Putting their minds into the Gutter

Duo's edgy online magazine captures depictions of Baltimore cool

April 15, 2007|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,Sun reporter

Growing up as the son of a Baltimore police officer, Joseph M. Giordano devoured Mickey Spillane's detective tales and Ian Fleming's spy stories. When he grew up, he decided, he wanted to be a private eye.

But then he got into Gregory McDonald's Fletch novels, about an irrepressible newspaper reporter, and Giordano found a new calling: journalism.

Giordano's travels and career have taken him to the weekly Prague Post in the Czech Republic and back home as a photographer and writer for The Dundalk Eagle, where he currently works. And at age 34, he is combining Fletch's reporting instincts, James Bond's affinity for style and Mike Hammer's cool in a digital, distinctly Baltimore way - as publisher of Gutter (guttermagazine.com).

He and business partner Tom Doxanas have just assembled the third edition of the monthly online magazine, which showcases Baltimore's stylish fashion designers, art galleries, hangouts and other depictions of cool. The site's extensive photography of models, hip-hop artists and fellow hipsters is all Giordano's, who has been wielding a camera since his Patapsco High School days.

"This is for Web babies," says Giordano, describing Gutter's content. "If I'm looking for a product, chances are I'm going to look online, but you want to make it so unique that no one else is doing it. That's what our demographic needs - that edginess."

For Giordano, "our demographic" is the alternative culture, "young people with tattoos." He doesn't see their needs met in Baltimore magazine, Urbanite and the City Paper.

"None of those publications really take any chances," he says, taking particular aim at fashion spreads or profiles that almost invariably, he says, feature "someone standing in a garden with their arms crossed."

"You'll never see that in Gutter," says Giordano, who posed the magazine's fashion editor, Ida Slaughter, in a skimpy dress astride a large, blinking neon sign, apparently howling with delight. Even more daring is a column by Kat Hudson called "Dirty Girl," in which, inspired by the explicit 1986 film Nine 1/2 Weeks, she discourses on the correlation between food and sex.

The concept for Gutter came to Giordano as long ago as 1994, when he was an intern at Baltimore magazine. "I wanted to highlight the youth culture," he recalls, "but the magazine wasn't into that. So some friends and I were going to do a magazine called Street - this was in the pre-Internet days - but we couldn't pull it off."

Then, last year, he walked into a Barnes & Noble and picked up a cup of coffee and "a big stack of magazines." After perusing them, he concluded that there still was "no publication here that addressed the group I hung around with."

To correct that omission, Giordano hooked up with Doxanas, a bearded, Web-savvy 36-year-old from Perry Hall who owns aParaDox, a clothing store next to the Recher Theatre in Towson. Doxanas, much the quieter of the partners, designed the Gutter site, taking pains to improve its features and layouts over the course of its editions so far.

Doxanas credits the production of Gutter to "a good base of support from talented friends" who are unpaid. "Right now it's a labor of love, and they're willing to kick in and help," says Doxanas, who also owns the Gimmickwear clothing line.

To sustain itself, Gutter will need a lot more advertising than it is carrying. The site says its rates are "cheap!" - about $300 for a full-sized ad, viewable for a month.

But Doxanas' confidence is expressed on his Gutter business card, which gives his title as "Professional." Giordano's card, inspired by Cuban President Fidel Castro, identifies him as "El Jefe" (the chief). On the cards, though not on the site, Gutter's subtitle is "Where Baltimore's at ... ."

"We're basically a New York-style magazine that has some edge to it," Giordano says. "It's a statement about what's going on in the city fashion-wise and photography-wise."

Because both Giordano and Doxanas have full-time jobs, Gutter would seem to be an up-all-night task as each month's deadline approaches, but neither seems overwhelmed. "That's what coffee is for," says Giordano, an only child who recalls acquiring a strong work ethic from his parents, who "didn't take a vacation until they were 40."

His father, Andrew Giordano, a Vietnam veteran, is retired from the Baltimore Police Department, while his mother, the former Linda Cox, works in the offices of a company that makes steel equipment.

After leaving home, Giordano did a stint as a military police officer in South Korea before spending a couple of years in Prague.

Besides shooting photos for Web and print, he has recently focused his camera lens on some of the characters who populated his Dundalk childhood: steelworkers retired from the Bethlehem plant at Sparrows Point. The pictures that resulted became part of a group show last year at Gallery Imperato in Locust Point.

"I shoot photographs because I can't paint or draw," Giordano says, chuckling. "Stick figures look more interesting on film than they do on paper."


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