Jeff Mawer: The Beautiful Meets The Obscene
By Autumn Steam; Photos by Jeff Mawer
Jeff Mawer constantly experiments in photography make him one of the most original and brilliant photographers of our time. From inspiration, ideas and technical choices to lighting, props and composition, his photographs render a novel without words. With models, props and sets all working in a solitary effort, Mawer captures the essence of his idea in a twisted, beautiful and fascinating way.
Mawer got his start in photography while attending college and through photography books. He worked in mostly film, but as time passed and technology evolved, so did his camera choices. “…I’ve educated myself through the ‘trial and error’ approach…[and] now I'm currently 100% digital. I feel there's always at least one thing that you can take away from a shoot, from lighting to lens choice, composition, model directions, prop failures, etc.”, Mawer explains. His constant learning and experimentation has led to some consistently amazing and interesting photographs, unlike anything seen before.
“I'm pretty A.D.D. when it comes to photography because I enjoy almost every aspect of photography. I do lend towards the strange and beautiful.” Because Mawer’s inspiration can come from anywhere his subjects tend to be very unique. The beautiful and brilliant models can be found propped with anything from old bunny costumes to hot dogs. But the photographs go beyond the models, props and settings to a seamless composition only Mawer can bring to reality. “I usually let the model pose at first with little to no direction,[and] then if that's not working I give them an emotion to express.”
Mawer usually chooses models from his network of friends or people that have been introduced to him. “[The] outfits are usually either from the model’s wardrobe or something I've found at a thrift store or costume shop.” Some of the props can be everyday objects such as flour and hot dogs or as unconventional as raw slabs of meat and yards of saran wrap. The location for the beautiful and strange can also be varied. “I'm location scouting 24/7, basically anywhere I go I try and envision a picture that I can take there. Sometime I take quick phone pics of the location or take notes on where it was for later reference.” Because of the constant awareness to his surroundings, Mawer, has set up photo shoots in creepy attics, dark forests and even suburban back yards. His set up and composition make even plastic lawn furniture look interesting.
“Before a shoot I usually have a theme or concept in mind, but I like to collaborate with the model and see what comes out of it.” Mawer works with his concept and rarely does any research on the ideas. “I'll occasionally type my concept into ‘Google images’ just to see if it’s been done already.” Whether it has been done or not, Mawer will take a completely new look on the theme and make it his own. “From creating outfits using shaving cream, hot dogs, plastic bags and meat...I don't think I can honestly choose a favorite [past photo shoot]. I usually only book shoots that I think I'll enjoy...so there are too many favorites to choose from. The crazier the shoot the better.” Each shoot is different because he likes to, “…collaborate quite a bit with models and other photographers, I like taking an idea and bouncing it off other people and seeing the outcome.”
Mawer spends most of his free time working on his photography but, “I have a normal Mon-Fri job that makes creating art a whole lot easier...especially when you've got a house and kids to help support.” He has shown his work in places such as, Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Oregon, and, “…from the opening night it seemed that people liked my work, or at least what I saw.” His Facebook page is full of positive comments and support for what he is working on. “Networking has been a big part [of] meeting new faces to work with and online commerce is just that nice little ‘pat on the back’ when you show something good.”
Mawer’s future holds fascinating, creative and stunning photography. “I see myself creating more elaborate sets in the future and hopefully working with more local clothing designers.” He also wants to travel internationally and keep scouting new locations and networking for new faces. To view his entire portfolio and keep up with his evolving work visit his website.