“I love this idea of creating worlds and places that people can escape to”: Jenny Brough on her hypnagogic photography
Mixing marshmallow hues with surrealistic undertones, you won’t be surprised to hear that the photographer is inspired by Tim Walker.
- Ayla Angelos
- 25 January 2022
Inspiration comes from all sorts of places – the mundane, the weird, uncanny or unexpected. For Jenny Brough, most of her ideas are sparked while travelling, which frustratingly has been put on hold since the pandemic. Facing the fact that it’s now a “lot harder” to travel than before, this means that Jenny’s “breather for creativity” has been disrupted. However, this isn’t the be all and end all for Jenny, a London and Paris-based photographer who grew up in the countryside of south east England. “It can be anything from a flower through to an oil spill on a floor that then inspires me for another way to use colour,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I love this idea of creating worlds and places that people can escape to; I’d say that inspiration comes from Tim Walker, the master of doing this.”
In her own work, Jenny creates fantastical worlds much like Walker, who is renowned for his folklore- and fairytale-infused fashion photography. As such, you won’t be surprised to find long finger nails, bubble-gum colours and spindly flowers in Jenny’s creations too, where models pose fiercely to the backdrop of stark purples and reds that metamorphically bleed into one another. “Some ideas, my overall aesthetic and use of colour originates from the darkroom,” she adds. “I have my own colour darkroom where I print all of my work, and the poetic colour light effects you can create is what inspired most of my 2021 body of work, bringing this into reality.”
When not on set, you’ll find Jenny working on a “back log” of tasks to get through. This means printing, meeting deadlines, scanning or archiving negatives and ironing out the next project – like moodboarding ideas and pulling together the teams. “I used to do all the production on all my shoots, even my video work, but lately it’s become too much to do so I have started working with producers,” she explains of the behind-the-scenes process. “My fitness is also very important to me, so I always make sure when it’s not a shoot day, that I take some time out to do some exercise of some form.” And clearly she’s doing something right, for not only has she just launched her own zine named Without You I’m Nothing Zine, she’s also had her work published in the pages (and on the covers) of multiple magazines including Evening Standard, Vogue, 10, GQ and Antidote.
Jenny has accrued a wide portfolio filled to the brim with magical, sparkly shots for a broad mix of clients. One of her favourites images, in fact, was for a shoot with 10 magazine last year. Speaking of the experience, she tells us how it was was a “really long two days” where, towards the last shot on the final day, “everything came together.” The models are dressed in Richard Quinn garments, where florals abound in pastel-tinted tones and blushed hues. The set design and lighting matches this aura, where a kind of marshmallow effect soaks up the atmosphere and lets out a deep exhale of bliss and serenity. “I love the contrasting colours and the world it creates.”
Meanwhile, the shoot with British designer and creative Charles Jeffrey for GQ Style is also a highlight of hers, which was again shot over the course of two days and with the “most amazing” casting. “The whole shoot was inspired by Andy Warhol and the people he photographed, so everyone became a character and it was probably the most fun group shot I’ve ever done.” Conceived in a monochrome palette, the various models are lined up side-by-side in a range of expressive poses you might well have witnessed in an Andy Warhol scene. Jenny also picks out another favourite image, taken for 10 Men. “I’m obsessed with the sand floor contrasting against the background,” she says, “I just love how you can create different colourful worlds using different textures and processes.”
As is the case for many working photographers, Jenny strives for a good response to her work. She wants her viewer to feel happy and to revel in the playful, somewhat hypnagogic tones to her picture taking. To reach this goal, though, she has to keep experimenting and testing out new tricks for how to build these colourful universes. She also works in video, which adds another otherworldly dimension to her still imagery. “[It] brings out a different depth in me and I find that there is actually a darkness to it,” she explains, citing Lee Alexander McQueen and the way he viewed the world as a key reference point. “I think an element of this comes through in my work, so with my videos, I’d like to think I can tap into people’s emotions and leave a lasting reminder. Overall though, I’d like to create images and videos that are remembered amongst the influx of content that is now available online.”
Jenny Brough: 10 Magazine (Copyright © Jenny Brough, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.