Jesse Marlow Interview
All images in this post are ©Jesse Marlow. Jesse Marlow is a Melbourne based street photographer who is a member of In-Public. I recently had the chance to do his workshop that I highly recommend to anyone based in Melbourne. I also had the chance to ask Jesse a few questions about the way he works for his street work. It was a really fun process and I hope you enjoy the read.
Tristan: Hey Jesse, and thanks for spending some time to have a chat to us about your methods and your work. Will start with the basics, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Jesse: I've been working as a photographer for the last 16 years. I've been shooting out on the street for most of that time. During my early years, I would set aside blocks of time and travel into the Melbourne CBD and shoot for hours. I would usually end up back at Flinders St Station which was the perfect backdrop for a photographer, with the cross section of people who pass through it daily. The past 8 years or so, as my commercial work has increased, my time is a little more precious, so i don't schedule in any set times to shoot my street work, rather, I shoot in my daily travels... I find this approach works well for me as it results in less expectations and pressure on myself.
Tristan: Its interesting that you have found a way to incorporate your personal work into your daily life, has this approach resulted in less or more time being devoted to personal work? And do you think that this incorporation has allowed you to show a little more of yourself in the work youre producing?
Jesse: As my commercial work has increased, I've been lucky enough to travel interstate and overseas which has broadened the backdrops of my work. When I'm in Melbourne, the amount of time specifically dedicated to my personal work has decreased, mainly as a result of my having refined what i'm searching for. When I was younger I was happier to take a more random approach to my photography, whereas now, I am much more aware of what i am looking for. I have found the outer suburbs of Melbourne (an area I travel often for work) have helped shaped the simpler, more abstract nature that my work has evolved into.
Tristan: I know that you get commissioned to shoot jobs where you are asked to shoot in your street style. Is there a way that you have been able to separate money making tasks from the personal work?
Jesse: Working commercially, means I wear a few hats and the work I do for clients is quite varied. About a third of my work I shoot is for ad-agencies and design firms and is a direct result of my candid street photos. Clients wanting that candid, real life, fly on the wall look. The way I've been able to clearly define the work for a client and the work for myself is very simple. I still shoot with film cameras for myself. I liken this feeling to getting changed out of my uniform and into my civilian clothes after a day's work.
Tristan: So other than the change of 'clothes' is there a reason you prefer film for your personal work?
Jesse: Call me a romantic but I still really love the whole process of shooting film. The suspense between taking a photo and then picking it up from the lab and hoping there's a keeper or two. I shot the whole Don't Just Tell Them, Show Them series from 2004 - 2012 on film despite embracing digital cameras for my commercial work. I thought it was important to keep the look of the series consistent so I shot it all with the one camera, one lens and a couple of different film stocks.
Tristan: I saw a recent post from one of your fellow In-public members Blake Andrews about his concern for the dwindling film stocks. Are you concerned about the longevity of film as a photographic medium?
Jesse: Of course, but i'll just worry about it, if and when it happens. I've only ever shot Kodak and Fuji film stocks which have been readily available. I'm now shooting 120 B+W film so I am a bit more selective of what I shoot. However, I'm not sure if this is because it's film or if it's a natural progression in my work. I think it's probably the latter...
Tristan:I think something that some of the new generation of Street guys get hung up on is sharing something so regularly. It results in a LOT of photos being published online. Can you talk a little about your hit rate and how long it took you to get enough images together for your books?
Jesse: I've never printed proof sheets so I've naturally always been quite selective of what I printed / scanned. The in-public (private) discussion board is where I've trialled images and received feedback over the years. Having such great photographers in the collective and having them critique my work on a nightly basis certainly fast tracked my development as a young photographer. I was always in a rush to process film, scan them and get some up onto the board for feedback. My personal projects aren't shot with any deadlines in mind which I think helps my editing and shooting process, and I only show images I'm most happy with. My Wounded project was shot over a two year period and there were 40 images in the final book edit. There was probably another 250 images that I'd scanned and considered for the project but were edited out. The photos from Wounded needed to not just contain interesting looking injuries but most importantly be interesting photographically. The Don't Just Tell Them, Show Them series was shot over a 9 year period and the final 50 images were from abut 2000 rolls of 36 film. I think I'd scanned about 800 - 900 images over the course of the series.
Tristan:Can you tell us a little about what youre working on at the moment?
Jesse: For the last 18 months I've been shooting B+W with a Mamiya 7. Towards the end of the Don't Just Tell Them, Show Them project, what I was looking for and finding became very specific and as a result I was shooting a lot less. Switching back to B+W again after 9 years shooting colour has been refreshing and I'm slowly building a series. I'm finding the B + W is actually helping the natural progression of my work.
Tristan:Do you process your own black and white film?
Jesse: I stopped developing my own film and printing back in 2005 when the Victorian drought was in full force. I don't have time to process my own film nowadays but maybe I'll get back into in one-day.
Tristan: Its really great to see film alive and well, and I love the fact that there is a strong community of guys using it for personal work even when they use digital for their paid jobs. Its been great chatting to you, and thanks for spending some time to answer these questions for us. As a last question is there any parting words of wisdom you would like to leave for our readers?
Jesse: Anytime mate, it's been fun. It's great to be a part of the street photography community that is really surging at the moment... Parting words of wisdom... Geez.. How about - Good pictures come to those who wait.
Tristan: As a part of this process for APF Jesse has been kind enough to judge a competition we have run on the group page. The theme was Decisive Moment. The winning image is below
Image ©Swapnil Jedhe
Jesse: Swapnil's image of the kids playing soccer was a clear winner for me. The image is beautifully composed and as your eye travels around the frame you are met with different figures situated throughout the scene balancing the composition. The shadow and ball are lovely little bonuses that make it a standout.