Interview with a Zine Maker: Lexis-Olivier Ray

Angi Brzycki, Senior Librarian, Digitization & Special Collections,
Author Lexis-Olivier Ray
Lexis-Olivier Ray with his camera on the intersection of Fairfax Ave. and Beverly Blvd., [May 30, 2020]. Photo credit: Brian Feinzimer

Lexis-Olivier Ray is a multimedia journalist, filmmaker, zine maker, and artist currently based in Los Angeles. In the past year, he has created content for KCET, L.A. Taco, Road Trippers, Leafly, Atlas Obscura, and Hyper Allergic. And in the past 10 years, he has worked with brands such as AT&T, The BBC, Vevo, Getty Images, Syrp, Outdoor Project, and Merry Jane to create documentaries, branded content, music videos, written stories and more. Lexis-Olivier Ray is a regular contributor at L.A. Taco, one of L.A.'s leading voices in independent journalism.

How did you get interested in zines?

I was making my own camera gear and experimenting with film, so zines fit in line with what I was doing.

How did you become interested in photography?

I got into photography through my Mom. She's a photographer and now also a retoucher and printer. She gave me my first camera (a Holga) and taught me the basics of shooting film. I have a collection of 35mm and polaroid cameras that I cycle through. I've been shooting primarily on a Nikon N8008s, but for a long time, I shot primarily on a Pentax K1000. Film is my preferred medium, but as a multimedia reporter, I also shoot digital. I shoot almost all of my digital photographs on my phone, a Samsung Galaxy 8.

How would you describe your photography?

I would describe my photography work as self-documentary based. All of my images are tied to what's going on in my life. More specifically, my work typically revolves around one central space or location. For the past 4 years that space has been Los Angeles.

Not only are you a photographer, but you are also a journalist?

My writing is kind of all over the place. I'm primarily a housing and justice reporter, but I also write about road trips and travel. Most of my work centers on homelessness, police, food justice, ghost towns, and cannabis. In the past few months, I've been writing about housing and police more, road trips, and travel less. The pandemic and uprising accelerated my workload. It feels like every 2 weeks or so, the news cycle is going in a different direction. Keeping up with everything has been challenging, but it's also led to some work that I'm really proud of, both in terms of photography and writing. Typically my zines focus on 3-5 years of work. Even if they're narrowly focused. So I might take a broader look at my experiences covering protests over several years in N.Y.C. and L.A.

In what ways do you think zines are important?

Print is so rare these days, but it's still a powerful medium. Zines put the power of print into the individual's hands. They give people a chance to be heard. Now is in an important time to be heard.

Do you collect zines?

I do collect zines. I don't have a ton, but when I see something, I like I try and grab it. I'm a big fan of Homie House Press. They put a lot of thought and effort into their design and unpack some important conversations in their zines. They put out a zine about Albinism in Puerto Rico that is one of my favorites.

Have zines affected you in ways you didn't expect?

Zines have helped me connect with people from all over the world. One example: when I was living in N.Y.C. I stopped by Printed Matter one day. I found a series of zines by Sean Maung, an L.A. based photographer, and started following his work. We both popped up at a zine festival a few years ago and since then have developed a friendship. We both contribute to the same publication, L.A. Taco. I have a bunch of stories like that. Zines connect people.

How do you feel about your zine in the library for anyone to borrow?

Having my zine in the library feels better than having it in any store or online shop. The zine program at the LAPL is really dope and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Book cover for I Dream of You Often
I Dream of You Often
Ray, Lexis-Olivier