Jackson Bowley breaks all the rules in the second issue of anti-beauty magazine Circus
If you’re bored of over-polished studio shoots, take a step into Circus’ world of unbridled creativity, where the only rules are bigger, weirder and... wetter?
- Roz Jones
- 17 October 2022
Last time we checked in with London-based photographer Jackson Bowley, he had some ridiculous ideas about creative freedom and artistic authenticity. The culmination of such brought about the weird, whacky and wonderfully obtrusive magazine Circus. In this second issue, Jackson assembles a raft of creative misfits to riff on tried-and-tested beauty tropes and turn industry norms on their head. The result is a frenetic journey through the minds of photographer Sasha Chaika, creative director Alexis Stone and many others. Whatever you might think about this surrealist catalogue, it certainly isn’t boring.
That’s exactly what Central Saint Martins alumni Jackson was desperately trying to avoid; boredom. It was a blend of curiosity and disenchantment with the monotonous state of the beauty industry that led to the first issue of the A1-sized magazine. “Circus came from a very stagnant period of work,” he says. But, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. In fact, he’s described the magazine as the stupidest thing he’s ever done; the brief is so wide it might as well be non-existent, the styling is “whatever, I don’t care” and the driving motif is “colourful and uncool”. It’s everything you’d expect it to be: a clamour of post-humour, and Dadaist images that unspool over 20 pages, each weirder than the last. And well, we can’t look away.
“There isn’t necessarily a main goal or message with the magazine,” Jackson explains. When asked what we could expect from Issue 2, Jackson simply responds “lots and lots of fun, beautiful and bizarre posters”. And that’s exactly what it is – an unglamorous grab bag of seemingly user-generated content, each image more enthralling than the last. The loose theme of “impossible” does an admirable job of tying the images together (a testament to Jackson’s curatorial finesse) but each submission takes up heaps of conceptual space on its own. “The impossible seemed the most fitting as I really wanted to create images that required a double take and really pushed creative boundaries,” he says. Speaking of the cover image, shot by Ian Macnicol, Jackson comments that “having a sports photographer shoot the cover of a beauty magazine is also just quite funny to me, it seems very unexpected”.
Despite his aversion to themes, Jackson and Circus’ lead (and only) graphic designer Roydon Misseldine have created a watertight visual style. This is aided, of course, by the often overlooked on-set team members that make successful beauty shoots possible. In fact, that’s the reason Jackson went to lengths to enlist a range of practitioners from within the field and encourage them to subvert conventional tropes. The undeniable success of his approach goes on to serve as a worrying reminder of the beauty industry’s focus on hierarchies, conventions and rules. “I try to get contributors as much room to play with as possible and I think that shows in the final images,” Jackson tells us. And it certainly does. From beginning to end, Circus squirms under the weight of its contributors’ unrestricted creative licence.
With Issue 2 now hot off the press – and available for online purchase from Circus’ website – Jackson’s already scheming up a third undoubtedly messy instalment.
GalleryCircus Magazine: Issue 2 (Copyright © Circus magazine, 2022)
Circus Magazine: Issue 2 (Copyright © Circus magazine, 2022)
About the Author
Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That as editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design. Feel free to get in contact with Roz about ideas you may have for stories from the Global South.