“It can be a blessing and a curse”: Jon Emmony on the polarising effects of the digital world
Working with the likes of Balenciaga, Nowness, Dazed Beauty and Selfridges, the London-based digital artist’s latest project reminds us all to take a digital detox.
- Ayla Angelos
- 2 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Although hailing from a photography background, 3D animation has always been point of interest for Jon Emmony, a London-based digital artist and art director. It all began during his photography studies at university, where he followed his pursuit of the visual arts – a passion that was first spurred on during his childhood. “I used to draw a lot,” he tells It’s Nice That, “but the immediacy of photography excited me.” So much so that his uncle gifted Jon his first digital camera – and soon enough he was experimenting with his own imagery on the computer, utilising the new influx of technology and programmes such as Microsoft Paint to make his edits.
“I grew up in a period when the internet was being introduced to our everyday lives and this was a big influence on me,” he continues to explain, expressing how he experienced firsthand this shift from pre- to post-internet, and all of the worlds to which he was then exposed. After dabbling in these new-found possibilities made available through the web, Jon graduated and interned at SHOWstudio, before being offered a full-time position as the digital art director. “I taught myself 3D animation via Youtube tutorials there and began feeding that into my work. I then left to become freelance across fashion, music and art projects.”
Now freelance, Jon has been able to lend his digital skills to a wide mix of projects, working with the likes of Balenciaga, Nowness, Dazed Beauty, Selfridges, Nike, The Horrors and Novembre Magazine. He describes his work as one that involves an infinite amount of possibility; “there’s really no limit to what can be done,” he adds, “which can be a blessing and a curse.” Much of what he produces is derived from a concept, before realised into an expansion of ‘real-life’ – a process that he refers to as “world-building”. He adds on the matter: “My most effective projects, I think, walk the line between the real and digital – the mid-zone that is a little uncomfortable.”
Alongside a trippy digital video for Balenciaga – a tech-infused spin-off from the traditional news broadcasting format – Jon also recently worked on a campaign for Grimes in collaboration with Dazed Beauty, as well as a recently dropped music video for British pop rock band The 1975, created with director Ben Ditto. Titled The Birthday Party, the project first arose around a year ago after Jon began floating some ideas with Ben “about the idea of a completely motion-captured, performance-led music video” for the band. Co-directing with Ben and working alongside Mimic Productions – a Berlin-based company that’s worked on feature films such as Avatar – the team 3D scanned the entire band in order to then capture their bodies and facial motions. “What you are left with is the ability to locate them in any environment with any lighting set up,” says Jon. “It really is a new form of photography.”
Ryan Vautier and Kylian Maupoint assisted with the animation and clothing simulation within the video, accompanied by a video game-like technology system that enabled the team to design for speed and performance, including real-time rendering: “which totally freed us up to try anything we could imagine with minimal impact on the project timeline,” adds Jon, commenting on how 3D is traditionally a highly expensive and long process, with renders usually taking hours. “It was refreshing to work in this new way with instant visual feedback.”
The result sees a new world where tech has risen above all else. Evaluating topics of narcissism and loneliness, its avatar protagonists enter into a ‘digital detox’ programme, a development going by the name of Mindshower – which is also a generator that pumps out a series of machine-learning online affirmations, designed by Rifke Sadlier. Although at first seemingly futuristic, perhaps this film is a reminder to us all of the polarising effects of technology. “We have ways of consuming content now that would feel completely sci-fi only a few years ago,” explains Jon. He concludes that, as there are both positive and negatives sides of the digital world, it’s important to remain conscious and to take a much needed break to experience real life – whether you go to a gallery or the cinema, it’s all much better than being sat at a computer.
Jon Emmony: Dazed Beauty, Grimes