Deep Sleep is a quarterly online photography magazine founded by and featuring work from a small group of contributors who share the same office space in Shoreditch, East London. Each issue (published in February, May, August and November) will be on a specific theme and guest contributors are also invited to submit a set of images based on that theme. The only stipulations are that deadlines will be strictly observed, that contributions must, in our judgement, fit the theme and that we are seeking photography of the highest calibre, whether from experienced award-winning and exhibited contributors or emerging young talents in search of an outlet for their work. There's no money involved, of course. Not for anyone. In fact, one of our motivations was to do something untainted by the demands of the marketplace. So it is very much a labour of love and we welcome anyone who would like to share in that.
On publication of each issue, the theme for the following issue (or two) will be announced. If potential contributors have existing recent work that they believe fits the theme they are welcome to submit it, but what we'd really like is for people to go out and shoot something new. It's not about digging some old, half-forgotten set of pictures out of a drawer and trying to shoehorn them into the theme. The core group will edit the magazine collectively and decide on the content among themselves by majority decision. This has already thrown up considerable conflict of opinion and we will wait and see how this attempt at democracy works out.
Call it an experiment. It began as nothing more than an interesting possibility, first floated by the non-photographer among us, web-designer Sam Baguley, a man with both the desire and the necessary skill to make it happen. Some of us were enthusiastic from the start, others verged on apathetic, all of us were preoccupied with the onerous chore of trying to earn a living. But slowly after a long and uncertain gestation, it all of a sudden came to fruition.
The rationale was simple: in the internet age, where anyone with a simple website can make their images instantly available to half the planet, why rely solely on the whims, tastes, judgements and budgets of the few mainstream publications still taking an interest in photography? A web-based magazine could provide a showcase for work that was not necessarily commercial or the kind of thing we might do to earn money; it would be an opportunity to try and produce good work for the sake of producing good work; it would be a chance to exercise both our creativity and our discipline by having a theme and deadline to work to; it would be something interesting to send to contacts, clients and potential clients to show them our creative juices are flowing and, perhaps most importantly, sometimes you have to just do something in order to discover why you're doing it - you never know what might happen...
It started as one of those arcane private jokes that, over time, takes on a life of its own. It requires some explanation but for anyone who's curious here goes: Back in the day, two photographer friends, Ian Teh and Bertrand Meunier, were in the habit of wandering around the industrial wastelands of central China with nothing but a couple of Leicas, a bag of film and some thermal underwear. During the long, cold nights spent in dreary hotel rooms, when there was nothing worth watching on HBO, they founded an exclusive and entirely imaginary photographic agency which, with tongues in cheeks, they named the Deep in the Subject Agency (DSA). Over time, a hand-picked group of like-minded fools (i.e. photographers who took their work seriously, but not themselves) were invited to join. Some of them, including Ben Smith and Martin-Scott Jupp, humbly accepted. Over the years, DSA inevitably came to stand for a number of different things including Deep in the Shit Agency, Deep Sleep Agency, Dumb Stupid Arseholes and currently, due to the inexhaustible positivity of James Harris, our very own self-development guru, Definitive Superstar Associates. When it came to naming the magazine, we went back to Deep Sleep, partly because it appealed to the idler in all of us but also because of the association between sleep and creativity.