Creative Brief: Circus magazine’s Jackson Bowley

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Now in its second issue, Circus is absurdly large anti-beauty magazine. Here, its founder tells us more about its ethos and production process

Founded in 2020, Circus is a bold and anarchic celebration of beauty photography. Comprised of 20 A1-sized posters – each created by a different artist – the publication is intended to be ripped apart and stuck onto walls.

The poster magazine is the brainchild of Jackson Bowley, a London-based beauty photographer and Central Saint Martins graduate. After five years of working in the beauty industry, Bowley wanted to create a platform that could champion artistic freedom and emerging talent, and break the rules.

The second issue, themed ‘The Impossible Issue’, features artists including Alfie Kungu, David Brandon Geeting, Maisie Cousins, Aidan Zamiri and Sasha Chaika. Here, Bowley tells us more about Circus’ ethos and production process.

Jackson Bowley, self portrait.

How did the idea for Circus come about?

The catalyst was definitely fuelled by post-lockdown boredom, mixed with a frustration towards the editorial approach to beauty photography, especially as it seems to be such a thriving genre. I’ve been shooting beauty imagery for a while, but found it difficult to position my work within an editorial context. It seemed to be too out-there, but also not positioned enough within fashion. Finding publications to work with always seemed tricky. I’d been hoping and praying that a magazine focused on beauty would come along but it never did. The gap for Circus was very apparent and with so much free time on my hands, I decided to create one myself.

Printed in A1 poster size, the magazine is huge. Why did you choose this format?

Why not? There’s been a huge resurgence in independent publishing over the past 10 years, which is great to see, but a lot of magazines stick to similar formats. I’ve always loved seeing my work blown up and displaying it, so the format of Circus being a poster magazine was one of the main starting points.

© Aidan Zamiri for Circus.

How would you describe Circus’ visual identity?

Chaotic and a bit disjointed. I wouldn’t say there’s one visual style attached to it, which is very important to me. As a poster magazine, I wanted the images to serve different tastes. The main thread running through Circus is definitely the freedom to push ideas and get a bit crazy with them.


How do you select the photographers you work with, and what’s your approach to formulating a brief?

I do a lot of research when looking for talent. I wanted to avoid Circus becoming an echo chamber of my friends. It was important for me to find creatives from across the field and not just those based in London. As for the brief, it depends. With some contributors, I let them run wild. Their visual style is what drew me to them so I just get them to create whatever they see fit, or something they haven’t had a chance to produce for a publication before. Other times, I like to pair up people who wouldn’t usually work together. I try hard not to interfere too much with what people make for the magazine as that’s something that I find quite irritating when I’m the one shooting.

© David Brandon Geeting for Circus.

The magazine is not only a celebration of beauty photography, but also the hairstylists, make-up artists and nail technicians who work behind the scenes. Why is this important?

Because it’s an integral part of how the work is made. Photography, unfortunately, is still very hierarchical and that’s something I wanted to challenge. I work with a lot of different people in the beauty world, and it was important for me to let them have a voice when commissioning shoots.

Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Deputy Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.