It’s an old yet true adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For London-based photographer and art director Jackson Bowley, beauty can be found in the form of creepy clowns, body-modifying glamour and triplet fish femmes on a jet ski. Some may call these fantasies niche, others inspired, but all can agree the colourful imagery presented in Circus Magazine is one of a kind.
Putting his tastes to the test, Bowley began Circus Magazine, a beauty publication that creates and celebrates the absurd. It is safe to say Circus has been a success, as lovers of the bold and bright have been quick to build the publication's acclaim, with each issue containing twenty A1 posters. Absurdity is a sturdy backbone for Circus, whose ludicrous, laughable and arresting imagery challenges not only our notions of beauty but of reality itself.
Offering an escape from normative ideals, Bowley and his team of collaborators are showing us just how fun beauty can be. Following the recent release of issue 02, we caught up with Bowley to talk beauty, boredom and the rip-roaring ridiculousness that defines Circus Magazine.
Can you introduce yourself and your publication?
My name is Jackson Bowley and I’m a photographer and art director based in London. I run Circus magazine, an A1 poster magazine that has an emphasis on fun, beauty and the bizarre!
Outside of Circus, you work as a beauty photographer and art director. Can you tell us a little bit more about your artistic practice?
My personal work is heavily rooted in portraiture and beauty, I enjoy blurring the two. It’s all very playful, colourful and upbeat.
What inspired you to start your own publication?
Boredom. I was very bored and quite frustrated with the beauty and fashion industry. With Circus, I just wanted to curate a selection of posters from artists I admire who are making crazy and or beautiful work with minimal creative restrictions.
You describe Circus as “sickly, scrappy” and a beauty publication all in the same breath. What does the concept of beauty mean to you?
I find the concept of beauty super broad, and I like playing on that with Circus. I don’t want the magazine to be filled with classic ideas of beauty imagery, but to play on the idea of beauty as a whole. I also just love creating fun and beautiful imagery, and beauty is a really fun tool to bring these ideas to life.
You have recently released your second issue, in which you “want to take what seems implausible and make it reality.” Do you think ‘beauty’ has the power to make fantasy reality?
I think it’s creatives that have the power to make fantasy a reality, and we can use beauty as a tool to facilitate that.
What is so appealing about the concept of absurdity to you?
Honestly, it’s funny. I’ve always loved subtle absurdity in art and film. Creating something that requires a double take is a really incredible thing to be able to too.
I believe absurdity to be common within the beauty industry, but in a markedly different way than is presented by Circus. Why is it important to Circus to not only invert social standards but create farce out of the mainstream?
The beauty industry is moving at a crazy pace and there’s a lot of room for different creative identities within that space, but I try not to let Circus get driven by trends but by taste.
How have you found the process of running and creating a beauty print?
It’s super fun, but also quite stressful at times, although I try not to let it get too stressful. I do Circus because I love making it and I want to keep it that way.
You collaborate with a broad range of talent to bring Circus to life. Can you tell us more about Circus’ process of selection and collaboration?
With Circus, I try to mix it up and allow for creative freedom. When I approach someone it’s because I have an idea suited to them, or someone specifically I want to pair them with. I try and cast the net wide when looking for people to be involved with Circus, for example having the cover shot by an Olympic photographer based in Glasgow. I also have a lot of super talented friends that I want to shoot for it too, but it is really important I don’t just keep it within a small London crowd. I do a lot of research when planning an issue, I have the beauty of time on my side, so I don’t need to rush to fill the pages.
The influence of internet culture is also evident in your prints. What are the greatest creative inspirations behind Circus’ bold aesthetics?
Snazaroo makeup guides, cinema before CGI, CGI, robots and Flickr.
Following the release of your second issue, are there any fantasies you are looking to explore in the future?
I’m working on a theme for issue 03 as we speak, it’s going to be out of this world...
All images from Circus Magazine issue 02