Creative Lives — Reagan Clare gives us a window into the work of an archivist and image researcher

Posted 10 December 2018 Interview by Indi Davies

The work of an image researcher and archivist is something of a hidden and mysterious trade in the world of creative projects. Similarly, their troves of content are often tucked away out of sight – but this is something that image researcher and archivist Reagan Clare is changing with her magazine, Homesick. Founded earlier this year, Reagan set up the title to take readers behind the scenes on her line of work – uprooting unseen images, pop-culture references and rare content that cannot be found on the internet. We met her at the recent ModMag London event to ask her all about her role, how she got into the industry following a fashion degree, and her learnings from creating her own magazine.

Reagan Clare

Job Title

Image Researcher, Archivist and Founder and Creative Director of Homesick magazine

Based

London

Previous Employment

Archivist, The Contemporary Wardrobe (2016–present)

Archivist, Fiorruci (2018)
Rankin Photography (2017–2018)
Archivist, Karla Otto (2017)

Archivist, Elegantly Papered (2016)
Intern, Jonny Lu (2016)

Intern, Simmonds (2015)
Archive Intern, Vivienne Westwood (2011–2012)

Education

Central St Martins, Short Course - Introduction to Magazine Layout (2017)
BA Fashion Design with Business Studies (2009–2013)

Website
Social Media

Reagan at work at an image archive

How would you describe what you do?
I work as an archivist and image researcher. I also founded Homesick magazine, which was released first in 2017, and has so far released two free issues, and is about to release its third, and first chargeable one, in January.

What does the job of an image researcher and archivist entail?
I've worked as an archivist and image researcher for four or five years, since graduating from uni. 

With the fashion archives, people will visit to hire clothes from you – from stylists to people working on adverts, or costume designers. There’s a bit of fashion conservation involved, too. At magazine archives, this normally involves supplying things for exhibitions and answering research queries. 

“Most of my clients are fashion directors, and it’ll be for beauty campaigns, perfume campaigns, or editorial.”

There is also a lot of organising, boxing, photographing, and selling.  Working at photographers’ archives is quite different. You will be working with the photographer’s work only, so it’s quite personal. It’s just about keeping everything up-to-date and organised so that they can find it and reference it efficiently. You’ll also be dealing with things like press requests.

In terms of my freelance research work – I mostly assist directors in the fashion industry. I’ll be sent a brief and will work to a day rate. The research will often inform a fashion campaign, fashion editorial, or a film project. Sometimes they just want to build their visual reference library, which is a lot of fun, too.

Inside Homesick magazine

Reagan’s working set-up from home

What did you study, and how did that lead into the work you do now?
I studied fashion design at Brighton, but I don't think I ever wanted to do fashion design. On reflection, it was definitely the briefs and the imagery that appealed to me most. My strong point was definitely coming up with imagery, and defining how something was going to look and feel.

I realised this a couple of years into the course, even though I made a final collection at the end of it. Knowing that the imagery and research were my strong points, I just went about finding work that suited me after I finished.

“I studied fashion design at Brighton, [but] my strong point was definitely coming up with imagery, and defining how something was going to look and feel.”

How did you did you go about finding that work?
It was difficult, because I didn't have anybody to tell me about those kinds of jobs. I didn't even know about the job of an art director or a creative director, so it was a lot of self discovery – a lot of researching. I was super into magazines, so I just thought about all the jobs behind that, and realised that I was good at image researching. So I started emailing people, saying, “Do you want me to image research for you?” and from there I began building up a portfolio. When you start something in this way, I think your confidence just grows naturally, and you start to get more clients.  

Then in terms of the archival work, it was just about being kind of relentless – emailing places and trying to get your foot in the door. I think, through the years, I just managed to sort of climb the ladder, and began working at more exciting places.

Spreads from issue 2 of Homesick magazine

Spreads from issue 2 of Homesick magazine

Spreads from issue 2 of Homesick magazine

Is it a competitive line of work?
I guess it is competitive with the fashion archives, because people tend to stay in these jobs for a while, so they don’t come around very often. I’m not even from an archival background, but you’ll get a lot of people applying for these jobs who have studied conservation, history, or fashion history. It’s definitely niche, but archivists are from all different backgrounds so it’s not super-elitist.  

I think the image research work is quite competitive, too. It mostly comes down to who you know. You also can’t have an off day as such, if you’re working to a day rate and the client has a deadline you need to get results. 

How did Homesick magazine come about?
Homesick was launched in 2017. I'd been working in archives for a few years, and was obsessed with magazines. As I wasn't from a graphic design background, I realised the likelihood of working for a magazine was quite slim, so I decided to make my own.

I guess I'm a bit of a control freak, so I liked the idea of doing it all myself and it was self-sufficient. It was all about using my skills as a researcher and archivist to talk to people, and get the content through those relationships. It's really through the willingness of those people, and the contributors, that I’ve been able to keep it going. But it's still early days.

“If you have a good visual eye, photographic memory, and are interested in art or fashion history, all those things will help you out.”

Inside The Contemporary Wardrobe archive, where Reagan has worked on and off for three years

Do you feel like running your own magazine has opened up new opportunities?
As a researcher, I think it’s trained my eye a bit more. I’ve also really enjoyed the curation aspect, acting as editor and deciding how the magazine will look overall. 

I think it’s probably been a good promotional tool as well. People I work for enjoy that I do it, as they can quickly see I’m visual or have good references. And it's certainly been a good way to get my foot in the door with museums and picture libraries. I think, overall, it validates the work I do, and will hopefully encourage more work in the future. 

Website for The Contemporary Wardrobe Collection, where Reagan has worked on and off for three years

What would your advice be to someone wanting to get into archival and image research work?
If you have a good visual eye, photographic memory, and are interested in art or fashion history, all those things will help you out. For the archival work, you also have to be organised. It’s a good idea to seek out mentors where you can, and learn as much about the industry as possible before you go into it.

And do you have any tips on starting your own magazine or side project?
Something that people will tell you to be careful of, is how much things cost. Be aware of where you're going to print it, get loads of quotes, and just do everything within your means. You can aim high and dream big, but you've also got to be able to pull it off. While it’s important that it looks nice, you have to be realistic.

Also, be aware of your competitors and what's already out there, to see if your idea will ride, and get as much feedback as possible. When I was coming up with the idea for Homesick, I would ask friends, bosses, family, people I knew in the industry, what they thought. Then, when you put it out there, you’ll have a better sense of whether people will be interested.


...

This interview was recorded at the recent ModMag London event. You can find out more about MagCulture here, and read a round-up of the recent ModMag London over at It’s Nice That.

Posted 10 December 2018 Interview by Indi Davies
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Photography, Fashion, Publishing

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