Take a peek at Emma Childs magazine Childs Play and you’ll immediately be drawn to the vivid graphics and creative styling. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll be enthralled by the confessional essays and intimate photos that delve into topics ranging from “female self-expression, free from external expectations” to “unpolluted self-discovery.” This week I chatted with Emma on where she gets her inspiration, her favorite spots in New York City, and living uncensored and unapologetically.
In your own words, what is Childs Play?
Childs Play is a publication that lets the young artists feel at home. It is my goal to create an inclusionary environment for bright, talented individuals and provide a platform for them to share their voices.
When did you start it and what was the inspiration behind starting it?
In my senior year of high school, I had an independent study and I knew I wanted to use it as time to start a passion project. I was also always fascinated with fashion and art so I think it all blossomed from my interests. And then before I knew it, I had three photoshoots done and several writing pieces completed and a magazine felt like the best way to put that all together.
I started out basically harassing my friends to model for me, haha but once I moved to the city, I’ve been trying to collaborate and feature people who have actual interests in modeling. Childs Play has definitely been a gradual process and I’m learning as I go which is really incredible because I’m able to look back and see all my progress in a tactile form.
Could you walk us through the creation of a piece?
Hmm…I guess I just start out with a single idea and play with it until it fits. For instance, I was driving around in the summer and saw a sign for a garage sale and I thought “hey that would be an interesting creative writing piece”. I had already established my theme of intimacy so I thought I could shape it into a ‘memory yardsale’ and put it into my emotional intimacy section.
I honestly think I went home after driving around and wrote the entire piece in one night. That’s usually how it works haha. Once I have an idea I go crazy until it’s out of my brain and transformed into words that make sense. Next, I created all the little illustrations to go with it and paired them all together.
Do you have a favorite piece that you published?
Oh damn, that’s a hard question. I guess maybe in terms of my own writing, I’m really partial to my piece “You & I” which I wrote for my fourth issue. The piece is really emotional and it pushed me to be more vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t experienced yet with Childs Play. I also had a lot of fun working on the accompanying collage.
And in terms of other people’s work, I really love Bessie Rubinstein’s piece “I’m Learning To Be Alone Again” because I think she pushed herself to comment on some uncomfortable truths, which is so insanely difficult. And even beyond that, she let me publish it for many eyes to see! I am so proud of her and I love her dearly.
Where do you get your artistic inspiration from?
From everything! Sometimes I’ll see someone wearing a dope hat on the subway and my brain just starts wiring. Or sometimes on Instagram, I’ll see a really cool shoot and get really inspired from their pics or colors.
How about favorite magazines?
The Messy Heads is one of my favorite youth and indie magazines! They have a beautiful aesthetic and they’re a huge inspiration for me. I also really love i-D because I think they do a lot of avant-garde shoots that are different from other publications out there.
You’ve done some cool avant-garde photoshoots yourself! How do you go about pulling those off?
Aww thank you! And well usually it starts with me tracking down some models and then I scout for locations. I’ve used everything from my garage back on Cape Cod to random spots in Chinatown. Honestly though, the trickiest part is scheduling! But once we all figure out a time and place, instinct takes over and we all work together towards getting some beautiful content.
I started working on my third issue when I had just transitioned into my freshman year of college. I was slowly figuring things out and trying to separate myself with who I thought I had to be and who I actually wanted to be. As I was figuring things out, I slowly become aware of all the unspoken guidelines in self-discovery and to be honest, they all really pissed me off. So I wanted to make my third issue of Childs Play about unpolluted self-discovery, separate from external pressures, and create a publication that demonstrated methods to hone into one’s authentic self.
Do you have some favorite locations in New York City for shooting photos?
Hmm…Sometimes we just wander around downtown and that’s always been super fun. That way the shoot possesses this sort of spontaneous nature to it and those vibes usually transcend into the art too.
Where are your favorite five spots in New York City in general?
I looooooove Washington Square Park. And I also love Chelsea. My friends and I went downtown a few weeks ago and just hopped from gallery to gallery. It was so fun and it felt like a free museum! I’m not about to pay the $20 or whatever it is for The Whitney.
For the third issue, you focused on the three things that help center yourself around your own development: “existing without a sole descriptor infringing upon you, living as uncensored and unapologetically bold as you want to, and indulging in all of what social media has to offer.” Can you speak a little about that?
Yeah! So I started working on my third issue when I had just transitioned into my freshman year of college. I was slowly figuring things out and trying to separate myself with who I thought I had to be and who I actually wanted to be. As I was figuring things out, I slowly become aware of all the unspoken guidelines in self-discovery and to be honest, they all really pissed me off.
So I wanted to make my third issue of Childs Play about unpolluted self-discovery, separate from external pressures, and create a publication that demonstrated methods to hone into one’s authentic self. And I thought that acting without a confining descriptor, not censoring one’s self, and utilizing the benefits of technology were great ways to start on that journey.
The design of Childs Play is stunning! How did you go about creating the visuals?
Wow, thank you! And actually, I’ve only ever taken one graphic design class during my freshman year of high school. Everything else I taught myself by fiddling around or watched YouTube videos to work on my graphic design skills.
When it comes to creating the issue itself, I normally scour the internet to find inspiration. I also really try and focus on the concepts I had in mind behind each piece so that the design represents my ideas as well. For instance, in my fourth issue, the incredible Eva Miele contributed her powerful piece “Contact” and we paired it with a raw and emotional photo shoot. I wanted the layout to match the vulnerability of her words and the photos so I designed the spread with subtle yellows and soft fonts.
It is so insanely important for everyone to realize that equality is not a revolutionary concept; it is just something our society needs to inherently possess. Additionally, I think it is vital to have the uncomfortable conversations about privilege and intersectionality so we can work collaboratively to let those who do not have as many opportunities be rightfully supported and heard.
Where can interested readers find Childs Play?
Well! We have an Instagram (@childsplaymagazine) and every single one of our issues is on Issuu. We are also in the process of setting up a website so stay in tune for that! I use a website called Blurb to publish. If anyone wants to buy their own print copy, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM our Instagram!
How do you imagine the future of Childs Play?
I think Childs Play has a great deal of momentum behind it and I certainly have some more ideas for potential issues and projects. I would really love to keep growing and to cultivate a community behind the publication. And if that results in something else entirely, I’m open to that idea as well. But for the time being, I’m going to keep producing content and collaborating with phenomenal individuals and just see where that takes us!
Can other people get involved? If so, how?
Yes! I am always looking for people to work with. Artists, models, writers, stylists, makeup artists, etc. please hit me up either via the Childs Play email or DM our Instagram!
The second issue of Childs Play was dedicated to the inspiring women around you. So I was wondering, what does feminism mean to you, and why do you think it’s important?
Feminism has become such an integral part of my identity that it’s as internalized as me being 5’6” or a fashion nerd. It is such a present part of my life and I try my best to include it in everything I do. I do know that we aren’t quite there yet as a society and I try to play my small role in reaching equality by integrating female empowerment the best I can into each issue.
For instance, in my third issue I had a shoot that focused on intersectional feminism and censorship and in my fourth issue, I had a shoot that emphasized the importance of female self-expression, free from external expectations. It is so insanely important for everyone to realize that equality is not a revolutionary concept; it is just something our society needs to inherently possess.
Additionally, I think it is vital to have the uncomfortable conversations about privilege and intersectionality so we can work collaboratively to let those who do not have as many opportunities be rightfully supported and heard.