The Dream Team: JP Bonino's photographs visualise rhyming words with humour and character
This November, It’s Nice That commissioned a creative dream team to push the capabilities of Dropbox Paper, working with four global creatives from diverse disciplines to produce one ambitious project. The second article in the series introduces Uruguay-born, Argentina-based photographer JP Bonino, the first creative given the opportunity to translate Max’s project concept visually. Dropbox Paper is a collaborative workspace that eliminates distractions that get in the way of creativity. Because you can work with all types of content — from video, to sound to code — in Paper, you and your collaborators can easily edit and discuss all aspects of your project in one centralised place.
Last week we introduced The Dream Team, a partnership between It’s Nice That and Dropbox Paper, that sees us curating a group of creatives from alternate disciplines tasked with producing one cohesive outcome. The process, initiated by our team captain and multidisciplinary creative Max Siedentopf, was a relay race of creative working. The team’s rhyming words, (snake, lake, awake, cake, drake, rake, shake) have been passed between photographer JP Bonino, poet Anna Haifisch and finally web developer Rifke Sadleir to create an interactive website to display the work.
The first creative to be handed the project’s baton from Max was JP Bonino, a Uruguay-born, Argentinian-based photographer placed halfway across the world in Buenos Aires. With no face-to-face chat possible, Max put pen to paper and provided JP with line drawings of possibilities and added them to the shared Dropbox Paper doc with the instruction to “maybe you have thoughts on how to make them more fun or stranger ;-)”.
Encouraging a strangeness in the photographs is one of the main reasons Max wanted to work with JP in the first place. Primarily a fashion photographer, JP Bonino’s work is like no one else’s in the field; full of character, frequent oddities, and humour. “Most fashion photography is just beautiful but it lacks an idea,” explains Max when discussing his fondness for JP’s creative eye. “If you put an idea into it, then it becomes something else.” Max also admits that some of his outlandish ideas were to push the photographer even further, “sometimes with JP I just wanted to see if he would actually do it,” he laughs in hindsight.
The photographer’s ability to inject an unconventional approach into the medium is due to that just being his personality. Regularly in articles such as this, we ask creatives how they developed their respective medium — on asking JP this question he responded: “Well, I’ll tell you some things about me. I am a handsome, tall young man with honey eyes,” before speaking about his work. However it’s this fun and direct attitude that makes his work what it is, which is inspired by some advice from his father. “My dad was passionate about photography and during my youth he taught me about light, the importance of detail and to always keep the childish eye that most of us lose as we grow older,” he explains. “I get asked a lot about my personal style, but I never really know what to say. The truth is I usually just let myself carried away by my own emotions. It just comes together, almost like an accident, it’s not one thing in particular, it has no name.”
Our team captain’s tactic to push JP’s approach even further worked perfectly. “When Max first told me about his ideas I thought, ‘wow, this guy is crazy, these are so good’,” explains JP. “Then a second after, I remembered that I am also totally insane! That’s when I decided to combine both of our craziness and develop the project.”
The combined brilliant absurdity of Max and JP resulted in five ideas that would be difficult to dream up. The first concept was a man wearing a snake as a belt, then the classic scene of someone standing on a rake and it hitting him in the face. The next few ideas that followed included a man in speedos standing on the surface of a lake as if he were Jesus, a person holding his eyes open with a pair of matches, two men shaking hands but one man’s arm is three metres long, and a portrait of Drake’s face painted on the back of a bald man’s head.
“The way you can interact with people and share files makes it very efficient, it truly makes your life easier. We’ve used it from the start, and we still use it today.”JP Bonino
Even after all this surreality, there was one more rhyming word left to interpret, cake, which saw JP quite literally catapult Max’s concept into more craziness. The team captain’s initial idea was to have a typical birthday cake, but with a man’s face poking out of it covered in icing. Instead, the photographer suggested a wedding cake capturing “the moment when the wife throws the flower bouquet,” he explained in the Dropbox Paper doc. “We’ll see one of the girls in the air, over the cake looking at the bouquet with desperation.” Max responded with excitement, encouraging the photographer to do his idea instead advising: “Can we make it not too beautiful? It should feel a bit uncomfortable.” To which the photographer replied: “Of course, no problem. We’ll make it annoying.”
JP applied this awkward tone for many of the shoots with each final photograph being an elaborate take on Max’s instructions. Initially, to visualise the concept, the photographer spent time googling key words: “For example, if I want Jesus walking over a lake with someone helping him levitate I’d search for Jesus, hands, lake, something like that.” This simple approach certainly works, allowing the photographer to build the image in his imagination and share references on the thread for feedback before visualising it behind his lens. “I found it very interesting to work with Dropbox Paper,” he explains. “The way you can interact with people and share files makes it very efficient, it truly makes your life easier. We’ve used it from the start, and we still use it today.”
Once the concept was established, references were shared and wild ideas were given the go ahead, JP explains that the actual shooting “was fucking amazing, two very long days, but we had a good time,” he says. As the project’s aims were a little unconventional, JP enlisted close friends to create a team of art directors, producers, makeup artists, photography assistants and models to make the ideas a reality. “The funniest moment was when Manu [a model] went inside the rotten lake to hold up Jesus. I literally cried with laughter every time I counted “one, two, three” as he got into the water. I enjoyed his suffering!”
When viewing each image it’s difficult to believe that all the elements are actually created in camera, a credit to JP and his team’s eye for props, set design and photography. The post editing process also had a simple approach, “I don’t take a lot of pictures and most of them with different cameras depending on what I want the image to tell,” he explains. “That’s why they always look totally different, but similar at the same time.”
On the final results of JP’s task in the project Max explains that after working together on establishing possible narratives for the photographs to represent, he was free to sit back and let the photographer do what he does best: “I think with JP it worked quite well because I basically just gave it to him and he just went off and did it, and as we can see the results are super nice.”
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.