Collective Quarterly magazine desert scene.

The view from here… A photo spread from the inaugural issue of Collective Quarterly.

We’re launching a curated selection of magazines over the next few weeks, kicking off with the inaugural issue of Collective Quarterly. The peripatetic publication explores one location in depth. First stop: Marfa, Texas, where readers encounter the desert outpost’s colorful characters and landscapes.

We asked founders Seth Putnam and Jesse Lenz to share some behind-the-scenes highlights (and a few challenges) of Issue 01.

Year launched 2014
Home base “We’re all over, really: Ohio, West Virginia, San Francisco, Phoenix – but several of our team members are in Chicago, so I suppose that’s about as close to a home base as we have.”
Number of issues to date 1!
Number of issues per year 1 “Four eventually, but we’re going to ease into that cycle by releasing one this year and three next year.”

Jesse Lenz and Seth Putnam of Collective Quarterly magazine.

Collective Quarterly creative director, Jesse Lenz (left), and editor, Seth Putnam (right) chat with us about their new publication.


Why did you start Collective Quarterly? 

We started the magazine because we were curious. Curious about what it means to live well and about finding hidden corners of the earth – some of which are in our own back yard.

What was the first article you assigned?
One that appears toward the end of the issue about a little roadside taco joint outside San Antonio. On this inaugural trip, we set very few rules and just sort of let the journey happen to us. Nora Herrera and family run the taco stand and – in addition to making the biggest, tastiest tacos I’ve ever wolfed down – asked if they could have a copy of the magazine. To which we responded, “Well, can we write a story about you?”

Another early piece is the text alongside an illustration of the iconic Prada “store.” It’s actually an art installation that’s in the middle of nowhere and very iconic to Marfa (everyone seems to visit it, including Beyoncé). While we were there, we actually stayed away because we wanted to tell stories that didn’t feel overdone. But when we returned, we realized we needed to cover it somehow, and luckily – or unluckily, really – a new angle has developed because the Texas Department of Transportation is considering tearing it down.

Who are your readers?
People who have a deep love of travel and creativity, who explore diverse ways of life, and who attempt to live well in the sense that they care about their legacy.

Hardest story to get off the ground?

The piece on Boquillas del Carmen, a once withering little border town in Mexico, since it necessitated actually leaving the country. But we come from strong editorial backgrounds, so the stories themselves are business as usual; it was the process of wrangling all the moving parts of a print publication that turned out to be the hardest thing by far. Hard, but immensely rewarding.

What is one story you’d like to tell but haven’t yet?
We’ve got fairly rural places on the docket, which we’re very excited about because they nail that idea of the unseen hideaway. But personally, I’d love to explore a city that’s fallen on hard times (maybe a Detroit or a Baltimore) and show that there’s still an ember in these places that hasn’t yet gone out – and may even be getting hotter.

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