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Gavin's Underground

Sam Milianta

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2013-05-22 - As we get closer to the Alt Press Festival, you're going to be seeing a lot more zines hitting local coffee shops and random magazine racks. Some of the comic variety, some photo, some just scribed manifestos that are both hilarious and scary to delve into, but no matter the subject, they're always worth a look. One individual's works you may see around a lot are that of our old friend Sam Milianta, who has produced several zines in various forms, ranging from one-shot publications to volumes of photographic documentation. Today, I chat with him about his works and what he's been up to lately, as well as his thoughts on the local zine community. (All photos courtesy of Sam Milianta.)

Sam Milianta
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Gavin: Hey, Sam. First off, how have you been since we last chatted?

Sam: I've been good. 2013 has been a weird year but in a good way. Lots of new, unusual stuff happening all the time, some travel, some skateboarding and  lots of random adventuring.
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Gavin: Photography-wise, what have you been up to lately?

Sam: Rolls and rolls of unprocessed film!  I've been shooting a lot, mostly with film cameras that fit in my pocket. I carry a camera with me everywhere and lately, I've been shooting with this beat-up Contax T2 camera that imprints the date on the photo (think family photos from the 1990s). It's often considered a real amateur thing to have the date-imprint feature turned on with a camera, but I've been really inspired by a photographer named Ari Marcopolous, as well as the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, who both shoot "diary" or "life memo" photos with a snapshot camera with the date-stamp feature turned on. That's my major project right now, and I'm having a show at Seeing Things Gallery in San Jose, California in July to culminate a year of this project, although it will technically only be 11 months, since I will still be shooting stuff at the show.

Gavin: Getting right to it, what got you interested in zines and what were some early ones you started reading?

Sam: I got interested in zines in 2003, when I discovered a zine called Hamburger Eyes out of San Francisco. It's still around and is well-known for being The Continuing Story of Life on Earth.  Hamburger Eyes puts out an excessive amount of good zines and that got me into a lot of other random zines, like Lowcard, Sad Kids and some others. I had seen zines before, like Erik Olsen's City One and Paying in Pain, which were both Bay Area skateboard zines, but Hamburger Eyes was the zine that got me really into collecting and reading zines.
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Gavin: How did the idea come about to start creating your own?

Sam: After looking at so many, I guess I just wanted to make my own. I got together a bunch of photos and went to the UPS store in Cedar City where I lived at the time.

Gavin: What was your first one like, and how was it for you putting it together?

Sam: My first one was called Old Enough To Know Better and I made it in 2005. It was pretty random, and I had no idea about layouts or how to put the pictures I want so they would end up on the page I wanted them to. Eventually, I just decided to make 15 copies of what I had and give them to friends.
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Gavin: What did you think of the response from people who picked it up, and what made you decide to create more?

Sam: Well, I've always had awesomely supportive friends and pretty much only my friends saw the first issue. So, most of what I heard was, "I really like this picture you included of me." It was all positive but it was pretty biased. Really, I don't think I ever made a conscious decision to make more, I just kind of felt like it would be fun to make one from time to time, so about once or twice a year, I'd sit down and make one.

Gavin: Unlike other creators, you don't have a single zine or a set pattern for release. What made you go down this course rather than have a pattern?

Sam: I was going through this period where I didn't really know what I was doing with my life, creatively and otherwise, and wanted to maybe push myself a little more. I also like the idea of sharing photos in physical print, not just on the Internet. I read an interview with Ari Marcopolous, where he said that he was doing a zine every week for 52 weeks. I thought that if he could do one a week, I could at least manage one a month, so I reduced posting photos to my blog and focused on print media instead. As for the format, until this year, the zines I was making were titled Social Studies. That was my zine title and I did several issues of  that until October 2012. But part of pushing yourself is that sometimes you have to do away with the old ways of doing things and try something new. There really aren't any zine rules. You don't have to really please any advertisers or anything like that. So, I feel like each zine kind of becomes its own thing, and so the titles and formats get mixed up a bit. I'm mostly doing it for fun anyway, so I like trying new things.
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Gavin: What's the process for you in making a new zine, from idea to final product?

Sam: It kind of depends on the zine. Sometimes, I have some photos I just really want to show that are unrelated. Other times, I'll make a zine of photos from a trip I went on. Sometimes, I even have a theme -- or find a theme among a bunch of things that seemed unrelated at first. I really would like to do a zine of writings, drawings and not photos; it's something I've been working on. But generally, I get an idea and put all the photos in either an envelope, if they're prints, or in a folder on my computer until I have enough content to work with and go from there.

Gavin: Do you go the traditional format of cutting and pasting it all together for copying, or do you prefer to create it digitally and give it the roughly created look?

