I accepted an internship at Paste Magazine shortly before graduating from Ohio University in 2006 with a Bachelors in Journalism and Certificate in International Marketing Leadership. Following Spin and Rolling Stone, Paste was the third largest rock magazine in an era when magazines were still consumed. The publication was thick and layered, adorned with introspective journalism and a sampler CD (and later, DVD) that became a pop culture compass.
In one form or another, I would contribute to the publication for the following 11 years. I started as a freelance writer and photographer, and then became a local blog editor for their New York City portal, finally taking over the publication’s Live Music, Photography, and Comics sections as an Editor proper. Those years offered an education in writing, editing, and freelancer management, as well as building relationships with publicists, studios, and publishers. I witnessed the era of print ebb into online publishing, accompanied by the new frontiers of SEO and SEM. Underneath those sea changes remained an unshakable passion for good art neglected by bigger magazines and sites. Personal highlights include features on Terry Gilliam, John Linklater, Tim Schafer, Neil Gaiman, Markus Zusak, the remaining members of Jefferson Airplane, and countless others. (You can find most of those pieces here.)
By the end of my stay with Paste Magazine, I’d written and/or photographed over 600 contributions and edited over 1,000 pieces. Here’s a brief sample of the things I worked on.
Here’s the story of how I became a photographer:
Me: “Hi Austin. I’m going to be at Lollapalooza 20XX. Would you like me to write about it at all?”
Former Paste Magazine Online Editor Austin L. Ray: “I’m good on writers. Do you take pictures? I need a photog.”
Me: “….yes. Yes I do. I am a photographer.”
[Note: I was not a photographer. So I spent my life savings on an introductory DSLR and photographed the festival. The results weren’t atrocious so I kept photographing concerts and bands.]
Any photography education I’d eventually gain would come from my time at C&G Partners, a design firm led by, among others, Steff Geissbuhler, a patron of minimalist Swiss Design. I worked at the NYC agency for two-plus years in a hybrid operations/marketing position. The firm’s designers taught me that every line, shape, and color should mean something. If it didn’t add toward a given message, dismiss it. The technical knowledge would arrive later after the theory took root. Years later at Paste, I would manage a team of photographers for daily photo diaries and festival coverage.
One night I had a dream that Paste published a book of comics inspired by singer/songwriter Neko Case. I woke up, emailed editor-in-chief Josh Jackson, and fell back asleep. Josh emailed me back in the morning and said he loved the idea and would email Paste’s owner to inquire about funding. The owner didn’t love the idea. But Josh greenlit a more eclectic series based on that idea: unite one band with one cartoonist each month. The cartoonist would interpret a song into a scrolling one-page online comic, with input from the band. As the editor fo the series, I selected the music, comic creator, and provided art direction. Select samples below.
PASTE PULL QUOTES
The Paste Comics section, now led by the excellent Steve Foxe, has produced hundreds of thousands of words on sequential art over the course of its existence. Publishers including DC, Dark Horse, and Image put those words on their comics to help sell them. Here’s a sample of some of the coolest quotes on some of the most prominent works. These quotes were all taken from pieces I wrote.