GRUNGECAKE is a New York City based online magazine with the mission to support the arts. In their new category Person of the Month, GRUNGECAKE introduces interesting personalities and their work. For this monthly feature, we have given them a Lomo'Instant Automat to portray their guests in a unique, intimate way. Richardine Bartee is the editor and founder of GRUNGECAKE and we have talked about her journalistic career moving from the print to the digital world.
Hi Richardine, welcome to the Lomography Magazine, please introduce yourself to our community
Hi Lomography! Thanks for the warm welcome. I appreciate it. My name is Richardine Juah Bartee. I am born of two Liberian parents. I'm the first first-generation American in my family. I have been blessed to work in the music and entertainment industries. Late last year, I received my first official invitation to the GRAMMYs. I am an Associate Member of the Recording Academy and the owner of GRUNGECAKE, an online collection of empirical stories and honest reviews. It was print, and different, once upon a time. However, this is the best version for today. I am also a publicist who works with celebrities, new musicians, and professionals from other walks of life.
What sparked the idea of founding your magazine?
In the early 2000s, there was a void for new local talent to get the consistent shine on a mainstream front. Fifteen years later, there is still a void, but GRUNGECAKE does what it can to support as many artists as possible—locally, internationally and globally.
Before applying for the college experience at 17-years-old, an academic advisor promised me a job placement with one of America's top multinational media conglomerates of my dreams. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only pupil filled with said promises. As an adult, I get it, so I don't blame anyone. It's the point of the job. They are marketers. Advertisements aren't always one-hundred percent truthful. Most times, the facts are bent to get your attention.
In retrospect, my life-changing opportunity didn't come through them. In 2013, ten years after I started college, the editor at MTV Iggy viewed my page on LinkedIn. Instantly, I wrote to her to spark a conversation. Before long, I covered Hip-Hop and Electronic music for the site. It happened the way it did because it was destiny. Or like we wrote in March 2013, it was fortuitous.
Everything didn't go according to plan in college. Therefore, I had to find a way to get us exposure. I took on the responsibility. (Like, I usually do.) Thus, the launch of the magazine happening two years after college came to an end.
There are many online magazines out in the world. What makes GRUNGECAKE stand out in your opinion?
GRUNGECAKE is the only online magazine that covers what it does, the way it does when it does. We are known for gaining traction and building relationships with people and things before it becomes nationally, internationally, and globally popularised. I say 'we' because now, I have a team of people who have a similar gift. For a long time, it was just a one-woman show.
Your magazine started out as a print issue, but just like in photography there's a constant struggle against the digital world. How do you feel about changing to an all online platform?
At first, I felt violent pangs in my chest. I am stubborn. Therefore, I was hurt. I went to design school where I learned to create and appreciate editorial layouts—meant to live and be received—in print. The world, as I knew it, came crashing down. I owned grungecake.com for years. I refused to put anything on it. Eventually, I buckled. Often, I still dream of creating in the print medium. I don't think I will ever stop having that dream. I don't want it to halt. My print issues differ in vibe. Perhaps, one day the world will be able to gain full access to my mind.
In your new monthly series, you will be shining the spotlight on interesting people in NY with photos taken with the Lomo'Instant Automat. A way for you to hold on to the analogue world?
Yes, the image is everything. In my world, the presentation is synonymous with breathing. New York is one of those places that bears an original look. No place looks like New York City. I like to think that the people are indistinguishable. Everyone may not be natives of the city like I am, but it has a way of encouraging growth in ways no other place can. I think the Lomo'Instant Automat is the best camera to highlight the individuals from the area. It is sophisticated, youthful, and clean much like my topics of discussion.
How will you pick the people you want to feature in the series. What is important for you to find in a person's story?
I think I am attracted to people who are on a journey to success. I like people who are resilient, at any level. People who know how to band together with others to make something new intrigue me. Inventors are inspirational. They should have a way to navigate through inevitable life things. I don't look for worldly perfection. However, I sought after singular excellence. They should be great at what they do, whatever it is.
As someone telling her story with words for a living - what does photography mean to you?
Photography brings my words to life. Sometimes, it serves as evidence or just a visual aid. In a satisfying way, there could be a pile of photos, but one might still need to find the words to describe what's going on. I like to think the two are in tandem. One doesn't exist without the other—even in our imaginations.