Community, Women behind the camera

Discovering photography with Jess Brohier

Meet Jess Brohier – a South-Asian-Australian fashion, commercial, and editorial photographer and creative director based in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. Her work explores themes of identity and surrealism, re-imagining Western beauty concepts through a BIPOC lens. She is known for her versatility in digital and analog mediums, unique color palette, and nuanced use of light. Jess has attracted premier Australian and global fashion, lifestyle, and music clients, showcasing her talent as a lead photographer and creative director/producer. We talked to her about her style, inspirations, and what the future holds. 

What’s your first photo memory?

I remember taking photos on a film point-and-shoot at high school events. At 18, in my senior year, I always brought a little disposable 35mm camera to our swimming and sports carnivals and documented our friends. I loved capturing candid moments of togetherness and youth.

Why did you choose photography?

I didn’t. From a young age, I’d always been delving into various kinds of art: painting, illustration, tattooing, and taking pictures. I would oscillate between drawing and photographs for a long time, and then, one day, I only wanted to take photos. I have always felt like photography chose me. It was the first form of expression I found that was also collaborative, and I’ve always loved working with people and trying to understand them. It has often felt like image-making flows out of me, and it just feels like second nature, like this was the thing I was always meant to do.

Who or what inspires you?

Nowadays, people who make positive changes in the world and find a way to entangle this within their artistic practice inspire me. Ib Kamara, the current editor of Dazed, is a prime example. How he has simultaneously produced an incredible visual and thought-provoking publication while making strides in the commercial space for BIPOC representation is super inspiring to me. These days, creating beautiful things is not enough; for me, it has to mean something. Bold, strange, beautiful scenes, conversations, images, and artwork inspire me. Concepts of Psychology, Sociology, and Surrealism are also large sources of inspiration for my creative practice.

How would you describe your unique style?

I think my images stylistically amalgamate everything I am as a person. My cultural heritage has surrounded me with color and energy from a young age and continues to influence my work substantially. My visual style combines nuanced color choices rooted in a love for nostalgia and a curiosity to explore identity and human experience. I am also a romantic and a dreamer, and I endeavor to create scenes that feel otherworldly, surreal, and cinematic.

What’s a must-have on a photoshoot, and why?

Snacks and a good sense of humor. It’s supposed to be fun! I’ve found I can only get something really worthwhile from the people I’m photographing when they aren’t hungry or uncomfortable, so that’s always my priority.

Do you have a photography experience that stands out to you?

I always returned to the first shoot, where I learned the importance of connecting with a subject. I was 24 years old, traveling in NYC, and I scored a feature in a music magazine, Mass Appeal. I photographed an artist, and it was my first-ever editorial shoot. I recall being super nervous, but the team was great, and we ended up hanging out around the city for 2 hours while I shot his portraits. Later, when I went home, I compared the first portrait I took of him with the last after we’d become friends, and it was almost like two different people; the feeling from each image was worlds apart. That was when I first understood what is required to take a good photo of somebody and how the connection is the most important thing. I’m still friends with that artist, and I’ve seen him almost every time I’ve been back in NYC more than ten years later.

Is there anything that stands out about your workflow?

I’ve gotten very good at making it almost seamless. I follow a very tight set of procedures in pre- and post-production that enable me to operate at speed and without missing a beat 99% of the time. Years of mistakes have proven very helpful in fine-tuning my photographic workflow.

What’s next – anything you’d love to shoot in the future?

I’m about to move part-time to NYC mid-year, which I’ve wanted to do for ten years.
I’m so excited to work with artists and publications on the other side of the world (from Australia) and push my creative boundaries.

I’d love to find a better balance between commercial work and art-making and return to a focus on editorial storytelling. I am also working towards a solo show and photobook that will launch in the next two years.

See more of Jess’ work on her Instagram and website.


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