The Man and the Brand: Olivier Zahm

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Published March 10, 2010

PHOTO BY GILLES UZAN

 

Oliver Zahm, magazine publisher, love machine, and night creature has devoted his life to building the Purple brand. In the space of twenty-odd years, the Frenchman has mutated his magazine from Purple Prose to Purple Sex, to its current incarnation, and Purple Fashion—which includes some prose and sex in spades. For the last year, Purple’s blossomed as an online form, blending friends and beautiful women and a passion for debauchery into a glamorous and messy lifestyle guide to the worldof the man and his magazines. Now, he’s returned his photographs from the blog to the realworld (whatever that means), with a show of his work at Colette. Here he talks about 2.0 generation, the democratization of photography, and rumors of a Purple venue.

ALICE PFEIFFER: When you created purple-diary.com, the blog extension of Purple magazine, a year ago, you also began publishing your own photos online on a regular basis. How do you feel the presence of your shots have changed the blog’s identity?

OLIVIER ZAHM: It’s in blogs’ nature to have photos. You can’t have one without the other. When people go on to blogs, they want to look at pictures, pictures you took yourself, so it’s in the essence of the medium.

PFEIFFER: The world has been looking at your pictures for a year now.  How long have you actually been taking pictures for?

ZAHM: I first started taking pictures five years ago. Nighttime pictures, because that’s what I was exposed to. It’s a fascinating time: People are out, tired often, it’s a whole other dimension.PFEIFFER: You once described Purple as an attempt, with no means or experience, to create a portrait of a generation, and a portrait of those who embody their times. Is your relatively new interest in picture-taking, a mirror of today’s frenetic picture taking society?

ZAHM: Yes. We’re in a snapshot culture, with cameras that you can just constantly carry around. People are taking pictures more than ever, wherever they are. When I started to taking pictures, I didn’t have any artistic claim. I just started snapping away.

PFEIFFER: What do you consciously look for when you take pictures?

ZAHM: I look for a very particular idea a glamour, that one can only see late in the night. It is vital, desperate and erotic glamour. Maybe it’s not easy to understand but it’s present at night.

PFEIFFER: We’re in the 2.0 era: all publications are expanding to a .com version, some with more difficulties than other. In the case of Purple, what kind of impact do you feel the blog has had on the magazine?

ZAHM: Look, it’s very simple. The blog has 100,000 single visitors per day. But for the magazine— if you have approximately five readers per copy, we have 350,000 readers of the print version. A month of blogs is more than six months of magazine. That’s enough of a reason, no?

PFEIFFER: I’m hearing rumors of a Purple space. Is there anything you can reveal?

ZAHM: All I can say is that it has never been done before, but it’s being discussed in New York.

PURPLE DIARY IS ON VIEW THROUGH APRIL 3. COLETTEIS LOCATED AT 213 RUE SAINT-HONORE, PARIS.