Covering From All Angles: An Interview with Diane Abapo of Suspend Magazine
Written by Greg Harris
Being a journalism major in today’s time, it’s moments where aspiring journalists feel prosperity with the vast umbrella of online magazines/blogs offering endless amounts of content (some worthy, some not), but all in all, there’s a base for writers to express themselves. On the other hand, we also feel moments of disappointment with many publications closing its departments of print and the longevity of a journalist’s career is not as substantial as it was ten years ago.
Walking the tightrope of extinction and innovation, Diane Abapo takes the challenge of providing a different medium with her buzzing publication, Suspend Magazine. The journey of Abapo started in her humble beginnings living in Orange County, CA and later attending UCLA perfecting her trades of journalism + photography. During her time there, she interned with Michael Muller and Flaunt Magazine, and as time went Abapo felt like it was time to fill her void in this industry with her unique views from behind the camera and the writer’s desk.
Just reaching their 5th anniversary, Suspend Magazine has become one of the outlets to spark the new culture from the West Coast and beyond. Giving a sharp sense of the individuals they cover, the events they present on the site, and the stories that come along with each subject in their publication. We had a chance to speak Abapo about the creative process, the importance of having a voice in this generation, plans for Suspend Mag, and more.
How’s Your Modern Life?
It’s more simplified and fulfilling these days than previous months. I’m sure you can relate yourself, but as an editor I find myself editing things down constantly, making items more concise. I apply this to my possessions and keep only what it necessary.
What are three things you have to do in the morning to get your day started off right?
Make the bed, make myself a cup of tea (PG Tips) or iced coffee, and fill up a few pages in my sketchbook. I used to be the cartoon editor for my high school newspaper and up until a few weeks ago, I just remembered how therapeutic and visually satisfying it is to whip up quick illustrations on blank pages that didn’t exist minutes ago. Photography is another outlet for me, but doodling is more immediate.
Seeing that you were born in Brooklyn and raised in Orange County, how was your upbringing when it comes to comparing each coast to one another?
I don’t remember too much from my early years living in Brooklyn but from what my parents tell me, they miss New York and its bustling nature. My parents initially met in Chicago and then starting dating in New York. They always tell me that Manhattan was theirs. My mom and dad’s first date was at Windows on the World of the North Tower from the original World Trade Center. Afterwards, they watched a play on Broadway. If anyone influenced my passion for Arts & Entertainment, it would be the both of them.
What are things in the California lifestyle you hold near and dear to your heart and carry on in your current ways now?
I’ve only lived in Southern California so my lifestyle and what I’ve been exposed to doesn’t necessarily pertain to how people in mid- or northern California assimilate with, but for me, I’ve always been a beachgoer and ocean lover. (You won’t find me swimming in the deep ocean though because I’m terrified of sharks.) I love fishing and being on a boat in the middle of the ocean… As ironic as it is with me living in Downtown Los Angeles, I would jump at the chance to spend a few months out at sea. There’s a calmness and serenity when you’re encapsulated by nothing but water and no land in sight.
As you were growing into your love for arts, what sparked your interests into picking up photography?
Fashion magazines and my mother. My mom has had lupus for over twenty years and the medication she takes makes her memory very spotty. I turned to photography in high school as a means to remind her of our family trips and outings. Growing up, my late grandmother Andrea always had a bag of magazines ready for me whenever we’d visit her by USC on the weekends. I always kept to myself when I was younger and so I turned to magazines as my playground found myself more magnetized to fashion advertisements and editorials than anything else I laid eyes on.
"It’s a pivotal time for our country right now. There are a lot of marginalized groups and people of color who are yearning for a space to have their voices heard."
While at UCLA, you were working under Michael Muller. What lessons did you learn from Muller that primarily developed your style of photography?
We didn’t exchange too many words with each other while I interned for him, but I was always observant of his mannerisms and how he handled his shoots. He was always professional, polite, and very quick when shooting. (He is self-taught just like me.) If there is anything I took away from watching him it would be: If you nail a shot in ten frames, then be done with it and move on. Don’t let your subject tire and prolong it further. Trust your gut and know when you’ve got the shot.
When it comes to your style of shooting, what areas of expertise do you try to focus on when you do have photoshoots with your subjects?
