Interview

Q&A with Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is the man behind Black Oak Media, a Midwestern publishing company. As I was getting started in photography, he was very supportive of my work and helped me become the photographer I am today. I'm happy to present you with a short Q&A I had with him about his magazine Black Oak Presents and what part photography plays in it.

1) How did you get into publishing?

I've always been the kind of man who wants to get things done himself. When I was in high school I used to draw my own comics and hand copies out to my friends. That was the start of it. In college I wrote a lot of material that might have had a local interest, but it wouldn't sell enough to be worth a traditional publishers time. I decided that if I wanted my work to get out there, I would have to publish it myself. I made a quick study of booklet making and went to work. After a while, I switched to a digital format so that it would be available to more people,not to mention more cost effective.

2) What is Black Oak Media/Black Oak Presents?

Black Oak Media evolved from my booklet publishing business, Black Oak Press Illinois. I wanted to expand the operation to include all kinds of media, but so far Black Oak Media has concerned itself primarily with Black Oak Presents, our digital magazine, and the Legends and Lore of Illinois. Black Oak Presents is a quarterly journal of Middle American art and culture. We want to attract and highlight local artists, writers, and musicians from"flyover country"who would otherwise be shut out of the mainstream media. I want to give people a chance to see their work published, a chance that most of the big name publishers wouldn't give. The media titans on the east and west coasts only care about the bottom line. At Black Oak Media, we care about the vitality of our local communities. As an artist, you don't have to have a million fans to have an impact, and we want to show our readers and contributors that their work isn't in vain.

3) What do you look for in photography submitted to Black Oak Presents?

I personally like photographs that are stark, gritty,and raw. I prefer black and whites because of the contrast, but my personal taste isn't what determines the content of the magazine. We've published photography from people who have just gone out into their backyard with a digital camera. If you're willing to portray the world around you in intimate detail, we're willing to publish you in Black Oak Presents.

4) How do you decide what photo goes where?

Basically I layout the magazine in a way that tries to evenly space the content. That can be difficult if we have too many or too few photographs or works of art. Because most photographs are horizontal, they take up a lot of space. Usually the photographs don't have anything to do with the article they may happen to be placed next to, unless they are clearly illustrating something like in photo essays.


5) What makes an ideal cover photo?

That's a good question, and I'm increasingly aware that what I might think is a great cover is not what other people think is a great cover. I have unusual tastes. Because there are only four issues a year, the cover selection is very important and something that I fret over constantly.Recently I've tried to choose cover photos that are more vibrant and colorful. I want to attract people to Black Oak Presents, but at the same time I don't want some air brushed model up there either. Never the less,a good cover photo should grab people and make them want to see what's inside.

6) How can people get in touch with you?

Black Oak Presents is available for free at www.blackoakmedia.org. People can also see my work at www.michaelkleen.com, and the legends and lore of Illinois at its brand new website, www.trueillinoishaunts.com. If you would like to submit your work to Black Oak Presents, please e-mail it to submissions@blackoakmedia.org, but make sure to check out our guidelines first. They are on our website.

 

Big thanks to Michael Kleen and we wish him luck with future issues.  Below, I've posted what was my first cover photo for Black Oak Presents, since which I've gotten several cover photos published.

Thanks for stopping by,
Greg Inda