AllFormat’s Ioana was curious about Trey Derbes’ TourDogs work, so she decided to ask him some questions.
IM: Your social media followers (and ours, over at Allformat) will know you as a prolific zine maker. When did you start? And more importantly why?
TD: Thank you so much for that title! I started early in 2018 making zines featuring my personal photos because I wanted to do something else with my photos. Sharing them on social media didn’t seem fulfilling and is counter to how I enjoy looking at photos (which is through photobooks, prints and zines). At first, I followed the style of Cometbus zines - which were mainly short stories about living in punk houses and touring - and printed small A5 zines. I published my own photos like this, but I’ve always felt insecure about my personal photos. There are so many good photographers in the community and I felt better about publishing and promoting other photographers. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year. I think photos are meant to be looked at in print form to truly enjoy them. So much is missed when scrolling through photos on a phone screen.
IM: At first you were making and giving zines away for free. That must’ve set you back a few $ but you must have gotten something out of it - what was that?
TD: I still giveaway zines for free every month. It does cost me money, but I feel that there is more value in giving zines away for free. Maybe I could make some money by selling them, but giving them away would get them into the hands of many people. That felt way more valuable and fulfilling than making a few bucks here and there. After I did my first few zine giveaways I noticed that people from all around the world were getting my zines (which I could never have imagined happening). My next thought was there are so many excellent photographers that could also benefit from this. So I started reaching out to photographers I had met through workshops or online photo communities to see if they would be interested in working with me. What I get out of it is the joy of doing something that I am passionate about and seeing the excitement of the photographers when they see that their zines are all gone in about 3-5 minutes. I started the zine subscriptions mainly as a way to help me continue doing the free zine giveaways at less of a loss. I don’t mind the loss though. I will always give away zines for free.
IM: What’s your typical process, how do you find photographers to publish?
TD: I love to publish photographers that I think are good and also photographers that don’t get much attention in the community. There are people that participate regularly in the giveaways and we communicate a lot. There is the collective (Diffuse Collective) that I am lucky to be a part of. I’ve made zines for them. James Moreton @go_jmo and I did a Charlie Kirk @twocutedogs workshop together and started up an online friendship through that. His photos are amazing so of course I asked him. Everyone in All Format Collective is so talented so I reached out to you guys individually. I don’t really have a set process. It’s sort of like deciding to take a photo. Sometimes there’s a feeling that something will be cool so you go for it. I have been receiving some submissions lately, but I don’t like the idea of people submitting photos for the zine. It feels sort of dirty to me. I would rather naturally develop a relationship with them and it’s like I’m doing a zine for my friend. I think everyone has the talent to take great photos. Sometimes it’s the presentation and not the photo. So I’ll look through an instagram feed and if the photos feel like they would be cool as a zine I get stoked and ask if they would be interested.
IM: You seem to travel a lot, is that for work or pictures (or both?)
TD: I love to immerse myself in other cultures and traveling gives me that opportunity. Taking photos is how I document my personal excitement while traveling. Though, by the time I’ve shared the photos the novelty of the excitement has worn off and I’m mainly trying to express an emotional state that may not be happiness or excitement. I used to only travel for work or music (which is also work in a way), but I’m starting to travel more just for the sake of traveling and getting away from my day job. Traveling with bands always provides very interesting experiences because we’re typically trying to save as much money as possible which involves sleeping on a lot of random floors, eating whatever food is provided to you for free, and also playing in some very interesting venues.
IM: Who or what inspires your own work?
TD: There have been so many photographers that have inspired me in the past. Currently, my biggest inspiration is Daido Moriyama. His photos have always left me puzzled, because my first impression is I truly enjoy them but the reason is not so easy to determine. I’ve studied countless books and zines of his to try to figure out why his work is so mesmerizing. I came to a conclusion of why it is so good, but I won’t bore you with the details. Everyone finds their own reasons to enjoy something and my reasoning may not resonate with others. On top of his amazing photos, he has such a huge library of books and zines. You could spend a lifetime going through all of his work. He has always felt like a D.I.Y. punk photographer to me. I can’t imagine me ever growing out of enjoying his photos. In the past I was heavily influenced by Jason Eskanazi, Boogie, Josef Koudelka, etc. Another big influencer for me is Mario Testino. His photos have such a wild energy to them and they are truly unique. The first time I came across one of his books I could not believe my eyes. His work is so daring and fun. You can’t help but get goosebumps of excitement when looking through any of his personal work.
IM: From what I’ve seen, music is a huge part of your life. Did music inspire your photographs or did photography come first?
TD: The music came first for sure. I’ve been playing in bands for about 25 years. I started taking photos about 12 years into playing music. I always brought a camera and tried to make cool tour photos. Sort of a tour diary. But I could never really execute that well. There was a really long time of some really terrible photos but all the bandmates enjoyed them so it wasn’t a total loss. Once I started getting into the street photography community I started trying to adapt the principles to my tour photography. Still, not very good photos. But to answer your question, the music inspired the photography.
IM: Let’s say you could ask any photographer in the world to do a zine with you. Dead or alive. Who would you ask?
TD: I’m extremely happy and lucky for the people that have worked with me up until now. That said, if I had the chance to do a zine with Daido Moriyama that would be an amazing experience. Even though I know I would be too anxious to ask him all of the questions I would love to ask. I’m sure I would get over the anxiety and ask all of the questions I could think about. He probably wouldn’t want to do a zine with me after that!
IM: Thank you very much for your time!
You can see Trey’s work on his IG @tourdogs and website www.tourdogs.com.