A Love Letter to Matthew, from Whalebone

Aerial photo of a few of Matthew Wisotsky's Whalebone magazines from his collection including The Pizza issue to the left that is light brown with a slice of pepperoni pizza in the middle of the cover and another issue with a white background and a stack of black and white photos. The photo on top pictures a man with his mouth open.

Keep some tissues on standby for this one

Back in the autumn months of 2022, an interesting phenomenon was observed at Whalebone Headquarters. A few members of our team and some of our friends started to get messages from a human named Matthew about collecting every issue of Whalebone ever printed. After the topic popped up as a few of our favorite parts of the day, we started to put two and two together and determine that this was indeed the same Matthew and the story we had convinced ourselves to believe involving a secret plot to collect and destroy every issue of Whalebone Magazine and remove the existence of Whalebone from this very earth by a group of Matthews was, in fact, not true. In reality, Matthew Wisotsky turned out to be one of the kindest and most generous humans we’ve had the pleasure of meeting on this journey of magazine making. We’ll let you read why for yourself. Thanks for being a defining part of this amazing community, Matthew.

Photo of Matthew Wisotsky, a brown-haired man with a thick beard and mustache who wear black square-framed glasses. Mathew is wearing a gray "bone." shirt and holding The Hot Sauce Issue of Whalebone Magazine against his side with his left hand while facing the camera and smiling slightly.
Close-up photo of Matthew Wisotsky's WHalebone magazine collection. The magazines appear to be in a file drawer, each in their own plastic sleeve with the original brown cardboard packaging slipped behind the magazine itself. Matthew's hand is pulling back a few of the magazines to reveal the top of one in the middle of the collection with a white background and the classic block-style all-caps "Whalebone" header.

Walk us through your magazine-collecting journey. How did it all start?

Matthew Wisotsky: My involvement with the Whalebone community was a random encounter that came at the perfect moment. In June 2022, my son, Isaac, was born three weeks early, which resulted in a one-week stay in the NICU. Around the same time, my mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and my dad had to have a heart stent put in.

As I was spiraling with visits to various medical sites on the Internet, an ad for Whalebone’s National Park Issue popped into my Facebook newsfeed and promoted, not only a gorgeous-looking magazine but the importance of finding time to stop scrolling through the Internet and actually using it to appreciate something physical and focused. I immediately ordered my first issue.

After receiving my first issue, I explored the site and the different issues a bit more and became mildly obsessed with wanting to own every issue. Looking back on this journey over the past year, I think I was using this goal as a distraction from how out-of-control my world felt. As the journey continued, and purchasing back issues became harder and harder, that’s when this became something even bigger than a distraction. It became a way of connecting.

Photo of Matthew Wisotsky during his three-day, 60-mile walk for breast cancer. Matthew is walking in a park filled with greenery. He is wearing a gray sweatshirt with a royal blue shirt underneath and has multiple bright, hot pink wristbands adorning each of his wrists along with a light pink beaded necklace with a pink breast cancer ribbon charm. He is also wearing black shorts and a navy blue backwards cap. Matthew is smiling at the camera mid-stride and holding up his hands to form a heart shape.

When you’re not hunting down Whalebone back issues, how do you spend your time?

MW: My nine-to-five is working at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan designing audio-visual systems for classrooms. In the off-hours, I get to hang out with my awesome wife, Kelsey, and my two amazing kids, four-year-old Ava and one-year-old Isaac. We pride ourselves on finding adventures that get us out of the house and into the community to try to enjoy all this crazy world has to offer. Other than that, I kind of like to keep my eyes open for opportunities to help people and find ways to challenge myself to be involved in things that feel “bigger” than myself. In September, for instance, I walked my third, three-day, 60-mile walk to fight breast cancer. It had been 17 years since I last participated in this type of endurance challenge.

Tell us about your favorite person that you connected with while trying to get your hands on back issues?

MW: Well, first and foremost, I’d be remiss to not give a shout out to my main supplier of Whalebone magazines, Michael Avallone. He was probably the 312th person I contacted in hopes of procuring back issues and ended up having most of what I needed. I don’t know too much about him except that he used to take photos of the issues he was sending me on the finest wood floors I had ever seen. Ranga Perera, a chef and fisherman, that you featured in The Breakfast Issue, was the first person out of the amazing people featured in your magazine to actually contact me back. As I learned more about him, I discovered his documentary, Attack and Release, about losing his father and finding peace in the outdoors. A close friend of mine had a father that was experiencing health problems and was also interested in fly fishing, so it was nice to be able to share Ranga’s journey with him as a form of solidarity and community. Finally, during your auction last year, I was in a bidding war with Sophie Johnson, who had lost her Whalebone collection due to smoke damage from a fire. The collection meant a lot to her and her mom, which led to me backing out my bids and instead offering to support Sophie in winning. We found some peace supporting each other in the personal challenges we were facing with our parents, and it led to some really beautiful dialogue between us, and other members of the Whalebone community, as we continued to track bidding of the collection. Neither of us won, but the support from the community was worth more than the collection (even though our friends at Whalebone helped us a bit with that too).

Classic scenario number one: A building goes up in flames and your mag collection is inside. Which issue do you save and why?

MW: The Hot Sauce Issue. One hundred percent. This was the first back issue that I couldn’t purchase directly from Whalebone and started my journey of contacting the masses. I remember the feeling of disbelief when I actually received it. I actually felt quite a few emotions for some reason. Of course, I had hoped to hear back from Sean Evans, host of Hot Ones, who I noticed you featured in the issue based on screenshots from the site, telling me that he had a copy of the issue to provide and inviting me to experience the “wings of death.” Hey, a kid can dream.

Classic scenario number two: You’re floating next to Matthew McConaughey, stuck in between the pillars of space-time for the foreseeable future. What issue do you want in your back pocket and why?

MW: The Space Issue seems like an obvious choice based on his role in Interstellar and the current environment we are stuck in, but I’d likely want to have The National Park Issue in my back pocket because of the “one with nature” spirit that McConaughey has. Also, it was the first issue that I procured, so I think it’s the issue that I feel most closely connected to because I really immersed myself in everything about it—the design, the feel, the content. From there, I could go down the rabbit hole, or black hole if you will, of the journey I’ve had within the Whalebone community, the amazing people that I’ve met and why he should invest in an annual subscription and become a member of this amazing community. I’ll either keep him engaged or bore him to death until we free ourselves from our situation.

Close-up photo of the Montauk Issue of Whalebone Magazine. The magazine is resting diagonally on top of the file drawer containing the rest of Matthew's collection. The cover is white with gray specks and the word "MONTAUK." is in black and in the center. At the top of the magazine, the classic Whalebone blockstyle header is in yellow with the details including the volume number, issue number and date of publication in smaller black typecase below.

The year is 2034 and your son is reading this interview. Any advice or words of wisdom?

MW: Well, because it’s only 10 years from now, my hope is that I’m still providing plenty of words of wisdom in person. But, because he’ll likely be of the age that he’s started to stop listening to me, I guess I hope he reads this response and knows that he’s loved, that there are amazing people in the world—you might have to search for them, but they are always open to being found, to take some time to listen to sad songs and to always take care of your mother and sister. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t sell my Whalebone collection.

Something you’d like to see from Whalebone in the future?

MW: Just keep building a great community of people that engage, support and spread some happiness. I wouldn’t mind an issue on Detroit in the future. I have a couch you can sleep on and some kids you can play with.