Jess Bonham & Anna LomaxA still-life series of photos all about trust

Cover Image - Jess Bonham & Anna Lomax

A still-life series of photos all about trust


How does an idea take that magical journey from concept to execution? To find out, we gave photographer Jess Bonham and set designer Anna Lomax a one-word brief, "trust", and followed their flow from conversations over cups of tea to the four final images.

Anna: I love a one word brief! The more freedom the better. Jess and I both liked the idea of there being a fine sense of balance involved in trust as a concept. Support structures, fragile materials juxtaposed with solid forms and surfaces and a feeling of the artist studio or slightly ambiguous setting were all things we discussed.

We wanted to create a feeling of experimentation and capturing a moment of fragility that might not last forever.

Jess: We sit down together and just start bouncing ideas around. A brief like this would usually start with an immediate response to the word, asking what trust means to us, and what materials or actions could represent it. I remember us talking about soft cushioning, balance and delicate things supporting each other, as initial responses.

I have an archive of ideas – things I want to try out or that I've learnt on previous shoots, so when an open brief like this comes in, it's a chance to work through some of these ideas and bring them to life.

Anna: There is lots of tea, a morning of sketching and head scratching with a couple of eureka moments and then we part company once we feel we are on the same page conceptually and visually.

I'm left to source materials, develop what we have laid as foundations and consider how these elements will come together on set sculpturally, and Jess will put her mind to lighting and developing the mood of the shoot she sometimes might come to my studio to have a look at what I'm playing with so we really stay on the same page with what we are producing.

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A one-word brief does allow for a really open and abstract approach; there is no right or wrong.

Jess: We kept the shoot plan loose. We had sketches to work from, but these were used more as starting points for further exploration on set. Anna had brought all the materials that could be interesting to try and we gave ourselves the best part of the morning to play with composition and lighting, and set the premise and tone of the story.

We have worked together long enough now to trust each other and we feel comfortable in the knowledge that improvisation on set will always bring interesting results as opposed to disaster.

Anna: There is always a degree of risk so that means I have to trust my instincts for how something will work on set. I find you have to try stuff out on camera and be happy to move on if it's not working. It helps to not be too precious with your original trail of thought and sometimes you have to roll with what's happening on the day as some things work and others just don't.

I'm often experimenting with new materials for each job, which is always fun as you are always learning but can throw up surprises and unforeseen challenges especially on tight deadlines.

Jess: There was some brokenglass before we got a couple of the shots to where we wanted them to be. Still-life is time consuming and it can often take a lot of playing around before all the elements click into place. Sometimes the shots we think will be the easiest will turn out to be the most laborious, and vice versa.