Labellum, a new student zine about the human experience, reveals the vibrancy of an untouched, unchangeable, and truly intimate existence.
The first edition of the body-positive zine was released earlier this month, featuring various student submissions of poetry, prose, and photography. Breanna Gosse and Rachel Ferrante, both sophomore writing, literature and publishing majors, are the creative minds behind Labellum.
“A labellum is the base petal of an orchid, where the life comes from, and every orchid has a differently shaped labellum, so we’re kind of using that plant anatomy to be symbolic of what we do,” Gosse said. “That is, to be the thing that connects everything, and to show that every single person is different.”
The pair intends the publication to change the way people view themselves and their bodies. A close-up of the hairs on a man’s arm, a dim photo of a woman getting dressed, and all the other images in the zine come from a place of human vulnerability.
“Our goal is to embrace everyone’s body types, as well as the experiences that go with them, and to bring to the spotlight things that usually don’t have the spotlight,” Ferrante said. “This [includes] the blemishes, scars, birthmarks, tattoos, and all of the things that are part of a human that aren’t really normalized.”
Ferrante said the zine contains only grayscale photography to show the likeness that exists in our humanity of differences.
“When it’s in black and white, there’s sort of a connection: people see things in a different light,” Ferrante said. “We connect with both our similarities in being human and our differences.”
The faces of the people in the photos are not shown, and the majority of the subjects remain anonymous. The only requirement is that models must be over 18 to participate in a photo shoot.
Ferrante said that candid interaction is vital to her artistic process.
“It’s very important in a shoot for Labellum for people to be comfortable, so I can capture them in their natural form,” Ferrante said.
The zine also includes pieces of written work by various student authors, which are displayed beside the images.
“The first edition had a lot to do with emotional trauma, and it also had a lot of sex because people submitted a lot of sexual submissions,” Gosse said. “There’s a beauty in feeling all of these emotions and knowing that other people do feel this, and it doesn’t have to be a shameful thing.”
Laura Tormos, a sophomore visual and media arts major, published her poem “Aureate” in the zine. She said she was attracted to Labellum because it allowed a certain freedom she had not seen in other publications on campus.
“I’m interested in telling a story that isn’t just based on other people’s opinions,” Tormos said. “If you’re going to write, and you’re a writer, what’s the point of writing if you can’t show a bit of yourself?”
Labellum accepts works from multiple mediums to promote unrestrained creativity for all who want to participate.
“A picture is worth a thousand words, but at the same time, there is a kind of clarity that comes with language,” Gosse said. “We didn’t want to restrict the format for people who wanted to submit.”
Ferrante and Gosse aim to make the zine available to all, with copies in the library and the dining hall, and online.
“The goal is to build a base, get an interest, and from that, get donations and subscriptions,” Gosse said. “We will accept money from anyone as long as they’re not requiring something from us because we want to remain a very independent publication.”
With the intention of releasing a new edition every three months, the pair said they plan for future issues to have a more diverse array of perspectives.
“It’s not just for Emerson; it’s for everyone,” Ferrante said. “Our purpose is to really accommodate and represent more people. In the future, we want to have more body types, ethnicities, and more poetry and prose from different people with different experiences.”