Students’ Photographic Magazine Goes World-Wide

Laila Abtahi

Trapped in Grandma’s house all the way in Connecticut, juniors Melissa Chenok and Erin Cherry decided the best way to magnify “fun” was through a lens. Their plan to shoo away boredom through photography eventually developed into a photographic magazine titled Raw.

“RAW is a setting on cameras for when you want to shoot a higher quality photograph,” said Chenok. “The name is also fitting because the photographs in our magazine are more amateur and literally ‘raw.’”

Raw first started as a PDF and quickly flew off shelves, or in this case, the internet. Thanks to modern technology, people from Switzerland and China could access the magazine on, and they became Raw’s best customers.

The idea to create the magazine arose in the summer of 2009, but Chenok and Cherry discovered their affinity for photography in seventh grade.

Making art through the simple click of a button appealed to Chenok.

“I like drawing and painting but I’m just too impatient. That’s why photography is perfect,” said Chenok.

For Cherry, photography provided a solution to how one can freeze time.

“The first time I got really interested in photography was on a trip to Alaska in 2006,” said Cherry. “I took a picture of two brown bear cubs catching fish and playing with their mother in the middle of a beautiful forest, and I was so happy with the way my photo turned out. That’s when I realized that I really loved capturing moments like that.”

The two pursued their interests in photography by taking classes at the California College of the Arts and San Francisco Academy of Art and taking advantage of the artistic courses offered at Miramonte. The students enrolled in Independent Art Portfolio where they have the opportunity to work on their self-assigned magazine.

With their combined talents, the artists laid out their first 50-page spread containing feature articles, a variety of photos, and a theme page. The theme page consists of several pictures pertaining to a particular topic. The first issue’s theme was “Go Green.”

“Layout gets pretty routine and easy. The really challenging part is getting legal release forms from every person whom we feature,” said Cherry.

Indeed, the paperwork and logistics tested their entrepreneurial skills to the limit. The girls have gotten a small dose of what real business is like since they have to contact hundreds of people from all over the world to get permission to use certain photographs.

“It’s a very draining process,” said Cherry. “But in the end, it’s worth it.”

In order to maximize their fan base, Chenok and Cherry decided to sprinkle a few articles in the magazine to spice up the photos. They approached their mission by interviewing world-renowned photographers like Larry Silver of Vogue, and Brian Fessenden, the manager of photography for Gap, JC Penny and Banana Republic.

“At first it was really intimidating…but then when we got into the actual interview it translated into a normal conversation, which was nice,” said Chenok. “We learned a lot about the business side of photography and how to make it in the photography world.”

Adding interviews to the magazine also added more work. Sometimes the workload got too heavy and stress would affect their performance. Somewhere between scrambling to find interviewees and choosing how to arrange photos, the partners are bound to disagree on something. However, according to Chenok the arguments are usually silly and tend to blow over within 30 seconds.

To help lighten the workload, Chenok and Cherry called upon their friend, junior Caety Klingman to help them out with the writing. Klingman, who has already written two novels and won several literary awards, checks for any grammatical errors and points out where articles could have more support.

The pair stays true to their initial plan not to garner any profits from their production. While they charge 20 cents per page, the cost balances the amount of money shipping and printing consumes. To the creators of the magazine, the 2,000 world-wide subscribers is enough reward.

“Even though we don’t make any money, we have a magazine to show for all the hard work,” said Chenok.

Chenok and Cherry continue their masterpiece and are even expanding the next issue. For instance, art student junior Ann Pister has submitted some art work, and layout experts juniors Sarah and Natalie Reed offered to help out with design.

Chenok and Cherry expect the next issue of Raw to be ripe by mid-March. Once can pick up a copy from the two or purchase one on