From the creators of Australian kids’ fashion magazine Papier Mache, The New Story dwells in a pastel paradise of parenthood, but it’s not all pretty pictures – this kid has talent.
At face value, The New Story has the same feel as The Gentlewoman – the textured paper, font and format – but it is actually the brainchild of Beck Marshall, founder of Papier Mache. These visual details are enough to entice those well-read magazine followers out there, but if you’re new to the field and have heard of neither, you can be confident you’ll be getting high-quality content, matched with swoon-worthy photography.
It is whimsical, soft, censored against temper tantrums and teething problems. I do find it odd to airbrush this vital part of a child’s existence. It is often not the floating cherubim, squealing laughter and blinking big eyes, but a shrieking Caliban, inarticulate and plum-faced, demanding more when you have given everything. What we see here is the mild-mannered Jekyll, with Hyde well-hidden in anecdotes and things said under breath. But I understand this isn’t a parenting magazine. Its focus is on the beauty of curiosity, wonder, exploration, new experiences, the new story: it’s theirs.
The New Story builds a den in which both parents and child become equal. Instead of the child being brought into the adult world, the parent stoops, as if to clamber through a warren and uncover how the child sees. The dreamy photography of Melanie Rodriguez is hazy and benign, unthreateningly natural. The eye is drawn as if to spy through the clearing mist to find a scene akin to a midsummer night’s dream, these twisting and oblivious childlike forms dancing with wild abandon or sitting with oddly melancholic gaze. There’s a lot you could possibly read in her images; you can either take it at face value as a beautiful image or go deeper and realise it’s a reflection of innocence and, sometimes, playful absurdity.
Deborah Sfez's styling is understated and practical, in block colours and unusual layers. As if out of a dress-up box, these children traverse moonscapes like intrepid explorers in florals, taffeta and velvet. They wear ribbed and Fair Isle jumpers and linen trousers, unrestrictive clothing perfect for clambering.
In all, the trio of Marshal, Rodriguez and Sfez bring something quite special: aesthetic fluidity. It’s a simple joy to come across, when it is surprisingly hard to find. Marshall said ‘it was important [for the magazine] to have intent, to having meaning. Not only in content, but in spirit’, and this comes across on all levels. It is cleverly weaved, with the mother and child central to their story.
Motherhood is sentimentalised, sacred, sometimes sacrificial. These women who share their stories make graceful or uneasy adjustments to their lives, akin to the tentative first steps of the little life which now relies on them. Parenthood is not seen as a barrier, but as an evolution. They learn about themselves from their child, as much as the child learns from them. In the photography feature, 'The Milky Way', Vincent Ferrante observes his wife and new-born from a father’s point of view, dwelling on how the image of his partner has changed. With breastfeeding as a feature, it conveys fragility and tiredness, and he makes a profound comment that ‘regardless of your life in a big city and if you consider yourself ‘modern’ or ‘post-modern and connected’… these little suspended moments remind you that you are a human animal.’ Rather than a woman transitioning to mother, she is restored a sense of naturalness via the dependent.