The Daily Gamecock

Strangers Magazine provides outlet for Columbia-based artists

New publication highlights student photography, short stories, music

Joshua Rainwater is a 21-year-old father — of a brand new magazine.

Pulling a copy of the first issue of Strangers Magazine out of a plastic bag and handing it over with the accompanying mixtape, the third-year film studies and media arts student was beaming like a father after the birth of his first baby.

"A big point of this was that there are these really talented people that I don't think are getting enough exposure," said Rainwater as he explained the half-page-sized magazine feature by feature. "It was a blessing that I got the opportunity to actually lay out a magazine, but the point was to get all these people printed."

"These people" were friends and family who contributed to the first issue of Strangers, which officially launched Sunday. Contributors were mostly based in Columbia with all but four out of the 29 contributors being current students at USC.

Photographers included fourth-year photography student Sarah Kobos and third-year psychology student Christian Barker among others, with submissions all loosely based around the concept of "first" stemming from the issue's theme, "First Impressions."

For Barker, his photos for the magazine were taken during his first trip to Mexico.

"The thing that's so interesting about Christian's work is that he just doesn't photograph anything without knowing a story behind it," Rainwater said.

For his feature in the 52-page issue, Barker submitted images from a wedding in Mexico. A band pictured in one of the images was particularly important to the couple getting married in another image because a majority of the budget for the wedding went toward hiring the band to play.

In addition to photography, the issue contains short stories as well as art and comics.

"The stories are great examples of interpreting first creatively," Rainwater said. "I loved the fact that we have some biographical and then some short stories."

For Austin Blaze, a third-year English student, first pertained to his first time being published. His two stories, both with illustration by John Stortz, who he's never met, were the first he'd ever felt comfortable enough to submit for publication.

For Avie James Rainwater III, Joshua's father, first pertained to "the first time I entered my mother's house for the last time." Coupled with a few vintage photos, "The House" follows Avie Rainwater from age three to the selling of his mother's home and comprises his first autobiographical publishing.

"This story specifically represents what Strangers is about: These people are talented; where would they get published?" Josh Rainwater said.

When he started thinking about making a publication, about four to five months ago, Rainwater said that he initially considered making a zine but was put off by the lack of quality associated with those types of publications. Instead, Strangers became what he terms as a "magazine meets coffee table book."

For inspiration and guidance, Rainwater mostly pulled from other publications, namely 16Hours, an upstart collaborative effort between two designers located on opposite sides of the world, and Kinfolk, a quarterly print and tablet magazine.

"I basically tore through everything they cited as inspiration and used some of that," Rainwater said.

Rainwater said he made friends with the people who run 16Hours after exploring their content.

In addition to the magazine, Rainwater released a mixtape of seven songs to showcase yet another type of artistic outlet.

"I'm excited that Strangers Magazine is actually happening," said third-year media arts student Dylan Dickerson, who played to a full house at the Strangers Magazine launch party. "[Josh] contacted me this summer, and I wasn't sure it was still happening, so props to Josh."

Rainwater doesn't see Strangers Magazine as a fluke or a one-time run. Instead, he said that through publishing he realized that he knew so many other artists that need to be featured and said to keep a look out for a possible new issue in the spring.

Hopefully the handshakes, thumbs-ups and congratulations Rainwater received amid the sounds of Dickerson's guitar during the birth of this new magazine were the first of many.

Find more information about Strangers Magazine at You can purchase a copy of the magazine and a copy of the mixtape for $6 by emailing