On cereal magazine and the presentation of transient culture

Volume 12. Image via Cereal Magazine.

Cereal Magazine is like a museum. Or an expensive shop where you long to caress the cashmere sweaters folded into intricate origami shapes, but walk around with stiff arms afraid to catch a thread. Those cloud white pages! That perfect border! The tranquil photographs! Cereal reimagines magazines for long term consumption.

Cereal Magazine is based in Bristol, a small city in England’s West Country that’s Britain’s answer to Seattle, but with dingier weather. Rosa Park started the magazine in 2012 with the help of her business partner Rich Stapleton. Park was born in Seoul, grew up in Vancouver, went to the United States for college and moved to England to pursue an MA at the University of Bristol. Cereal mirrors her nomadic lifestyle. Each issue explores a handful of locations through pictures and prose. Unsurprisingly, Park has mentioned in interviews that her intention in creating the magazine was to revolutionize how travel was presented to her generation, “I seek out places that I believe my peers would want to visit and experience, which means a combination of great service, quality, elevated aesthetic sensibilities and affordability.” Cereal collects journeys for people who prefers to consume experiences as opposed to objects.

Image via Cereal Magazine.

Yet the magazine is a beautiful object. Each page cascades into the next and has an awesome heft. This should be the case for the price and production schedule. Released twice a year and retailing for over $20, Cereal could be mistaken for a coffee table book. Still, there are signals that it champions a more transient culture. The most recent issue features an Hermes ad on the back cover, while photo essays highlight clothing and furniture that exist solely within the homes of trust fund kids. But the magazine appreciates these products in a manner beyond consumption. Cereal magazine may be an upmarket object, but the editorial gaze it places on its subjects presents them as museum pieces rather than showpieces.

The photographs also belong on display. Park points out that people are stripped from the landscapes in Cereal’s pages. While this might make sense for imposing Antarctic glaciers or the Faroe Islands, it takes effort to capture the Taj Mahal without crowds. Or any big city for that matter. Yet Cereal insists and these unpopulated panoramas turn space into an art-object able to be appreciated apart from its lived experience. Let’s examine the lines of New York, the curve of a bracelet and the aura of the restaurant.

Faroe Islands via Cereal Magazine
Faroe Islands. Image via Cereal Magazine

This is the true value of a magazine that asks £22 per issue. But Cereal Magazine also belongs to the genre of periodical that wants to question what the format can do. It’s not just the heavy pages and perfect-bound spine that are changing magazine publishing. Rather, it’s the refusal of Cereal and their ilk to pander to the typical way of presenting consumption. The city loses its inhabitants, furniture becomes sculpture and the toss-away glossy earns its place on the coffee table book. Cereal is a museum in a magazine.