In Focus: PALINDROME
We catch up with Scott Pilgrim about his latest project.
PALINDROME is a book publishing and gallery project created by artist and photographer Scott Pilgrim. We reached out to Scott to get his story, the drive to create PALINDROME, and the details on his latest book project, GUIDE featuring photography by Nobuo Iseki.
LS: With a career that spans multiple industries, you’ve worked with brands like Suicoke and Saintwoods, all the way to massive names like Red Bull and Nike. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start?
SP: It's hard to say exactly where it all began, but music was basically my entry point to creative work. When I was 17, living in London (ON), I started working freelance for a few clients and organizing events/art shows. I was working with a small design firm heavily involved in one of the yearly music festivals, shooting photos mostly. This led to working with some local musicians on artwork and eventually working with Black Atlass.
When I moved to Toronto, I was DJing, throwing parties, and running a quarterly magazine with a friend who worked at Vice. A few years down the line, Black Atlass would end up signing to Fools Gold Records, a record label started by A-Trak and Dave 1 - cousins to Saintwoods co-founder Zach Macklovitch. It's a bit of a long story, but connecting those dots eventually lead to everything else. At the end of the day, it started with pursuing personal projects and making an impact in the community directly around me, which is why I decided to start PALINDROME.
LS: Do you think the wide breadth of clients you’ve worked with has influenced your creative process?
SP: Absolutely — and I'm definitely not the first to say it — every process, medium, project, etc, informs the other. Although, realizing that was sort of a happy accident, it really came out of needing to survive when I was a young artist, taking things on that I had no experience with before because I wasn't making enough money pursuing only photos or only design.
It started with pursuing personal projects, and making an impact in the community directly around me, which is why I decided to start PALINDROME.
LS: We’d love to know what spurred you into publications and the formation of PALINDROME.
SP: In the years leading up to COVID I had been working on a solo show, and a small collection of handmade books. These books came across more as art pieces than products and it made it a bit harder to sell online, find an audience, and make an affordable product.
I was interested in designing physical objects, but at the time the online space was overflowing with t-shirt brands, merch companies etc. I had liked the name PALINDROME for a personal project for a while, but thought I might use it to start a creative agency. Eventually I had collected enough photos of LA to put together a book, I used that as a catalyst to launch the brand as if I was working with an unknown publisher.
LS: Was there a learning curve going into publications? Do you feel your previous experience gave you a jumpstart?
SP: Yes and no, in some sense, I've worked in print media for almost 2 decades. When I was 16, I worked at a lithography shop collating books, which was a big part of sparking my initial interest. Eventually, I went to school to study lithography, bookmaking, and making handmade books that inspired the project I mentioned earlier.
It's always been a part of my life here n' there; it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized it was something I could make my own. The hardest part is making a big enough body of work on my own or finding people with the work that can facilitate an entire book. I've done a few calls for submissions, but it's not an easy ask. It's been a bit of a slow build because of what's required to fill 100+ pages with work.
LS: How did your conversation start with Nobuo Iseki?
SP: It was actually pretty straightforward. A little over a year ago, my friend Cameron Morse shared some of Nobuo's work with me, specifically the photos of spots around Japan. We discussed that it would make a good book, and I reached out to him over Instagram.
LS: Working with a multi-faceted photographer like Nobuo Iseki, how did you settle on the concept for the book? Was it a fluid process, or did you start with a spot guide in mind?
SP: Originally, it started as a random assortment of his work from all over Japan. We collaborated on a few different iterations of the book, maybe 3, before we arrived at the version we have now. Halfway through the process, Nobuo was inspired to hone it into a proper "spot guide." he went out and reshot a lot of the locations and made it hyper Tokyo specific. It wasn't until this final version that we decided to redo the layout to include the QR codes, which really gives the book more of an actual function rather than just a collection of visually appealing spots.
LS: Going forward, do you intend to work with more international artists? What’s next for Scott Pilgrim and PALINDROME.
SP: Honestly, there are so many people I'd love to work with, and a few different directions I'd like to take the project overall. Working with international artists is very interesting because it opens up the scope of where the project could live in the future. The books were really a kick-off point to get the brand going during a time when we couldn't host in-person events; my initial intention was always to have a brick-and-mortar space.
Beyond that, I have a few projects on the go for early 2024, more online features, and more books, and I would love to start organizing shows again, both for myself and others. PALINDROME is still evolving, but at its core, my goal is to create space for things I want to see more of and make things that don't just live online.