Updated: Apr 17, 2021
Being comfortable is key for up-and-coming fashion photographer Jess Brittain. After trying her hand at “just about anything creative” in her early years - from art to dance - Jess found comfort through a viewfinder during her time at sixth form. But comfort for the Cambridge-based photographer now means wearing something cosy during photoshoots.
“Initially I never thought of myself as a fashion photographer because I'm not fashionable myself. I wear whatever I'm comfortable in,” she jokes.
It all began for Jess, 24, during those sixth form years, although she says her work back then was “in no way great” it opened her eyes, making her realise that all she wanted to do was take photos. Her drive and determination to improve have kept Jess pushing forward.
While many may jump straight into the often-terrifying world of freelancing, Jess took a more formal approach to getting into professional photography by going to university.
She completed her bachelor's degree in the subject, graduating from the Cambridge School of Arts last year, a decision justified by the freedom it gave her.
“I struggled with my confidence in my work, so going through university allowed me to experiment with my style and try things out,” she says.
While studying at university Jess found herself getting increasingly involved in the world of fashion photography and portraiture, a photographic style where she has been able to meet and work with new people daily.
“Being attracted to portraiture was funny as I’m quite shy and recluse but shooting portraits has allowed me to push myself outside of my comfort zone and interact with all sorts of people,” she says.
Despite what she describes as her relative “inexperience” Jess has been lucky enough to work with a range of brands, including ethical and sustainable clothing brand Gloriana Fashion, and has assisted established portrait shooter Kid Circus twice in the last year.
“The clients like my work, which is always a plus!”
Jess sees the value of input from the subject when on a fashion shoot and points to mutual collaboration as a big part of her success.
“I see portraiture as a collaboration between the photographer and the model – we experiment together,” she says. “I think having the ability to capture someone is incredibly hard because you’re photographing their personality and giving something from your style too.”
Jess’s style comes from a mixture of old school music and movies, often depending on her mood that day. Recently she has been “obsessed” with 80s iconography, recreating these ideas through photography is valuable escapism, but she admits it has made her Spotify playlists a little random.
“I have a fascination for storytelling, so I also aim to incorporate documentary photography ideas through my work too.”
Aside from working collaboratively, Jess advises anyone considering any type of photography as a career avenue to remain focussed and remember that with drive and determination there is always a space to do what you love.
The Dots, a platform for creatives, has given Jess many opportunities to work with models, make-up artists and stylists and has opened conversations with other fashion photographers, making her feel part of a community – it’s how she got to work with Kid Circus.
Above all she wants budding snappers to take comfort from one fact.
“Every photographer is secretly winging it,” she says.
For more about Jess Brittain:
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