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We Can’t Do This Alone: Jefferson Hack’s new book looks at 25 years of Dazed magazine

Hack founded Dazed & Confused with photographer Rankin while studying at London College of Printing in 1991. The Dazed group now includes visual culture site Nowness, AnOther magazine and AnOther Man.

Described as “a journey into underground culture”, We Can’t Do This Alone: Jefferson Hack The System is more of a manifesto than a retrospective. With a mix of old and new material, the book celebrates both inspiring cultural figures who have graced the pages of Dazed and AnOther over the years, and champions media and art which challenges the status quo.

There’s a fascinating selection of archive interviews: Hack talks to Bjork, Tilda Swinton and Ai Wei Wei, Thom Yorke interviews himself and David Bowie interviews Alexander McQueen in a lovely feature from 1996. The book also includes a look at some of Dazed and AnOther’s various collaborations with artists, musicians and designers over the years, from a photo project with Nick Waplington documenting UK youth culture in the mid 2000s to provocative covers tackling human rights by Barbara Kruger and Damien Hirst, and MOVEment, a series of films created for AnOther last year in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells, which featured dancers performing in bespoke costumes by leading fashion designers.

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Issue one of Dazed magazine from 1991. The magazine was created in poster format, with three A4 pages that folded into an A4 cover. “It was done that way simply because it was the only thing we could afford,” writes Hack
Björk cover shot by Rankin in 1995
Björk cover shot by Rankin in 1995. “Björk was our first personality cover star, the previous ones had all been very conceptual,” writes Hack. “[Rankin] was absolutely adamant that he only wanted to see her eye on the cover,” he says
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An interview with Gwyneth Paltrow from 2003, where Paltrow was asked personal questions submitted by family and friends

The book isn’t arranged in chronological order but it does present a look at Dazed through the ages, from its first ever issue – created in A3 poster format – to its first personality led cover starring Bjork. Commenting on the inaugural issue, Hack writes: “We were pushing an aesthetic that was totally DIY and unstudied, and looking back on it now, it was pretty ugly and raw, kind of wilfully unattractive really. It has a sense of idealism mixed with arrogance, which has really carried through our whole journey in publishing.”

The list of people and projects featured is diverse – from activists and artists to world-famous musicians – and reflects Dazed’s continued desire to capture the cultural zeitgeist and promote those who are doing something different, producing innovative and experimental work or expressing themselves in new and interesting ways. In a foreword, Hack describes himself as “an observer or artists who, to my mind, are truly listening to the future and galvanising it in the present”. This ethos is still reflected in the magazine today, with cover stars like Kendall Jenner and Beyonce featured alongside creatives whose work sits firmly outside the mainstream.

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Images from an exhibition celebrating 20 years of Dazed at Somerset House
Cover design by Barbara Kruger from Dazed magazine's July 2006 issue
Cover design by Barbara Kruger from a July 2006 issue celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights

The book was designed by New York-based art director Ferdinando Verderi and features some brilliant archive imagery. Verderi says he was keen to avoid creating something that focused solely on the past or echoed the visual language of Dazed and AnOther, instead creating a distinct aesthetic through a mix of bold type, quieter serifs and a rigid structure in spreads (each features two sidebars, a wide gutter break and a side note from Hack introducing the project. Chapters are grouped not by eras but by themes or ideas and each is introduced by a series of statements or questions, which Verderi says aim to “break up” the archival content).

“The book’s main design feature is its rhythm, the flow of which is intentionally interrupted by dissonant sections and elements,” he says. “[It] is built in a perfectly symmetrical way from front to end, with the original content at its extremes and the archival content at its centre, providing a sense of circularity.”

Original content comes in the form of typographic artworks illustrating quotes by Hack, which have also been made into prints to celebrate the book’s launch (pictured below). Designs are inspired by Hack’s words and each one is different, but Verderi acknowledges a common language of “machine-error and handmade imperfection”.

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Chapter openers feature bold statements and questions, touching on protest, identity and activism
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Images of Corinne Day’s work. Day once lived in a flat above Dazed’s offices on Brewer Street. “She taught me a lot about photography,” says Hack

The book has been produced in an initial run of 5000 and each cover is unique, made up of images from spreads and printed using a Kodak inkjet printer.

“We were fascinated by the idea of ‘machine-made error’,” explains Verderi. “We created a number of masters and variations and thanks to the Kodak team, we programmed the machine to an algorithm that would merge each master with each variation, numbering copies differently…. The process resembled a hacking operation itself as we needed to use this machine in a way in which it had never been used before,” he adds. Verderi describes the design as an ‘anti-cover’ and says that using just one or a few emblematic images would have undermined “the anti-hierarchical structure of the book.”

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Spread showcasing AnOther magazine’s Decade in Style project – “the idea was to take an outfit from the last ten years from a designer’s career and have a brilliant woman wear it,” says Hack. Images were shot by Craig McDean
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Stills from Nothing, a short film created for Nick Waplington for BBC2, produced by Jefferson Hack

It’s a thought provoking read and packed full of visual inspiration, with work from leading filmmakers, fashion designers, photographers and visual artists. As its title suggests, the book is a celebration of creative collaboration, something that has been key to Dazed’s success over the years. It also champions independent publishing and magazines that aren’t afraid to take risks.

In his foreword, he writes: “The independent way is a way of keeping the magic alive…. As soon as publishing becomes solely in the aid of commerce and power, then its creativity and decision-making becomes about the formulas of success and not invention. The process becomes a means to an end.”

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The Best Way To Make Money Is Not To Make Any, and Protest Against Indifference artworks created by Verderi and Hack
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Been There Seen It Done It and Ask Unanswered Questions artworks by Verderi and Hack
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A selection of covers for We Can’t Do This Alone. Each one is unique and created using images from spreads within the book

We Can’t Do This Alone: Jefferson Hack The System is published by Rizzoli on May 17 and priced at £50. Dazed is hosting events in various cities to promote the book’s launch – the first, at Paris store Colette, takes place on May 17. An exhibition of artwork from the book will be on show at Colette throughout the month and fashion label Each x Other has produced a run of t-shirts featuring Verderi’s typographic designs. You can read Hack’s foreword to the book in full over on anothermag.com

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