An interview with the creator of the Third Culture x Revolog Kolor pin

Last year we got in touch with Jean-Paul McAllan, the mastermind behind Third Culture, who has been creating pins that look like 35mm films and asked him if he were up to creating a special pin for us. We were more than excited when he agreed. We love how the Kolor pin turned out and asked Jean-Paul if he were up for an interview with us.

How did you come about to found Third Culture? What was your initial idea?

Hey guys, firstly I just want to say thank you for this interview and it was a pleasure collaborating on the Revolog Kolor pin last year. For those that don’t know me, my name is Jean-Paul McAllan and I founded and run Third Culture.
So Third Culture initially started as simply a name for myself as a photographer. I was in university at the time, studying graphic design and photography and was becoming more serious about photography as a profession. Everyone in my course would go by their own names for their photography businesses (eg. John Smith Photography) but I thought that was super boring and was actually inspired by the photographer ‘Boogie’ to create a name that had nothing to do with my own name. I brainstormed some ideas for names that could represent me and eventually came up with ‘Third Culture’, which I got from the term ‘Third Culture Kid’. The term essentially means ‘someone who is raised in a culture other than their parents own cultures’. That term fit me well because I was born in the United States, raised in Japan and Hong Kong, moved to Australia at 16 and my dad is Australian (Scottish/French heratige) and mother is from Rodrigues Island (French Creole heritage). A really confusing background and upbringing! 
So that was the initial idea behind the name Third Culture, but as time went on I realised that I wasn’t getting taken seriously commercially going by ‘Third Culture’, so I decided to go back to my own real name but developed Third Culture into it’s own stand-alone business. For years I would submit my photos to websites, magazines, competitions and galleries to get my work seen but mostly got rejections or no replies haha. I did eventually get featured in some magazines though and was a finalist in some competitions but it was such a struggle to get my photos seen and out there. I noticed that lots of my photographer friends, many who were way better photographers than myself, were feeling the same way. So from that frustration, I had the idea to turn Third Culture into a publishing brand and basically do it myself. I grew up really into Hip-Hop culture and almost saw starting Third Culture as starting an independent record label to give shine to artists that normally wouldn’t get play from the major labels. 

What fascinates you about analog photography?

I’m going to try hard to not answer this with a cliche but honestly for me, good photography is like magic. You know those old stories you hear about when Europeans first encounter some native tribe somewhere and show them photography for the first time? And the natives seeing the photo after believe that it steals their soul? Well I feel that a good photograph does have some kind of soul in it, because a good photograph can make you feel strong and real emotions. Like all art can, music, painting, dance etc. As for analog photography, it really feels like magic because that moment you capture is somehow turned into a pattern of light which forms a chemical trace on your photographic film…which turns into an image of that specific moment that you can keep forever. I can’t really understand the science behind it but..feels like some real spiritual magic to me.

How do you select the artists your working with?

So far I have only published zines featuring artists that are friends of mine, who’s work I feel is great and needs to be seen more. But I follow many artists and their projects and have a long list in mind for the future regarding projects and zines. But I’m basically open to anyone and every different style but I do prefer work shot on film.

Are you a professional photographer yourself?

I don’t know if I would call myself a professional photographer, I have never been published in National Geographic or anything hahaha. I tried the commercial route for a while but disliked it and realised it wasn’t for me. Since starting Third Culture I would say I’m simply a humble artist now. I’ve had one solo exhibition when I released my first book, ‘Tadhana’ which was great and it got sponsored by Carhartt WIP and Kirin which was really cool. I’ve been in a lot of group exhibitions since then but due for another solo soon. I’m definitely pushing down that photobook and gallery exhibtion route now.

Where do you feel is your fanbase mostly located?

According to Google Analytics and Instagram about 50% are from the United States and Australia and the rest are all over world, which is pretty cool. 

When did you come up with the idea of creating pins?

I started a enamel pin brand with a friend in 2015 called, ‘Pin Jong Ill’, right around the beginning of when enamel pins started getting popular again. From starting that I learnt the process of designing and manufacturing the pins and eventually I left Pin Jong Ill and decided to make some for Third Culture. Of course I love anything to do with analog photography so I made something that I would want to actually wear on my jacket or put on a camera strap, a 35mm film pin!
Since I made those pins back then, a lot of people have popped up and copied the idea, (one even going as far as to blatantly copy my exact designs haha) but I can confidently say I had never seen anyone make anything like it besides some vintage Kodak and Konica pins I had collected. It’s been great to do official collaborations with brands such as Revolog though and I hope I can do more with other companies going forward. 

Do you think that the interest in analog photography is growing?

Analog photography is definitely growing in a way but I don’t know how long it will be properly supported by the big businesses. For every film emulsion that gets brought back (E100 Ektachrome) it feels like 2 get discontinued. I think the future is in the smaller, passionate brands like Revolog, Cinestill, Impossible Project etc. influencing more people to try shoot film and see what it’s about. As the cameras get better on mobile phones though…I think people won’t have as much need to buy consumer digital cameras anymore and hopefully will turn back to analog instead. That’s a hope I have anyway. 

Do you have any future projects you would like to talk about?

Publication wise, I’m working on releasing a debut photobook early next year from a photographer named Luke Pownall (IG: @lukepownall) as well as releasing a follow-up zine next year from SP Fernandez (IG: @22spero). I’m also working on a personal zine of my own photography, which I may or may not release haha. Of course I will be looking for more photographers I find interesting to work with too, if you know any please let me know! 
On the other side of Third Culture, I’ve been working on a lot of apparel lately. I’ve always been really into streetwear so I’m trying to bridge that gap between photography and streetwear which I think hasn’t been done yet. Really I’m just making stuff I want to wear though to be honest haha. 
Also looking to do put on a group exhibition and the first one from Third Culture!

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