WILL EISEMAN is looking to shake up the Savannah art scene.
When he opened PULP Bookstore and Gallery at 412 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in April, he saw the niche he could fill in Savannah: shock value.
Half of Eiseman’s stock is graphic or explicit in nature. Photos of autopsies are mixed in with pinup glamour shots. Coffee table books about genitalia are relegated to the back end of the store.
“My aesthetic is anything that fascinates or offends,” laughs Eiseman.
With experience in cities like Sydney, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles, Eiseman wasn’t used to more conservative cities like Charleston and Savannah.
“Charleston is more touristy than here. It’s money tourists there, and here [in Savannah] it’s small-town tourists,” explains Eiseman.
“They won’t see a bookshop like this anywhere they live, so I get really great business.”
So far, PULP has exhibited photographs of Bettie Page and of the ‘70s punk scene, which Eiseman notes is different from the predominant art style here.
“The majority of people here, they want pictures of palm trees and sailboats,” Eiseman points out. “I’ve seen the stuff around here, it’s artist-run galleries.”
In addition to selling new, non-fiction books and photographs, Eiseman also offers zines, both locally produced and outsourced.
Zines, short for magazines or fan-zines, are independently published and circulated publications, often paper booklets. Because of their DIY essence, though, zines can be anything you want them to be.
What’s in them? Anything. Because of their independent nature, people can get controversial with the subject matter—right up Eiseman’s alley.
“Most people think they’re creative,” Eiseman says. “Used to be, they’d have a screenplay in their head, the movie they would make. Zines are the easiest way to do it.”
The Savannah Zine Fest takes place Oct. 7 at a warehouse on West Bay Street, between Jefferson and Barnard streets. (The bookstore was too small to host such an event.) Zine-makers and independent publishers will have tables showing off their work, and workshops will occur through the day.
Eiseman threw a similar fest in Charleston when he owned PULP there.
“We did the first one in July. There’s no school, it’s 110 degrees, you could fry eggs on the sidewalk, and we still had 2,500 people,” Eiseman notes.
“They did their own shirts, comics, LGBT zines, little booklets, it was great. People really enjoyed it. The first thing I said when I came here, I said to Emma [Hatch, PULP general manager], you have to do events to get people in. I don’t have the space here to do what I did in Charleston. Events get people thinking about it. It puts an interest in printed material, which there isn’t—there’s only two bookstores.”
Eiseman hired Hatch for her zine background—she owns Appreciation Society, an online zine store.
“Zines are just another form of art,” he enthuses. “See why I have the books out? Books are a form of art. I don’t sell fiction, I sell the art books—they’re beautiful. Most people can’t afford to do that. Zines give everyone a chance to publish.”
Hosting the Savannah Zine Fest also gives Eiseman the chance to align himself with the local art scene, something he tried out in Charleston.
“In Charleston, I wasn’t around long enough to know artists, so I bring my own artists with me. If you’re gonna do an exhibition and you show outside art, there’s no guarantee you’re gonna get a crowd,” Eiseman explains.
“But if you show local art, you get their families and friends who come, and someone will buy something. Same thing with zines. Someone says, ‘I’ve got my zine at PULP,’ someone comes.” CS