PRESENT Magazine explores the role of vulnerability in creative processes

A conversation with PRESENT founder and editor-in-chief Hugo Hoppmann about mindfulness, vulnerability and the urge to create

by Alexandra Bondi de Antoni for VOGUE
January 25, 2022

Original article on Vogue:

What can readers expect when they open PRESENT for the first time?

PRESENT is a magazine about making and what it means to live in the moment today. We conduct interviews, tell stories and present people from all over the world who are getting things done. PRESENT wants to inspire you to get started. My wish is that the reader shuts the magazine in the middle of reading and feels the motivation to get started on their favorite unrealized project. Most of the time, we have simply built up too many, often irrational fears that prevent us from tackling the really important things. We want to address and de-taboo this by showing: We all only boil with water! No matter how old or young, famous or inexperienced. Showing that, in a modern, personal way, motivates. That is the mission.

The theme of this issue is vulnerability. How did this come about and how do you and your colleagues explore this topic?

When I interviewed Terry and Tricia Jones (founders of i-D) for our first issue, we talked about a lecture by Brené Brown. She's a super interesting woman whose work is dedicated to the topic of vulnerability. I was very intrigued by it. Showing vulnerability is courageous. Admitting vulnerability means being honest, transparent, open: even about difficult situations and experiences in life.

The start of work on the current issue was also the start of the pandemic. That was not an easy time. I talked a lot about vulnerability with my partner Sarah Discours. In all areas in life, in work, but especially in love, and in relationships. Sarah is not only a great art director, but also a woman from whom I learned a lot about honesty and directness. PRESENT wouldn't be half as good without Sarah! I'm very grateful for that. Vulnerability fits the vision of PRESENT. We want to show not only the joyful, but also the challenging sides of work and life. And we hope to encourage people and give them the incentive to turn ideas into reality.

Unlike many other magazines, you as a person are very present in the pages of the magazine. One has the feeling that you take you along and lead you through the pages like a guide. How did that come about?

In the inner margins the reader will find, slightly hidden, my voice-over, a bit like a subtitle. Here I tell background details and anecdotes about the creation of the respective contribution. That makes me vulnerable, but it's hyper-personal. I find that unique and different — and also just human, which I sometimes miss. I find this kind of transparency exciting and it's important to me to show the readers more than "just" the final result.

PRESENT is about the whole process. It's important to me to demystify the creative process to some extent. Realizing that creativity is largely simply about getting started and start somewhere helped me tremendously at the beginning of my career. During my studies, my motto was let's make better mistakes tomorrow, which I still have in me. Being kind to yourself and allowing yourself to make mistakes can be incredibly liberating.

Solidarity seems to be one of Present's core values. Can you describe the PRESENT community?

The PRESENT community is for everyone who is crazy enough to do their own thing. Brave enough to dream and go for those dreams too: "For all dreamers and makers, for all dreamers who make."

Everyone has their favorite unrealized project and I think we need to support each other more, and I hope to create a platform for that with PRESENT. We're doing this for everyone who wants to create, and we're trying to give back support, encouragement and inspiration.

Mindfulness has almost become a buzzword in recent years and especially through Corona. How do you manage not just to repeat clichés, but to create valuable content that moves away from the self-optimization craze?

We achieve this through a deliberately wild mix of people and perspectives. And with an aesthetic that moves away from clichés. I hope to reach people who want to get away from the classic self-help bubble, but nevertheless give these topics a chance.

I see mindfulness as a chance to "wake up." And to realize: We have this one life, this day, this moment. What do we really want to do with it? What is it that we actually want to do, but keep putting off? And how do we manage to tackle it? These are such universal questions, you can ask anyone that, and get insightful, fascinating answers, and I find that incredibly exciting. Being concentrated, focusing on the one thing or the one person in front of you: that also simply feels good. Completely focusing on something is almost radical these days.

What does it mean for you to be in the moment?

For me, being in the moment means appreciating what we have. To be awake and not sleepwalking through life. To realize that we only have this life and that it is an unbelievable gift. My urgency probably comes from having experienced a terrible loss at a young age that made me realize how precious it is to be alive.

For me, being present also means accepting the moment as it is, even if that is sometimes very difficult. Cultivating clarity and mindfulness to be able to focus  on what is really important to you. To be able to listen to your heart. To enjoy life and not to postpone anything!

Can you give our readers a tip on how to be more mindful to themselves?

We can try to be kinder to ourselves. Take real breaks more often. Just sit and close our eyes for a while, without any input, and see what happens. Write everything down. Journaling is a great tool to get clarity and better understand what's going on inside of us. Have a conversation with your heart as author Jack Kornfield describes it. Developing good morning rituals has been super helpful for me personally. Doing important things for ourselves before we let the world hit us makes an incredible difference for the rest of the day.

What's next for PRESENT?

We are already working on the next issue, and more collaborations with artists, designers and artisans are in the works — and the "Present" podcast is in the plans. I'll try to spend even more time on Present this year. It is and remains my personal favorite unrealized project, it drives me and it makes me happy.