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In something of an apt conclusion, Alex Fisher (C’19) and Abby McGuckin (C’19) finalized the layout of the first edition of their magazine Mugshot and sent it off to the printer at 4 a.m. in the basement of Van Pelt, drinking coffee from Mark’s Café. Mugshot, according to Alex (a former Street photographer), is “a free print magazine and online narrative platform” that focuses on coffee and café culture. It’s a publication that looks at coffee as a catalyst for conversation, as a means of bringing people together.

Alex and Abby came up with the idea for Mugshot last spring. They first thought of putting together a gallery show, featuring photos of their friends drinking and enjoying coffee, but quickly realized that they wanted to incorporate more stories and voices than a traditional exhibit would allow. The magazine, then, is 130 pages of stories and photographs and illustrations and even haiku – all about coffee and coffee culture.

“It’s a publication that takes a really slow approach,” Alex says, pointing out the parallel between the publication’s intimate feeling and the intimacy that coffee itself often fosters. The finished magazine, with dimensions that make it more like a sketchbook than a magazine, is “meant to be more personal,” he says.  The accompanying website is "going to really be like a scrapbook,” he continues, as it will feature miscellaneous content that couldn’t fit in the printed edition.

Alex and Abby were both involved with the development and publication of the book 33 to 40 last year, which sought to document an ideal image of Penn culture in the style of the iconic Japanese fashion book Take Ivy. Like 33 to 40, Mugshot creates a tangible product, an artifact that Alex imagines he will be able to find years from now and appreciate in ways that he won’t be able to appreciate more ephemeral digital media. 

“We feel like we’re a part of a tradition of publications on campus,” he notes. Beyond the connection to 33 to 40, Mugshot was printed with the help of Penn alum Matthew Mallet (C’03, W’03). Alex points to how Mugshot figures into the current renaissance in printed matter more generally. “Just the tactility of it – it feels luxurious to just have it in your hands,” he muses.

Moving forward, Alex sees Mugshot losing its focus on Penn and Philadelphia and gaining a more international perspective on coffee culture. Funded by the New Student Initiatives Fund at the Kelly Writers House, the success of the magazine represents the resources available for Penn students to actualize their off-beat ideas and dreams. 

Note: Mugshot's launch party will be held at St. Elmo on Friday, April 28 from 5 to 6:30 pm. 


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