We’ve been there before: giddy with glee on our meticulously planned holiday, cameras and various smartphones at the ready to capture a million shots of the same monument or tourist event. But have you ever wondered what’s behind those pristinely framed and edited shots you see on your Instagram feed? Photographer Jay Russell decided to uncover just that as he trekked down to the Iguazu Falls in Brazil, one of the largest waterfalls in the world. “I never intended to make this project before I made it, it felt very intuitive and I was visiting the area as a tourist,” he says. “When I arrived at the bottom of the falls, everyone was rushing to feel and capture it, as they are bombarded by its sheer size and getting absolutely drenched, and the chaos of it all and the urge to feel and soak in the falls from a tourist perspective was what I was trying to capture.”
While there is a lot of candid humour in Jay’s series, there is a surprisingly dreamlike aesthetic which draws the viewer in. Soft, almost blurry smudges of bright blue and white overlay nearly every image. “I think the dreamy aesthetic comes from the atmosphere and the feeling you get being on the ground at the waterfall,” Jay says. “The constant mist and rainbows at ‘the throat of the falls’ made for unbelievable lighting.” Thanks to the flash on his camera, Jay could shoot through the mist and capture its uncanny effect on the lens.
Due to the hasty and intuitive process of taking the photos, Jay had little time to prepare framing or lighting. While the series is intentionally humorous, dreamy and candid, there are no tricks or gimmicks here – all of it was genuinely captured off the cuff. This was thanks to a moment of serendipity. “I was staying near the falls and originally planning to visit as a tourist before exploring the rest of the area,” Jay says. “But I ended up visiting the falls every day of my trip to try and complete the series.” Asked if he has a particular favourite image among the series, Jay points to one image “where the light is glistening off the woman’s face as it is covered in water from the waterfall. It sums up the series for me.”
GalleryJay Russell: Garganta do Diabo (Copyright © Jay Russell, 2023)
Jay Russell: Garganta do Diabo (Copyright © Jay Russell, 2023)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.