’t really have access to zines growing up,” says Vanessa. “But you heard about it in pop culture and the internet, and you think: ‘I want to make one.’” She finishes, “I just didn’t know how to.” So they decided to make them on their own.

Photo courtesy of Influentza Independent Press.

From his perspective, Daniel notes that as the cultural tides shifted zinesters are more tuned into the political tone perhaps in part because of the access to more information from the internet. However, he points out that zine culture still exists “on the fringes” that tie back to riot grrrl fanzines from the 80s and 90s that provided a gateway for a newer generation to feel empowered to get into zine-making. Their zines have evolved over time. They began with having contributors to submit around a theme of their choosing, as they progressed, their work would become more streamlined with fewer contributors and focusing on current social movements such as Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights. Vanessa works as a graphic designer and would incorporate her distinctive style that created a strong visual identity for Influentza.

Long Beach Zine Fest is a one-day free public festival showcasing zines, DIY culture, and independent print media. The Long Beach-centered fest will feature an impressive array of table exhibitors, various workshops, panel discussions, live music from Long Beach bands such as  Shiro, Primrose River, Shy But Flyy. Also featuring an expanded outdoor food and retail garden local food vendors, including a vegan food court by Long Beach Vegan, Mobo’s Mac and Cheese, Shady Grove Foods, Chinitos Tacos and more.

Editor’s note: L.A. Taco will have a table at the Long Beach Zine Fest. Come up and say what up!

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