Launching a print publication in the digital age is a gamble. But Kansas City photographer Adam Finkelston, 37, is making a go of The Hand Magazine, a forum for artists working in photography and printmaking.
Finkelston, a 2000 alum of the Kansas City Art Institute, founded the quarterly journal with printmaker James Meara in April 2013. Finkelston had completed his master’s in photography at UMKC the year before.
A typical issue features roughly 50 pages of images. They range from a photo polymer print flocked with Cheetos and showing a knees-down view of a woman standing on a scale, by Colorado Springs-based Heather Oelklaus, to a relief print on fabric of “Clif, the Urban Deer,” by Elizabeth Gund of Kansas City.
Contributions come from artists around the world, and Finkelston keeps text to a minimum.
“There’s little text, little opinion, we don’t write editorials, we have no agenda,” he said. “We want to give artists a platform.”
Finkelston used his own money to start The Hand.
“Now it pretty much pays for itself,” he said.
Revenues are derived from subscriptions ($35 in the U.S.; $50 overseas), over-the-counter sales and submission fees. For each issue, The Hand puts out a call to artists, who pay $15 to have their work considered for publication. The magazine is printed in Merriam with a press run of 300.
Finkelston, who exhibits regularly at local venues and has also shown out of town, does not use The Hand as a vehicle for his own work, although, he said, “It has been helpful in making contacts.”
For the past eight years he has been a full-time photography teacher at Shawnee Mission East. It was there he met Meara, who is now completing his masters in fine arts in printmaking at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
The two work together on The Hand through Google Hangouts. Meara does the design; Finkelston receives the artist submissions and handles the administrative side.
He estimates he spends an average of 10 hours a week on the project, the fulfillment of a longstanding dream.
“I always had an interest in publishing a magazine,” Finkelston said. “Originally, I thought of starting a new photography club after the Society of Contemporary Photography closed. I did my master’s with Elijah Gowin at UMKC, and he said, ‘How about a magazine?’”
Working with Meara at Shawnee Mission East, Finkelston came to the conclusion that “photography and printmaking have so much in common.”
“I loved the idea of putting them together,” he said. “There’s lots of photography magazines and a few print magazines, but there’s not a lot of crossover in publications.”
From that idea, The Hand was born.
Heading up issue No. 1 in July 2013 was “The Hand Manifesto,” which declared: “The Hand will explore the weird, the wonderful, the peculiar and the poetic” and went on to spell out the publication’s goal to “connect printmakers and photographers in our common love for multiples” and to focus on work in which the artist’s hand was visible.
The Hand has struck a chord among artists — usually 50 to 75 artists submit work for each issue, Finkelston said, and about 80 percent of them make it in.
Finkelston also chooses each issue’s featured artist. The October 2014 magazine featured an alluring spread of images from Amy Rockett-Todd’s “Manus,” series of collodion ferrotype mosaics, composed of architectural and floral images transformed by her use of both historical wet-plate technique and digital manipulations.
Rockett-Todd, based in Tulsa, Okla., shared her enthusiasm for Finkelston’s venture. “It is refreshing to see a publication such as The Hand bringing together a community of artisans with the common goal of celebrating thought-provoking hand-produced works,” she wrote in an email to The Star, “and it is truly inspiring to see such a talented group of contributors in each issue.”
Rockett-Todd boasts a long resume, in keeping with the magazine’s goal to present both emerging and established artists. Finkelston stresses its global scope, but that doesn’t mean he neglects local talent.
The cover of the October 2014 issue displays a five-color silkscreen by Nick Naughton and Jordan Carr of Kansas City’s La Cucaracha Press. The January 2015 issue highlights Kansas City artist Rodolfo Marron III, featuring a brief artist’s statement and four new works on paper created with coffee, poke berries, cochineal and other natural pigments. The issue also includes an offer for a limited-edition print by Marron.
Commissioning limited-edition prints, including an “acrylic transfer on wood with Palo Santo-scented balm” by Kansas City photographer Leonor Jurado, is another project that is part of The Hand.
Finkelston and Meara also curate shows, such as “Do You Copy,” an international exhibition of photographs and prints on view at Missouri Western State University’s Potter Art Gallery through Feb. 15. (See sidebar.)
April M. Watson, curator of photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has watched Finkelston’s progress since he was a graduate student under Gowin, who is her husband. She also interacts with him at the Nelson’s Photo Forum, an open-ended group of enthusiasts that meets quarterly to talk about issues in contemporary photography and to view presentations of work.
Watson thinks the magazine performs a valuable role, “showcasing a kind of photographic practice that does not get the widespread professional recognition it genuinely deserves.”
“I think the magazine’s success demonstrates what one person with an impassioned vision can accomplish,” she said in a recent email. “Every issue is curated intelligently, and the quality of reproductions, given his limited budget, is great. The pictures really give a sense of the materiality of the images as objects.”
Going forward, Finkelston said, he wants to “dig deeper into reproduction-based arts” and bring in artists involved with film, video and sound.
Purism has no part in his vision. He wants, he says, to “encourage a cross disciplinary attitude,” clearly an idea with traction.
To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4763 or send email to email@example.com.