Plaster magazine, run by The Artist Room founder Milo Astaire and fashion photographer Finn Constantine, has been going strong for four issues, with cover stars including artists Kenny Scharf, Harland Miller and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. But unlike traditional mags, each issue is completely dedicated to the cover star, and is formatted as a collectible poster.
“We wanted to do a project together that could be special,” says Astaire, who grew up with Constantine in London. “We had this idea of a poster magazine which stems from a kung-fu magazine I used to collect called Kung-Fu Weekly, which was set up in the late ’70s.” The magazine was launched by legendary publisher Felix Dennis (fun fact: he was also the first person to say “cunt” live on British television), who would hand out the poster-format issues on Oxford Street for around two quid.
“I loved the immediacy of that concept and the way you could unfold this magazine, read about Bruce Lee, and then you’d have a poster on your wall,” says Astaire. “I thought it was such a simple idea, and we could transplant it into contemporary art.
While living together just before the pandemic, the duo approached Yorkshire-born artist Harland Miller to kick off the first issue of Plaster. Known for his large-scale reworkings of classic Penguin book covers with titles like “narcissist seeks similar”, Astaire and Constantine wanted to embody a punk, DIY attitude. Naturally, Miller was down and, with help from graphic designer Josh Crumpler, the first issue was made. “And then Covid happened, so we had to pull it back a little,” says Astaire. “We got bored six or seven weeks in, and just released it and mailed it out to everyone. That was the foundation of it, really.”
Since then, Plaster has become a modern-day fanzine influenced by the punk and rock ‘n’ roll zines the duo read growing up. A huge part of what they do comes down to embracing fandom and exploring the minds of people they admire. “We wanted the opportunity to dive into their practices, which is why each issue is based on one person,” says Constantine. “The format fits the idea in terms of it being eight pages, one poster, one cover, one artist. It’s all about them and their practice. A deep dive for a fan, essentially.”
For Plaster’s fifth issue, Astaire and Constantine entered the subversive world of photographer Harley Weir. In an accompanying essay, titled The Church of Harley Weir, Astair remembers the first time he spoke with her:
She had just been caught in a giant hailstorm. It was the middle of July, and she was in awe of the size of the hailstones. Eager for me to see, she picked a few off the ground and took a quick iPhone photo of her clutching a collection of them. However, what struck me from the photo she sent to me wasn’t the hugeness of the golfball-sized hail, but how beautiful the image was. I could not figure out how she had managed to take something so simple and turn it into something so ethereal, so recognisably her, when the photos most people take on an iPhone look as if they have been captured on a drunken night out.
“I think that’s what all great artists do,” says Astaire. “They present themselves and they have a voice that is individually theirs.”
For Constantine, dissecting Weir’s mixed media practice – most-recently shown at her Sins of a daughter exhibition at the Hannah Barry Gallery – has been fascinating. While the artist primarily made a name for herself through photography, having shot intimate, youth-focused campaigns for Balenciaga, Celine and Stella McCartney, Weir’s liberating take on the female gaze and her honest, personal depictions of womanhood are also present in her large-scale prints and paintings – as raw as they are hauntingly beautiful.
“The photographic prints are done on an enlarger and she adds in spit, pee, tears and perfume,” he says. “She brings in all these exterior substances to create a certain look, and I think that’s fascinating – the trial and error, the experimentation. They’re insanely beautiful and rich.”
Throughout issue five of Plaster, Weir journeys through her career so far, with a bumper interview that’s both honest and personal. “How can I know what I desire if everything I’ve ever looked at has been made by a guy anyway?” she says in one killer quote. Revealing the inner workings of one of the most celebrated photographers of the past decade, Milo Astaire and Finn Constantine’s latest issue is one for the fans.