Toenail extensions, bedazzled teeth, faces on bellies and smiling painted boobs are just some of the glamorous weird wonders gracing the inner pages of the first issue of Circus Magazine. Born from the love of chaos, the printed publication-turned poster book includes contributions by Yusuke Morioka, Henry Gorse and Charlotte Rutherford, to name just a few.
Ahead of their launch, BRICKS editor Tori West sits down with the publication’s founder, Photographer Jackson Bowley to discuss pushing the possibilities of beauty, learning that imperfections are perfection and what makes Circus Magazine so special.
First thing’s first, Why the name ‘Circus’?
It was one of the first names I had, actually. It’s is an accurate description of myself and what I wanted to get across with the magazine. Chaotic, loud & bright, so it made total sense. Another name I had was Bozo, but I scrapped that…
Setting up anything new during a global pandemic surely has its complications. What’s been the biggest challenge for you?
I definitely wouldn’t have made the magazine if the pandemic didn’t hit. I was way too wrapped up in my own work and career beforehand. Then everything stopped. When things started to open up again and work picked up, I was just a bit dubious of everything, it was all too serious, and I needed something that would make me smile. In terms of challenges, getting people on board was pretty tricky; new magazines pop up constantly and are they much different to what’s already out there? Trying to explain what I wanted Circus to look like with no examples was hard.
The publication’s aim is ‘push the creative possibilities of what beauty is; what does the term beauty mean to you?
This is a tough one! I treat the term ‘beauty’ incredibly loosely. I get asked what the term means me a lot, and my answer changes constantly. And for me, that’s kind of it; the term beauty is so versatile and abstract, it can apply to literally anything and is so subjective.
With Circus, I hope that this shines through. Obviously, I wanted to emphasise certain fields within beauty, such as hair & makeup etc., but at the same time, I didn’t want to have any restrictions on what beauty is either. It was a bit of a free-for-all. The premise of Circus was it was a beauty mag, but my selection of contributors definitely doesn’t align with who you’d expect to traditionally find shooting a beauty story, which is what makes it so interesting.
Has your perception of beauty changed in any way since working on the publication?
My perception of beauty has always been slightly skewed, and if anything, working on Circus has skewed it tenfold. I know a lot of people will agree when I say that the beauty industry is years behind, and it needs a shakeup. It was wonderful seeing all the contributors react to the theme of the first issue and go crazy with their images.
What are your thoughts on imperfection, and do you believe it is under-threat in our digital landscape using filters and editing and so on?
To me, the only real imperfection is the idea of perfection itself, especially when we speak about beauty; it creates an unobtainable idea of beauty that can be extremely dangerous. Humans are naturally imperfect, which is amazing, everyone’s different, and this should be celebrated.
Filters and editing can dangerously challenge this and make us feel like we need to look a certain wait to be beautiful, to fit a certain mould. We’re never going to be able to compete with a computer-generated idea of perfection; it’s just unnatural. That being said, it doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting to see what can be done through the use of filters and editing; it just needs to be openly discussed and transparent.
Was casting an essential part of the production and overall feel of the publication?
It was important in the aspect that I didn’t want the magazine to be filled with agency models, there’s a few, but it was encouraged to shoot friends, family and everyone in-between. We really don’t need another magazine crammed with models from IMG, Storm & Select… sorry.
As a photographer, what was it like to commission other image-makers for Circus? Was it hard to not get excited and want to shoot everything yourself?
It was fun! And to be honest, I tried to avoid directly asking photographers when working on commissions. With Circus, I really wanted to hand creativity back to many other artists found within beauty. So asking SFX Artists, Makeup Artists, Nail Artists, Hair Stylists and Set designers to come up with shoot concepts was extremely crucial for the foundations of Circus.
It sometimes feels fraudulent when photographers get most of the credit for a shoot, especially beauty shoots when without the rest of the team, a lot of the ideas would never come to life. I definitely got excited about a lot of the shoots. The idea’s coming from different collaborators were crazy; it was fantastic! At the same time, the importance of collaboration was highlighted for me, even when it comes to collaborating with people within the same field. Photographers tend to be gatekeepers (sorry pals, but it’s true), myself included, so it was super refreshing to realise that through collaborating, we could make some incredible images for Circus together.
It sometimes feels fraudulent when photographers get most of the credit for a shoot, especially beauty shoots when without the rest of the team, a lot of the ideas would never come to life.
Each artist involved has created an exclusive poster for the issue. Do you believe to survive as a print publication, it’s important to explore different mediums and outputs beyond the traditional magazine?
It was important for Circus to feel loud and obnoxious in print, so the size of Circus (A1 Posters) was absolutely crucial to me and something I wasn’t going to budge on.
I want Circus to be more than a magazine; I want people to stick it up on their walls and not back on a bookshelf. I love the idea of someone seeing a copy at their friend’s house and taking a page home because they love the image on it.
It’s also quite an interesting way to work, knowing that, as a contributor, you only get one page to play with, and that page should also double up as a poster. In some ways, it takes away a lot of the stress that usually comes when shooting, say a 12-page editorial, but at the same time, you want to create an image that can stand the test of time and is something people want to display in their home or office.
We speak a lot about the fast-fashion industry, but we don’t hear many critical conversations when it comes to fast beauty. With the steep growth in the consumption of beauty products, do you think we should be more critical of our consumption choices when it comes to the beauty industry’s impact on the environment?
It’s really important to be environmentally conscious within every aspect of life, so beauty shouldn’t be any different, especially seeing as it’s one of the largest markets on the planet. It’s a topic that a few companies, such as Submission Beauty, are tackling, and I know a lot of makeup artists are opting for more eco-friendly kits. There’s a lot of room for brands to do more to help make the beauty market more sustainable, but I’m by no means an expert on the matter.
Lastly, what are your hopes for the future of Circus and our relationship with beauty?
I would love to start working on a second issue with a fresh batch of talent whilst retaining my own voice in the beauty field. It’s time we stopped being so serious with beauty; we need a big injection of fun!
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