I will eternally be a student when it comes to photography and will never claim to be an expert at it. But having said that, I always treat a photoshoot as a first encounter (if it’s someone I’ve just met) or a conversation. When I have a photoshoot, there’s nothing that makes it any different than a one-on-one conversation other than the fact that I’m holding a camera and taking pictures in-between the dialogue. As I shoot more and more, I no longer find the need to always fill in quiet moments with chit-chat. It’s usually the silent moments between myself and my subjects that I am able to take the most uninhibited portraits.
What moment during your career do you remember feeling why you had to lay the foundation and create SUSPEND?
It was a few years after I graduated from UCLA and had moved on from interning at Flaunt and with Michael Muller. I was working a full-time job in Venice as a photo editor and wasn’t feeling fulfilled creatively. I remember I had a few friends who felt the same way and wanted to try their hand at graphic design, makeup, music production, etc. It just turned into an idea over brunch in Culver City to fill this void (in 2011, I believe) that then would turn into a physical printed publication in 2013 during our ISSUE 03 release party at Tried & True Co. on Fairfax. (We didn’t actually print ISSUE 03 since the first three issues only existed online at suspendmag.com. But during the ISSUE 03 launch party with Stacey Hash, I printed a one-off sample of the magazine using a third party and walked around with it at the event. Enough people that night planted the idea in my head to make physical copies for future issues, and that’s when I decided to make SUSPEND a bi-annual publication.)
Considering today’s age of journalism and seeing the direction that it is going into, how do you feel about the future of indie magazines such as yours with Suspend Magazine?
I’m excited to be honest. Now more than ever, we are a DIY culture and our youth has a lot to get off their chest. Anyone with an idea, a phone, and a computer or a sketchpad can make something happen, something physical that didn’t exist before. I don’t see other indie publications as competition but more as a peer network of fellow like-minded individuals who want to make a physical footprint in time. What I will say though is that there still needs to be an emphasis on fact-checking and making sure the outlets where we are gathering our information from is a reputable source. There are those who think Reddit and Facebook are cited sources, and in actuality, it’s still just a string of people’s opinions. Nothing will replace facts, and I make sure before taking a stance on any issue to do my research and stay informed.
Comparing each coast to one another, Los Angeles and New York have always been competitors when it comes to media. How do you feel like SUSPEND fills the void for covering LA culture?
I view media in general as something that should be inclusive and representative of all the different facets of life that intersect at some point or another. SUSPEND covers Los Angeles culture because it’s where we have access to, but already for our next issue (No. 07) we have interviews and features with noted New Yorkers who have impacted the culture in huge ways. Even though you may find us doing coverage at an event in Los Angeles, it doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention to what other cities and neighborhoods are doing across the country (and globally too). At the end of the day, I want to make sure the content we’re putting out is enriching someone’s mind just as much as it is mine.
Being a journalist in today’s time, what do you feel is your responsibility with the art of industry changing rapidly?
This is a really good question and without sounding like an ass, I think that technology and all the different social media platforms have had both positive and negative effects in term of creating dialogue. There are too many voices saying too many different things and often times, I will sit back and observe before adding to the conversation. Someone wise recently told me, “There is an art to containment,” and that is my number-one mantra nowadays. I try to drown out the added noise that I see on various feeds and narrow down where I find my news, and opinion articles that I want to read and study. What I may lack in words, I turn to photographs to journal what I see, how I feel, what I’m thinking. (And most recently, illustrations too.)
Seeing the results of this recent election, how do you feel SUSPEND will use its platform to continue to give people a voice?
I’m so glad you asked this question. It’s a pivotal time for our country right now. There are a lot of marginalized groups and people of color who are yearning for a space to have their voices heard. With the recent election, I’m changing the direction of the next issue to be more inclusive of current events, and the artists we’re featuring are individuals in the community who are very active in their respective arts in expressing what I feel a lot of people resonate with as well. SUSPEND is spearheaded by women of color, and we are also members of the LGBTQ+ community so if there is anyone who wants to shed light on what is going on in our minds, it would be each and every one of us who has a part in this publication.
What are some of your goals for the rest of this year?
Finish ISSUE 07, make doodles for my friends, and plan for our Tokyo trip next year.
How do you want you and this publication’s legacy to be remembered?
I hope that I am always kind and respectful to others I interact with. And really, being nice goes a long way… As far as SUSPEND, I want the issues collectively to stand as a testament to youth street culture and continue to visually capture and add chapters to the magazine’s diary.