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‘TBH’ is More Than Just a Zine. It’s Part of a Movement.

By Arts & Culture

A spread in "TBH," a zine by Pat Reynolds. Photograph courtesy of Reynolds.

A spread in “TBH,” a zine by Pat Reynolds. Photograph courtesy of Reynolds.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) alumnus Patrick Reynolds is raising money for the Chicago Legal Clinic the punkest way he can: with a zine called “TBH.” The Chicago Legal Clinic provides legal services for marginalized communities in Chicago. Reynolds has, as he put it, “always aspired to be able to use [their] art practice as a tool to serve greater social causes, and the donation of the sales from this project is simply a gesture towards that goal,”

The Chicago Legal Clinic provides resources for debt elimination, employment, immigration, and even environmental issues. Reynolds chose to support this organization for a number of reasons. “People should be taught their rights while growing up and [that] specific forms of legal counseling might be well-integrated into our education system in a community-specific basis, but I think that a larger issue is simply a lack of access and advocacy for some of the country’s most impoverished and persecuted citizens,” he said.

The legal empowerment of the poor is something that has been discussed for years as a solution to many inequality issues. As many activists are discussing ways to avoid violent social control, legal suffering is something that should not go unnoticed.

“I recognize that the criminal justice system is imperfect and is itself infected with institutionalized forms of racism and prejudice, but reform issues are not mutually exclusive from the fact that the same system is a necessary tool in protecting people from exploitation, abuse, foreclosure, and jail-time for low-level offenses,” said Reynolds.  

Zines have historically paved a political pathway to awareness and conversation. Reynolds chose a grayscale format to display photos of everyday objects. He “liked the low-contrast look that this style of printing creates,” as he put it. This project toes the line between book and zine with its inclusion of a handwritten abbreviation, “TBH,” on the last page; varying each edition in this manner is often of the print and bookmaking tradition, so it is refreshing to have someone treat a zine in this way as well.

He is also “subverting a format typically used for text-based books” by using a perfect binding for the book. Reynolds still considers it a zine because “it’s sort of a one-off project comprised primarily of newish photos, some of which I’ll likely use again for other things in the future,” he said.

Reynolds is in kinship with several of his peers in this venture towards social activism. He mentioned that his “good friend Tom Wilson released a photo book recently of storefront photos that he took in Malawi while he was in the Peace Corps.” He added, “My friend Jon Campolo’s band Pill just sold a few test presses of their upcoming LP to support the Ali Forney Center.”

This propensity to use the capital of art spaces and institutions to benefit a group of people in need is happening more and more. It’s something something that is beginning to transform the way we discuss socially-conscious art. Many groups are still unable to access education; is it possible that artists are beginning to leverage that reality to the point of exploitation? What becomes more important: the content or the context? This ongoing battle is something that Reynolds is willing to face with this project because it’s that relationship that keeps us looking at the work more deeply.

“TBH” is available through Bigcartel.

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