Throwback Thursday: 12ozProphet Issue #1 – 1990’s Graffiti

By - Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

This segment of Throwback Thursday pays tribute both to 12oz at its origin, and to the medium by which it was initially distributed: print. Many fans and followers of 12ozProphet are likely unaware of the historical context surrounding its foundation. It’s about time we let our audience and community have an inside look at the creation of 12oz, the man and the motivation behind it and the evolution it has undergone since its beginnings in 1993. Prepare for a history lesson on 12ozProphet.

12ozProphet was conceived, produced and distributed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) student, Allen Bendikt, in the 90s in an effort to evoke true competition among contemporary graffiti zines. Back in the day, before widespread use and understanding of the World Wide Web, international news at the blink of an eye and the sharing of events and opinions with thousands in one fell swoop, people had to work to make their voices heard and to hear others (perhaps we owe our modern short attention spans to these phenomena). Collecting photos, newspaper clippings and other physical representations of events was this era’s way of reading, learning and sharing. For you millennial internet users, this may seem foreign and impractical, but at the time, it was the only way to record things that happened. There was no “bookmark” option on a newspaper, an instant picture, or a developed photo.

Similar to the distribution of pamphlets that advanced social movements and their ideologies, such as that of women’s rights in the early 20th century, or political platforms throughout history, photo trading was a common social practice and way to spread word about one’s work, especially in the graffiti community. Consequently, the concept of the zine, with its capacity to display numerous photos with accompanying text, became of particular importance within cultural movements that attempted to document and distribute art, like graffiti.

With an arsenal of design and production skills, the 12oz team saw and seized the opportunity to optimize zine aesthetics and production standards, raising the bar for graffiti zines, thus demanding that graffiti writers evidence their claims to talent and superiority. While currently, the printed edition of 12ozProphet is perceived as a “zine,” at the time of its debut, it more closely resembled a magazine, with half-color prints, while others were black and white, precision layout and design, and editorial-esque features, providing readers with refreshing insight and novel material.

This first issue of 12ozProphet included an interview with Inkheads, as well as Krylon’s Vice President of marketing. These professional features were groundbreaking advances in the realm of the zine. They presented readers with the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at the art, providing contextualization at both the level of the artist, and of the corporation providing the artist the instrument (the spray can, after which, 12ozProphet is named).

Now, an altogether different dilemma was that of distribution in an era devoid of digital convenience. Decades behind the advent of email distribution lists and one-click newsletters, distribution was a difficult task for small zines like 12oz. As one might imagine, printing, shipping, and sharing can become expensive, especially with the number of copies necessary to make a lasting and prevailing impression.  The relatively limited 12oz crew of the 90s independently distributed a total of 5,000 copies of the first issue through Hip Hop and comic book stores and news stands. The distribution in itself was a major obstacle, requiring a tactical and efficient approach. 

And thus began 12ozProphet. This concludes our Throwback Thursday for this week, and your 12ozProphet sponsored history lesson. So, while you browse the 12oz forums, read our news, admire the photo galleries and discussions among them, we hope you will take a moment to think back to these roots and of the authoritative, forward-thinking 12ozProphet conceived and employed over 20 years ago, and that it continues to use today. Okay, that’s enough.


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