Sam: It's probably about 60/40 at this point. I make a lot of them on the computer and just print from the file. I like that because I can make stuff bigger or smaller really easily and I can add things like type easier. But I still make a lot of zines from prints with a glue stick and a stack of paper. I also scan my own writing a lot, even if I'm doing it on a computer. Sometimes, I make a zine about a trip I took and I'll write in my diary on the trip and put an excerpt of that in the zine.
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Gavin: I know you've done a couple recently. What were those about, and what inspired you to create them?

Sam: The one I made was about a trip I took to Los Angeles for my birthday. I basically just put a bunch of photos from that trip in a zine. I also made two volumes of a zine, where I asked a bunch of friends who live all over the U.S. to give me photos that they took with the same camera that we all use. It ended up being pretty cool to see how a bunch of people who use basically the same equipment shoot such different things -- especially since we're all friends and are generally interested in a lot of the same stuff, as well. As for inspiration, basically, I'm trying to put something out every month until October. But I'm finding it hard to just put one thing out. Sometimes, I just get hyper on the weekend and decide to go to Fed Ex next to the Walker Center and make something.. I guess you could say I don't have enough going on in life socially so I'm filling it up creatively.

Gavin: Where can we find copies of your zines?

Sam: The easiest way is to look for me downtown. I'm usually pushing down Second or Third South on a skateboard.  I often have a blue backpack on and it has zines in it. That's the easiest way.  I've been thinking about doing a big cartel or something on the Internet but I kind of like giving zines away instead of selling them. The only advantage to selling them is it would enable me to do more things in full color. I guess people could also e-mail me at smilianta77@gmail.com and I could make sure they get a copy.
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Gavin: Looking down the line, what new books do you have in mind that we can see soon?

Sam: Well, I'm working on a zine of portraits of people I know who I ran into on the street. It's been kind of six-month project because it just happens here and there. Some days, I get three or four pictures; some days, nothing. That should be out in about three weeks. For as much time as I spend on a skateboard, I haven't done too many zines that are just about skateboarding, so I'm thinking about doing something along those lines for a change.

Gavin: Going a bit local, what's your take on our publishing scene, both good and bad?

Sam: I don't know much about the local publishing scene. I know there are people out there making stuff, but it seems like I never see any of it. I know Nate Silverstein is talking about doing a zine library at a local coffee shop. My friend TJ Nelson just made a really cool book/magazine called MUX. I feel like everyone I know in other cities is publishing something this year and it's big year for self-publishing, but I haven't noticed too much going on in Salt Lake. I hope that I am totally wrong about this because I'd love to see a lot more art, writing, and photos in print. I feel like Salt Lake has a ton of talented people who you never see anything from. I guess I'd just like to see more.
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Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Sam: Well, if anyone out there has ever wanted to make a zine but doesn't know how, please contact me, I would love to help you. I feel like Salt Lake is kind of a strange city in that it has some very amazing creative people but it's not a big enough city to support the arts in ways that other cities can. There is definitely an effort from Utah in general to support the arts, but it seems like a lot of smaller galleries, publishers, printers, etc. struggle to be able to make it more than a few years. I wish I had a good answer to this question because I think about it all the time.

Gavin: What are some of the local zines you enjoy and think people should be checking out?

Sam: TJ Nelson has been putting out some good stuff. It's super-limited, so people should find him on the Internet. I really liked Willy Nevin's Sofa King zine, but I think he might be doing some different things now. Ricky Vigil's comics he makes are amazing. The Leviathan always makes me laugh. My friend Jeff Griffin made a cool zine called Goth Night and I want him to make more like that. Again, I feel like I might be ignorant of the local scene. I feel like there are lots of people out there making stuff that I don't know about.
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Gavin: What are your thoughts on the Alt Press Fest and the work they do to promote the art form?

Sam: I think the only negative thing I can say about the Alt Press Fest is that it doesn't get promoted well enough! Maybe it's my lack of being Facebook savvy, but I never know about it until the deadline has passed. It's amazing that Salt Lake has something like this. Our library has one of the biggest zine collections of any public institution. It's really a great thing, and I feel like it's a good opportunity to meet people who are doing these things and maybe even collaborate. I've actually only been to the Alt Press Fest once because I didn't know about it or was traveling every time it's happened. I hope to be there this year, helping Ricky Vigil with his table.

Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?

Sam: Not to oversimplify things, but more publications. I'll be putting out a zine every month for the rest of the year, sometimes two or three in a month. I'd like to shoot a bunch more, and I have some trips planned that will, hopefully, turn into some good content. I'd like to do more writing and maybe even some paintings or drawings for future work. I'd like to collaborate with people, and am thinking of maybe publishing things for other people. Please contact me! I like making new friends and I like helping people get their art, writing, or whatever you do out there. You can also expect that I won't quit my day job.
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Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Sam: If you're interested in good photo zines, this is a list of places to look. I get a lot of inspiration from all of  these. As a disclaimer, there is a heavy skateboard contingent running throughout even though very few of these people publish traditional skateboard zines: Parking Block Press, Book Book Press, Seeing Things Gallery, Blue Tan Collective, Sundays Zine, and King Hamburger Eyes.


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