Interview With a Zine Maker: Ray Potes

Angi Brzycki, Senior Librarian, Digitization & Special Collections,
Ray Potes, a zinemaker
Ray Potes, photographed by his brother David Potes

Ray Potes is a photographer and the editor of Hamburger Eyes, a black and white photography zine. He’s also the creator of the blog and zine, Ray Reports. Since 2001, Potes and Hamburger Eyes have built a unique perspective and anthropological style dedicated to the unseen or overlooked everyday life. Hamburger Eyes has provided a platform for photographers worldwide by publishing over 200 titles of zines, magazines, books and exhibited photography in multiple galleries and museums around the globe.

Ray Potes currently lives in Los Angeles. In February, Ray was part of a zine panel discussion at the Goldwyn Hollywood Branch along with Valerie J. Bower, Sean Maung, Jaime Bailon, Melissa Dueñas, and Estevan Oriol.

When did you first start seeing zines?

Probably around 8th grade. The zines I got from the older kids were mostly about punk scenes and / or skateboarding. I was amazed and knew that I could figure out how to make my own.

What are some of your favorite zines?

Obviously I love all photography based zines. I love the self-published, xeroxed copied ones. So many. I am afraid I would be forgetting someone. I think that is the beauty of zines, you kind of have to go hunt for them.

How did you get started making zines?

My Dad was into photography, and I was always using his cameras. Eventually, he let me have one of his cameras and then got me a nice one for my 16th birthday. I started using Minolta, Olympus, and Nikon cameras. 35mm film. I didn't learn to process my own film till 12th grade and that's when I really fell in love with it.

I thought making zines was just a great way to share photos. I saw the older guys doing it and figured out how to do it myself. When I started most zines were free, so it just seemed natural to give it away. I think that mentality helped because you give it away with the idea that the receiver can take it or leave it, no worries, or offense taken if the person doesn't want it. Nowadays I see younger people get upset that people are not buying their $20 zine. At that point, I tell them to just give it to people that might like it.

How did Hamburger Eyes get its start?

I was already making a bunch of zines and one day titled one Hamburger Eyes, for some reason that one got a lot of attention and I kept it going.

Where did the name Hamburger Eyes come from?

It was kind of a joke at first and I just liked how it sounded. My friends would say it. It kind of means something along the lines of "Hungry Eyes.”

Have you been approached by people that have been featured/photographed in your zines/magazines?

Well I work with so many different photographers and I am sure they each have their stories. But on my end, the response has been great. People love seeing themselves in there.

How many Hamburger Eyes zines have you made?

We have published over 200 zines. Hamburger Eyes itself is at issue no. 44.

How did Hamburger Eyes become so successful?

Well when we started, I worked at Kinko's and my brother worked in a copy room at a college. We were able to make tons of copies and just give them away and leave them in shops. Also, over time we started working with photographers all over the world. They would hype it up in the cities that they lived in.

How did you choose photo submissions?

We get submissions everyday. It's great that so many people are into what we are doing. But it is overwhelming sometimes.

How are Ray's Reports different from Hamburger Eyes?

Ray's Reports is just a personal blog I started. I don't have a portfolio site and I needed a place to dump all my photos online. Then I started making some zines from those photos. Sooner or later I started just writing my random thoughts on there.

How do you feel about having your zines in the public library for people to borrow?

I love it!! As a teenager, I would spend hours looking at photo books and learning all kinds of stuff.

What advice do you have for aspiring self-publishers, zine makers, photographers?

To stay busy. It's easy to get distracted. Just keep making stuff every day. Nothing else matters.

Check out some of Ray’s zines and Hamburger Eyes below. Explore the library's zine collection!

Book cover for Ray's Reports. Anonymous. No. 13, Maganda
Ray's Reports. Anonymous. No. 13, "Maganda"

Book cover for Ray's Reports. No. 10, Burgers Get Lonely
Ray's Reports. No. 10, "Burgers Get Lonely"
Potes, Ray

Book cover for Hamburger Eyes: The Continuing Story of Life on Earth, No. 31
Hamburger Eyes: The Continuing Story of Life on Earth, No. 31
Stein, Caleb

Book cover for Hamburger Eyes: Inside Burgerworld
Hamburger Eyes: Inside Burgerworld
Potes, Ray