Sunday Mornings at the River is something to sit down with in a quiet place, or perhaps close company. The ‘nomadic publishing press’ specialise in small print photography publications.
In each zine there is real warmth within the pages; evidence of something made with love and something else, like the sweat or dirt that belongs to another place, somewhere far beyond our respective city streets.
We chatted with founder Rebecca Rijsdijk about adventure and photography, dreaming big and taking every opportunity to follow through.
“We are capable of great things when we cut out all the excuses and really put our mind to something”
AHB: How and when did Sunday Mornings at the River come about?
Rebecca: To be absolutely honest with you, Sunday Mornings was born out of an unfulfilled feeling I had with the art world as I came in contact with it during my time at art school. I couldn’t relate to it at all. I got frustrated listening to our teachers talking about the commercially fuelled futures they had planned for us, so after I graduated I did the only thing we could do really and that was to create a world of my own. It took me a while to realize that I could bottle up all my frustration and anger and pour it into something new, something positive.
I felt very strongly about my ideals of creating art for art’s sake, and not for commercial gain or an ego boost; creating a positive environment where instead of competing people would work together, share knowledge and dream a little bigger. I started Sunday Mornings at my attic on a rainy day, dreaming about a life on the road and cabins in the mountains.
Who makes up the team?
When I first started I had no idea what I was doing. I picked a name after doodling some sentences on a piece of paper, not knowing it would be so appropriate for the zine I was going to publish a year later, together with my friend Sanne Poppeliers. A Sunday morning at the river represents an ideal Sunday to me. I used to sit at a tiny stream that runs through my hometown, drinking beer with my friends, watching the dogs bathe. No bills to pay, no boring day jobs to go to, just the company of the people I love and the grass between my toes.
We shaped the first two issues of the magazines and after Sanne left to become a biologist, shaped it into the nomadic publishing house it is today. I’ve been running it alone for most of the time, but recently got the amazing Vicky Schilperoort and Rebeca Scurtu on board to produce online content, started to work with my brilliant documentary making friend Roberto Rubalcava on some socially orientated projects, and have Idle magazine (let’s drop some names shall we creator Chloe Firrel-Ray to help out with some of the design work.
What does a nomadic publishing house involve exactly?
Because I ran SmatR on my own for so long, it was an extension of myself. When I turned thirty I had dreamed about leaving my home to live a life on the road for too long and it was time to actually turn my dreams into actions. It took me a while to come up with the courage to leave my job, give away my furniture, but in the end I did just that, kissed my mum goodbye and packed my bags to live a nomadic life for a little while. That little while turned into more than 1,5 years of drifting between places, taking photos and sending zine orders out from my backpack. I only recently settled in London where I am currently setting up an underground gallery and pop up shop near Broadway Market. I still feel like a nomad and travel as much as I can, but I am glad that the zines have a shelf to live on now. To cut a long story short, a nomadic publishing house is just another word for being a logistical nightmare
It took me a while to come up with the courage to leave my job, give away my furniture, but in the end I did just that, kissed my mum goodbye and packed my bags to live a nomadic life for a little while.
What’s your idea of adventure?
Adventure for me is movement. I can’t think of anything worse than to be stuck in a place for too long. I need to move, to meet new people, to eat new food. I need to not know what is around the corner. A good adventure to me is a combination of mindblowing hikes, good chats around the campfire and going home with experiences you’d never think you would have. I love the unexpected. Like when I set out to walk the Camino to Santiago on my own, walking on an old pair of sneakers with a backpack that had seen better days, but the utter conviction that I would finish the 800km walk on just my goodwill and intentions. I ended up with an international family of likeminded souls, a pair of shoes hanging from the trees during one of our siesta’s and a replacement backpack in a bush that carried me over the mountains until we got to a town to fix my own. I love stuff like that. Good stories that you wouldn’t be able to make up if you would sit behind your computer, no matter how imaginative your brain is.
What kind of relationship does something like photography, or creativity, have with the outdoors?
Creativity runs through your veins. Photography is just a way to capture what you need to express. You see something that moves you, it doesn’t necessarily have to be beautiful, and you take a picture of it. Creativity is tied to anything that makes you tick. In my case it is the outdoors.
Can you tell us about a highlight from your own adventures or documented with Sunday Mornings at the River?
The trip to Santiago de Compostela I took was amazing. Not only because I found decent hiking boots up a tree and and a backpack in the bushes, but because of the friendships that were made during that walk. We shared food, blister patches and fatigue with each other every day, total strangers bonded over a relatively short period of time. I am happiest when I walk, moving forward without any mechanical tools, just your two feet on the blistering Spanish soil every day, walking from France across the border and then some more really made me feel accomplished. I am working together with some of the people I met on the road to Santiago to build a school in Nepal, another trip I undertook last year and a new project for Sunday Mornings at the River. All the trips I go on result in a zine for Sunday Mornings at the River, or at least some travel stories on the website.
Creativity runs through your veins. Photography is just a way to capture what you need to express. You see something that moves you, it doesn’t necessarily have to be beautiful, and you take a picture of it.
What’s the best part of being involved in a project like this?
I feel very passionate about featuring people that find creative ways to travel the world, because my biggest excuse for postponing to leave my own home for so long, was ‘I don’t have the money to travel’ and I hear a lot of people say the same. We try to feature people that inspire us to push harder in realizing our dreams. If they can do it on a budget, by joining a scholarship program or teaching English, why can’t we? So the best part of being involved in a project like this is seeing dreams turning into actions really. All the people we interview remind me that we are capable of great things when we cut out all the excuses and really put our mind to something.
Can you tell me a little about the recent project you were working on, the Annapurna Zine?
Annapurna is a zine filled with my photographs from the trip to Nepal I went on in November last year. It was a beautiful adventure and I made a lot of local friends, some of whom I am still in contact with. I dream big and talked to my friend Suman about building school in his town before the earthquakes hit. When we heard about the earthquakes we decided the time for dreaming was over and started working on a fundraiser. I teamed up with Suman, but also with my camino friends Ellen and Mark and my Sunday Mornings workmate Roberto to create a campaign. We all bring our own strength to the table, I know nothing about finances or running a charity, but I can print zines and that is exactly what I did with Annapurna. Our print buddies over at De Resolutie were so kind to sponsor the printcosts, so every pound we make on the zine goes directly to the Indiegogo campaign we are about to publish. This, to me, is what makes photography such a beautiful medium. It gives us the means to combine art with social care, and I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful combination than that.
What kind of potential do you see for the publishing house in the future?
My ambitions and dreams are endless, so I will just keep on creating and hope for the best. Can’t really help myself anyway, every time I think about quitting, I come back to it. Like the itch for adventure, creating and publishing is in my blood.
Interview by Emilia for AHB. Words and photography supplied by Rebecca Rijsdijk at Sunday Mornings at the River
Cover image: Abbie Calvert