Bina Sarkar Ellias and the art of running a niche magazine

Bina Sarkar Ellias, publisher, Gallerie Publishers, and winner, Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award, shares her journey as a publisher, editor and designer

15 May 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

Bina Sarkar Ellias, Gallerie Publishers

You have successfully edited 50 issues of International Gallerie, an award-winning bi-annual journal, which was conceived in 1997. Tell us about the journey.
Gallerie emerged out of the hopelessly idealistic idea of sharing creative excellence, blurring boundaries and aspiring for a unified world not fragmented by political, religious, social and cultural hegemony, but nurtured by an awareness of the endless wealth of knowledge, imagination and creativity that can sustain each one of us. My deep appreciation of the arts, literature, besides the rich diversity of global cultures and the powerful universality of ideas nudged me to create a platform that encourages peaceful coexistence through a celebration of cultural diversity. I believe it is the culture that connects and humanises.

Since 1997, Gallerie has completed over 25 years and 50 volumes that have become collectibles in significant museum and university libraries worldwide.
What began as an arts and literary journal that focused on creative excellence worldwide with the first two volumes, soon evolved into a socio-cultural forum on global issues – stringing the visual and performing arts, photography, cinema, poetry, essays and travel into a cohesive theme. Each volume would be a meticulously designed work, region-specific or dedicated to an issue of universal concern.

And, the magazine is known for its meticulous design aesthetics…

For me, it was critical to engage in an inclusive subsuming practice beyond the confines of art galleries and precincts of the creative community, to a larger, more diverse readership. It would be a luring of laypeople into the wondrous world of the arts by making it more accessible through our friendly words and images. Passionate about aesthetics and trying sincerely to excel in my work, I wished to create the highest possible quality in editorial and production values for our readers. It was a formidable challenge I had sprung upon myself, with zero high-end corporate patronage or funding from any foundation, besides zero business sense, marketing or networking skills.

How did you manage?
It helped immensely to have an anchor; a creative spouse, the award-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer Rafeeq Ellias, who had, and still has the “courage” to understand and support my insanity. His affiliation with advertising helped conjure some of the ads that supported our inaugural issue and thereafter.

However, publishing a magazine is a monumental task. Primarily, one needed a graphic designer to interpret my thoughts into an aesthetic layout with appropriate artworks. Mangesh Rane, currently famed co-founder and creative director of Open Strategy and Design, was a young graphic designer then, and he agreed to create the initial Gallerie logo and design for the magazine… gratis. As I had no wherewithal to pay a fee, thereon, he designed and created the artworks of the first six issues with a deep generosity of spirit.

In 2000, after completing Gallerie’s 6th edition, Mangesh understandably moved on as he was committed to larger projects. Left without a designer/artwork-maker and still with no funding, I could not afford another professional graphic designer. So I taught myself to design and the technicalities of artworks and minimal photoshop at the small advertising agency we were running at that time; and through the years until now, every issue’s design and artwork has been a creative joy for me.

Your USP has been your ability to coax the most talented names to work for Gallerie…
We feature writers, photographers, poets, Nobel laureates and other creative people of repute, as well as those who challenge the status quo. I believe in breaking stereotypical norms. What is important is the work. If I’m moved by a completely unknown person’s work, I feature it.

What is your idea of a perfect issue of Gallerie?
An ideal Gallerie issue is one that engages the reader with an eclectic fusion of critical thinking, and aesthetics in design and layout; a mind-stirring, visual and tactile delight with an enduring quality.

What is your preferred paper grade?
We’ve used imported art paper, matt, 150-gsm for inside pages and 300-gsm for the cover... for 20 years. It lends itself to the artistic quality of Gallerie and has a wonderful tactile feel. Images, which we use large or bleed, reproduce exceptionally well. I’ve seen various people run their hands over the paper with joy!

Which is your greatest cover?
That’s tough. There are several, I think, that are aesthetically excellent or powerful in reflecting an idea. The inaugural issue with Chinthala Jagdish’s Thinker has become the Gallerie “face”; the War issue with Luc Delahaye’s image of a Bosnian mother and child, Kashmir, Iran, Japan, Afghanistan, India Personal & Political, Checkpoint Palestine, Central Asia, Poetry in Art, Bombay, Poland, Taiwan, New York and Migration… all have covers that are considered riveting. Our current 20th anniversary double issue, Hope & Peace, is a 180-degree digression. There are no images. It’s a stark typographic cover.

If you could change one thing about Gallerie, what would it be?
Perhaps the size. While the large 13x9.45-inch format is sumptuous and many subscribers do not want me to change it ... it is not practical ... costs of couriering are high and they consume much storage space.

Which print process holds a special place in your heart?
The woodblock method is, for me, extremely aesthetic. It breathes life. Not practical for print journals of course!

What do you most value in your Gallerie team?
We are minimalists. I research, travel, source editorial material, edit, design and do the layout. I work out of my home. My assistant, Nandu Kamath takes care of the administration (subscription, accounts and coordination. He also helps in the proofreading). Rajesh Gaekwad who helps me with some of the Photoshop and Manjiri Kelaskar who does the final digital artwork, work with me on a freelance basis. Rafeeq Ellias shares his office with us and jumps in to shoot travel stories whenever he is free to do them! It’s a small, connected team. I value the dedication and camaraderie!