The photograph of Tisch first-year, Cole Swanson, cast in a monochrome of hazy purples on the cover of Black Swan Magazine felt vaguely nostalgic. Instead, the magazine I was holding was created by Swanson, himself, less than a month ago.
Black Swan Magazine, a nod to Swanson’s surname, is rooted in fashion and provides an expansive scope on youth art and culture. Its 160 page sophomore issue was released Feb. 29, featuring the creative collaboration of dozens of young artists at NYU and across the U.S.
Conceptual fashion editorials and other artistic photography anchor much of the pages, accompanied by profiles of young creatives and original artwork. The second issue is the first to be a part of Async Blue, an art collective of artists and curators who work to support and promote the work of other members of the collective, co-founded by Swanson alongside Tisch first-year, Lukas Sheehan. As such, the magazine carries the collective’s label on the inside cover and claims the status as the first ever work by the newly formed group, which is currently working on an assortment of new material to soon be released.
“Working with Cole was really inspiring. He’s a big goofball, but he has serious ambition,” Sheehan said. “I think if you ask anyone who has worked closely with him, we all want to see Cole win, because he wants all of his friends to win.”
For Swanson, the magazine is only a recent piece of his long developing and ever expanding creative vision. The son of filmmakers, Swanson grew up in Los Angeles and immersed himself in the city’s culture for as much inspiration he could possibly gather. Swanson looked back fondly on the days spent exploring L.A. by car with his friends and visiting top shopping spots just to marvel at the clothing and study current trends.
During his senior year of high school, Swanson was one of a select few chosen by his school to receive funding for a senior project of his choice. An actor, writer and director of films at heart, Swanson wanted to seize the opportunity to reach beyond the confines of his comfort zone. He decided to create an original, print magazine, inspired by the musician Frank Ocean who did the very same.
“Frank Ocean is not in the magazine business,” Swanson said. “He’s an artist, of course, but the fact that he made a magazine just proved to me that I could do that too.”
He then began work on what would become the first issue, a 45-page booklet focused on fashion. Since his days of scouring store racks, clothing had always been something enigmatic for Swanson. For him, it was an ideal medium to achieve the publication’s overarching goal of having a tangible catalog of young people and their creative voices.
“With clothing, you don’t have to say a word and can make such a bold statement,” Swanson said.
The ambitious project was set to be completed by May 2019 without a second installment on Swanson’s radar. However, something tempted him to mark the magazine as a first issue, not ignoring its potential to evolve into something larger.
In the late summer of 2019, Swanson relocated to New York City to study film and television production at Tisch. Once in New York, he found himself surrounded by an expansive community of young people eager to collaborate with one another and express themselves artistically. It was a situation that mirrored the desirability the city had for Swanson as a base to create movies.
“New York just has this energy I’ve always gravitated towards,” Swanson said. “There’s this pulse in the city and everybody has a story to tell.”
The abundance of proximate talent proved too tempting, and development on the second issue officially commenced in September. The larger scale pushed Swanson to better his editing and graphic design skills in order to produce a professional product.
“Consistent thematic elements are important in any product I do … I wanted there to be a flow,” Swanson said. “As you flip through it, the next page shouldn’t be jarring from the last.”
In addition to the print magazine, the Black Swan Magazine website sells related merchandise including tote bags and lighters.
At the moment, the magazine is a necessary outlet for Swanson to collect and showcase the most dynamic young creativity he can find. It’s clear from his calm, yet rich passion for the project that the mission is more than just to cash in on the resurgence of print media.
Black Swan is a platform to legitimize the youth as an artistic force that deserves recognition and professional consideration. Running a hand over the crisp matte cover and turning its sturdy pages makes this goal feel realized. It’s then that the reader can’t look away and rightfully so. Swanson is one to watch.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, March 9, 2020 print edition. Email Chad Evans at [email protected]