Introducing Circus, an “obnoxious, vibrant, raw and unkempt” new anti-beauty mag
Launching today as the brainchild of London-based photographer Jackson Bowley, the publication is a circus of chaos and high saturation – and we’re here for it.
- Ruby Boddington
- 22 September 2021
Have you been staring at your bedroom wall recently thinking “I know what’s missing – an A1 poster featuring an orange Furby-like wig/creature set against a vivid blue background”? Well, today is your lucky day as this exact image forms the cover of Circus, a new magazine made up of 20 A1 posters, founded by London-based photographer Jackson Bowley. Born out of lockdown boredom and Jackson’s frustrations with the beauty industry, Circus is chaotic, hectic, and totally refreshing. From gem-covered toothy smiles to boobs with smiley faces, Circus is far from demure but it’s certainly a lot of fun.
Described by Jackson as “an absurdly large beauty publication,” and “a client’s worst nightmare,” Circus’ first issue takes its theme from its name and features work from photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists and more. “I’ve never been super huge on themes, I find them quite restrictive or contrived,” Jackson explains, adding that he kept the brief loose so the concept wasn’t “taken too literally,” wanting submissions to instead “embody the energy, absurdity, noise and stimulations of a circus.” In terms of how he found those contributors, he explains that everything flowed very naturally. Resisting a specific plan, he instead researched those working across the fashion and editorial industries, reaching out to anyone whose work he admired and thought was “bizarre, funny and engaging”.
With such an open brief and range of contributors, it’s a testament to Jackson’s eye for art direction that Circus feels incredibly succinct. There’s a visual style that pervades all of the work; a certain anarchy and disorder that pushes against the traditions of beauty and fashion publishing. “I love love love going against the grain and doing things that I’m told not to,” Jackson responds when asked about this topic. “I’ve met with a lot of clients and agents and I’ve been told to tone down my work quite a lot, so you know what I did, I made it more hectic.” This is initially obvious through the magazine’s format – a series of folded-up posters that require time and effort to browse. Circus takes up space and is the opposite of a magazine you flick through while browsing a bookshop without really taking anything in. It commands your attention by shouting louder, being more colourful, bigger and scrappier than everything else around it. The work featured within its pages then follows suit, with Jackson describing the style as “obnoxious, vibrant, raw and unkempt, swaying away from anything too glossy, sexy, serious, stern or beautiful.”
While Jackson chose to push against the industries he’s been working within for the past few years as a freelance photographer through both the format and style of Circus, there’s another layer to his rebellion. Oftentimes, it’s photographers who are credited with creating work in the fashion and beauty industries, despite being supported by (even sometimes eclipsed by) an entire team on set. “I was always very conscious of not exclusively asking just photographers, but reaching out to different artists that also work within beauty, such as hairstylists, makeup artists, nail technicians and set designers,” Jackson tells us. “I then let those I asked pick out their team, be it friends or even shooting it themselves.” This decision was simply made because “they don’t get enough credit for the incredible amount of work they do. I really hate the hierarchy found in the fashion world so Circus was definitely my chance to challenge that.” What’s more, he adds, “have you ever seen, let alone lifted, their kit bags? Makeup artists and hairstylists are built different!”
Circus launches this evening at the Photobook Cafe in London and is also available to order online via its website. With his sights already set on a second issue, for now, Jackson hopes people stick the work from issue one up on their walls. “Hopefully it makes people smile, but honestly any reaction is great. If I’m able to evoke any emotion I must be doing something right – or wrong,” he says. “I can’t wait to show my mum and see what she thinks hahaha…”
Yusuke Morioka for Circus Issue 01 (Copyright © Yusuke Morioka, 2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.