20th November, 2013 at 6:30pm
Penny Martin's Reading List
| YCN — £5

The editor of The Gentlewoman visited YCN to share some of the books that have most informed her life and work to-date.

On November 20th, we invited Penny Martin, editor-in-chief of the celebrated bi-annual magazine The Gentlewoman, to personally introduce a selection of her favourite books to YCN's Lending Library. Penny was editor in chief at digital fashion platform SHOWstudio between 2001 and 2008, before becoming Chair of Fashion Imagery at London College of Fashion.

Penny's also published essays, curated exhibitions and contributed regularly to other magazines including Fantastic Man and T Magazine. Penny introduced the following six titles to a comfortable group of YCN Members.

Above: Penny Martin photographed by Joseph Fox

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The British classic is one Penny describes as an endlessly intriguing tragedy. "My mum gave me this book in 1990 when I was 18 and studying art history at University of Glasgow", she says recalling her 'super left wing' Scottish roots. "It had a note written in it saying something like: I have high expectations for you, Penny". 

2. Young Meteors: British Photojournalism, 1957-1965 by Martin Harrison

During her first job assisting photo-historian John Taylor at the The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Penny was introduced to Young Meteors as a valuable resource for writing about fashion photography. "This was one of the first books that taught me about fashion photography's journalistic function," she says recalling her undergraduate education in a department where photography history had been taught empircally rather than theoretically. "There weren't many books that were saying much about the published context of fashion photographs at that point."

Above: Photographed by Joseph Fox

3. Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige

A study she last read while studying at the Royal College of Art, Penny recollects this title as the single most useful text she came across during her academic career. "To me then, cultural studies was such a murky world and this was a friendly introduction," she said about how it suggested a practical explanation for semiotics in fashion rather than endless theory. "The contents of this book crops up in all the magazines I was studying; especilly i-D," she added, "it's like a snail's trail throughout fashion—you discover all the people in the creative industries who have read it."

4. Imperfect Beauty: The Making of Contemporary Fashion Photographs by Charlotte Cotton

A more personal selection, Penny presented this publication as one extremely influential in her move into the fashion industry. Coinciding with an exhibition in the Canon Photography Gallery at the V&A in 2000 curated by her good friend Charlotte Cotton, the book looks at the working process of key British photographers, art directors and stylists who changed the face of fashion photography in the 90s. "It was audacious to put on a show about the making of fashion photography rather than the end product." 

Above: Photographed by Joseph Fox

5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

"I sent this book to everyone I know for Christmas last year," Penny said referring to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Virgin Suicides author Eugenides. "To us British it's got a terrible name, might as well be called Lincolnshire, but actually it is about a hermaphrodite."

The story follows the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and her family, who hold a unique secret through three generations. Taking place in 1970s Michigan, it is an inter-sex, inter-generational epic depicting immigrant life in 20th century America.

6. BUTT Book published by Taschen

"This book is the foundation of all that is good in our company," Penny says referring to Amsterdam-based Top Publishers, birthplace of BUTT magazine, Fantastic Man and finally The Gentlewoman. BUTT Book, published by Taschen, pays tribute to the first five years of BUTT magazine, the quarterly publication initiated in 2001. The magazine took a candid look at 21st century gay culture. "When Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom looked at the magazines that were supposedly for gay readers at the time, they were all about spa holidays, Kylie Minogue and about people couldn't relate to," says Penny of the niche the magazine came to fill. "It is a fantastic example of having a clear idea of your audience. Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman can only stand on its shoulders. It's a really unique magazine".

Having a direct stylistic influence on Penny's work with The Gentlewoman, she explains how the publication made her change her mind about Q+A as an interview style. "Before reading BUTT, I didn't give Q+A the time of day," she shares, "But I discovered that with a lot of work, you could recreate someone's voice with Q+A, which at The Gentlewoman we try to achieve through meticulous editing. It's a real labour of love." 

These books have been now added to the Lending Library at 72 Rivington Street.

Above: Penny Martin's reading list selections

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Event Details
  • Location:
    72 Rivington Street,
    London, EC2A 3AY,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    20th November, 2013 at 6:30pm
  • End:
    20th November, 2013 at 8:00pm

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