Photographer Jess Bonham and set designer Anna Lomax’s latest project skirts around the edges of suggestion, titillation and innuendo in a series of still life images that abstractly explore taboo leisure pursuits. The idea came from an unexpected email from Anna’s neighbour: “It was posted out to the tenants of Anna’s building and was an apology about a previous ‘client’ from this woman’s sideline dominatrix business causing some havoc in the building one weekend,” explains Jess. “Anna had no idea she was a dominatrix as her day job is far more conservative!”
Anna created the sets out of a mix of latex, furs, carpets, nylon and glass for a sensual environment that invites viewers in. “We just pooled together the materials we had found and allowed the textures and colours to inspire the sets and offer tactile juxtapositions. We wanted to place luxury and domesticity alongside each other to offer contradictions and surprises.” Channeling Anna’s neighbour, the pair imagined they were telling the story of an older woman with a parallel life. “She’s seductive, powerful and unapologetic,” says Jess. “But we really wanted to find a place where the images could sit right on the point of innuendo and voyeurism.”
The sophisticated allusions see nylon stockings with weights in them so they hang ball-like and draped in fur, another image depicts a spongey mass being enveloped in swathes of silk. Jess’ shots are crisp, lavish and mischievous, and despite the ambiguity a real sense of character is portrayed. “We were interested in the idea of people’s private lives – the goings on behind closed doors, rituals, desires and the fantasies people have.”
Jess and Anna have worked together before on commercial commissions, and this personal project allowed them to indulge their playful side. “We come from quite different aesthetic backgrounds but we both share the same visions when we form ideas together,” says Jess. “We’ve also got this trust in each other that, given the time to play on set, we will always come out with something interesting.”
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