XXY in Conversation with Leon Zine Founder and Creator: Stephen Maycock

XXY in Conversation with Leon Zine Founder and Creator: Stephen Maycock

Stephen Maycock allowed us to take a stroll through Neverland itself as we flipped through his latest project: Leon Zine. After winning a competition at the London College of Fashion, the prize being stocked in the Claire De Rouen bookshop, Leon Zine sold out immediately. This called for a second print run, a launch party and, of course, an interview between Maycock and our Editor-in-Chief.

Tahmina: While many say magazines reflect a moment in time, I feel as though zines capture the millisecond. As this was created a year ago, were you worried it would be out of date when it went on the stands?

Stephen: Sort of. The whole idea of a zine and the metaphor of it being on sugar paper make it timeless. It is the idea of a child drawing on sugar paper and then it being disposable or hung up on a wall with a message of right now, this moment, and the fact that you don’t necessarily have to be responsible for everything. You can go against the grain, be spontaneous, be like a child.

T: And you don’t have to think, “Is this one decision going to affect my future?”

S: Yes, exactly. I actually started it by looking at personal space and as a reflection of public space and how I have a struggled with differentiating the two. I was going to do this huge shoot and it was going to be so typical, and maybe that would have dated quickly. But I stripped it back to basics and thought of how children do not have any perception of personal space or time. A child can be on a bus and go and sit next to somebody and become his or her best friend. They can scream and shout or draw on themselves and it doesn’t matter because they are not as established with those rules yet. That’s quite refreshing. Especially Natasha, who did the illustration – she wanted it to be fluid, as if a child had done it. And children want to be adults, there’s a crossover and nobody wants to say they want this inconstant.

T: I think when we live in a digital era where everything is documented and pinpointed to a time, it’s hard to be spontaneous. I think we miss out on missing out.

S: Yes, absolutely. The fear of missing out is a huge issue our generation is facing. Even when I was talking to Eliza, who wrote the feature for the zine, we talked about creating work which doesn’t even need to be published. It’s just to get your idea out there.

T: Just making it for yourself.

S: Exactly, it doesn’t need to be for a certain amount of likes or a certain amount of credit.

T: Lena Dunham actually said somewhere that whenever you’re making work, you are at your bravest, and I’ve never thought about it like that. I always say to the writers we work with, just because it’s taken you time, it does not mean it needs to be published; nor does publishing a piece validate it.

S: This whole zine is hand crafted, to the point where Eliza and I folded each page because we completely forgot that you have to ask the printers to do that. It purposely doesn’t have a staple and is loosely bound.

T: And if you lose a page– it’s OK! *Drops the zine* Oh, sorry!

S: No, see, exactly like that! And on the back, there are blank pages on purpose, inviting you to draw on it and to try imitating our graphic designer’s work. The use of circles was to take it back in time; it reminds me of the phone game “Snake”–

T: Or word searches!

S: Or word searches, or noughts and crosses and even drawing a map. You can even colour in the circles or outside of them, make shapes around them. It fits with the primary colours and the organic shapes used by Natasha. Everything comes full circle, excuse the pun.

T: We’re all about the puns. Do you have a favourite part of the zine?

S: My favourite part was obviously photographing it. I did this whole photoshoot with models, but it didn’t work. In the end, I realised this project was not about high fashion or connected to some kind of trend forecasting. It was supposed to be in the moment. So I went back home, up north in Warrington and Natasha did some drawings based on Leon’s.

T: Technically, it’s all your brother’s work and you have just taken credit for it.

S: Haha, basically. So we went to my Nana’s house, and she was moving around lots of furniture and there was this huge, empty space. As a photographer, I’m so inspired by empty space because I’m like, “What can I do about this?”

T: What you can fill or not fill in it.

S: Or how can I build a set in here, or how can I work with natural light? Leon went into that space straight away and said “Ahh, this is so cool” and he was looking at this space in a similar way. He was thinking of making it into a den or a playroom. It was just so nice to spend a day with my brother that we will both remember. I captured it all on my camera, which I have been doing with him since day one. We took hundreds of photographs around the house. Some of them are blurry and in motion, but that kind of response falls into the idea of it being quite mobile: everything was happening all at once.

T: Was it a quick process?

S: The process of putting it together was slow because I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t go in there thinking, “So I’m going to take photos of my brother in black and white and they are going to be really spontaneous and interesting”. It was more about going into this setting and seeing what he wants from it. I said to him, “My friend did some drawings because she liked yours and we’re going to draw on you”. He said, “Is Mum okay with this?” and I explained that it was fine and this was for Art.

T: And he’s like, “I like Art!”

S: Haha, and he just ran around carefree – and it’s all because he’s completely liberated from social rules.

T: He doesn’t even know that dressing up is deemed as feminine or ‘inappropriate’ for little boys. I can’t remember if I saw it on Instagram or it was when you invited us to the launch – clearly, I’m a stalker and I’m not even ashamed – but what caught me about your zine, and I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by creatives who are producing quite feisty feminist zines, but the best thing about this, from a reader’s perspective, is that it is nothing like that. It doesn’t even have anything to do with gender, it’s about family and those ties to living in the moment.

S: Definitely, and I support those zines, I’ve been to all their launches, but this is in a completely different realm of what I’m making. I think a lot of people who are creating zines and going down that route are doing so because that’s what’s popular at the moment. I just made it because I wanted to show a body of work and this was the easiest, most cost-efficient way to do it. It felt free because with this you can print it at home and take it to a shop that may be interested, and then you meet new people and then there’s a launch party and everyone wants to know what you have to say. I’m not really trying to say anything; I’m letting you decide for yourself. There’s so much going on.

T: It’s kind of deconstructed, but to structure the photography like you did, you must have made a conscious choice when putting it together.

S: I printed the photos off as a contact sheet and laid them out on a huge A1 piece of paper to see which photos went together and which ones told a narrative. There is a nice balance of Natasha’s drawings concerning nostalgia, whereas Leon’s are about wanting to grow up.

T: So tell me about Eliza’s written feature.

S: Eliza has a sister who has this blanket with buttons on and she takes it everywhere. However, she’s at an age now where she is questioning if she needs it, because she’s twelve. It just felt so natural that she would write about that, seeing as we both have younger siblings who we adore. Her piece summed up everything that was in there. There are so many mediums explored and it all goes back to the idea of just making work for yourself. And to make it personal, because that’s your identifier at the end of the day. And this whole book is Leon’s identifier.

T: And it’s yours as well.

S: He is just obsessed with everyone knowing him. Because I have a photography page and some of them are of him, and it has a global following, it’s funny because he will ring and ask me, “OK, so has anyone bought my book yet?”, or he will say, “Is my face still on the cover?” and I have to say, “Yes, yes it is!” and confirm it is still named after him.

T: You’re basically his agent.

S: Oh, of course. A hundred percent. He’s got everything my family and I put in him, which is freedom, love and creativity – he’s an amalgamation of everyone. He’s the best part of this, really.


Written by Tahmina Begum,



Visuals by Stephen Maycock


*Limited edition copies of ‘LEON’ Zine still available here.


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