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words Filipe Phitzgerard - images courtesy of Jaimy Gail

Amsterdam-born and bred photographer, Jaimy Gail grew up in the outskirts of Amsterdam where her childhood was filled with adventures in the countryside and informed by a deep sense of freedom to explore and develop as a care-free creative. Set against the beautifully classic Dutch meadows and polders, Gail's coming-of-age years were filled with every good element that has influenced her work as an artist and photographer. Gail’s work often serves as a personal commentary on her home country with every image bringing together a strong sense of fashion, documentary and portraiture without pending too much to one side or another as the seamless balance looks somewhat effortless.

Jaimy originally studied painting at university and it was during that time that she picked up a camera for the first time at the age of twenty-one switching mediums even though she had no experience in photography. Gail describes the move from drawing and painting into photography as a conscious decision as she wanted to add odd elements to her work, something she was unable to do in her art as she felt drawings and paintings presented some restrictions photography didn't; and, from then on she went on to create and develop a style she describes as deeply informed by "confusion" to produce something unique.

Despite leaving the practice of painting behind, Gail's approach and process to photography remain the same as if she was drawing or painting; she starts with a completely blank canvas, with some specific ideas to what she wants to achieve in the end but without imposing restrictions to what the final images will be like. Jaimy recognises that she starts with the image and concept in her mind and as she starts shooting her subjects her ideas expand into the weird-wonderful compositions she is able to come up with. This freedom to add unusual elements to her composition is one of the creative attributes of photography that have encouraged Jaimy to fall in love with it.

We took some time during the lockdown to speak to Jaimy and find out more about her upbringing, her creative ventures from fine art to photography and what has informed her work throughout the years.

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY; commissioned project © Jaimy Gail

Filipe Phitzgerard: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Let’s start from the beginning. How old are you and where are you originally from? Do you currently live in the same city?

Jaimy Gail: I am 28-years-old and I was born and raised in Amsterdam in The Netherlands where I still live.

F.P: How was it growing up for you?

J.G: It was great. I grew up at the border of the city of Amsterdam which is a rural area in a typically Dutch setting with loads of meadows and polders. We had no neighbours and lived in this big beautiful house. My dad kept sheep, horses, goats and ostriches so for a child that was the best place to grow up at.

F.P: Can you share with us one of your most memorable childhood memories?

J.G: I think that one of the most memorable experiences I've had was probably when I won something for the first time in my life. I was never really good at anything, my older sister always won every prize in every contest but I wasn’t very good at sports or the best in my class. Growing up I didn’t stand out. Then suddenly, I won my first prize in a drawing contest and I remember I was so confused and so excited at the same time. The prize was a mug with a plastic curly straw.

F.P: What are the things that most excited you when you were a child or teenager?

J.G: Building huts in the hay barn. I always had so much fun playing there.

GROETEN UIT HOLLAND; commissioned project for KingKong Magazine © Jaimy Gail

F.P: When did you realise that photography was something you wanted to do? Was photography an obvious choice or did it happen unexpectedly?

J.G: I discovered my love for photography much later one in life. I wasn’t really into photography at all till I was about 21-years-old when I actually applied to study photography at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague even though I’d never really photographed. Before that, I was studying fine arts at Gerrit Rietveld Academy as at that time I was into painting and drawing a did it a lot. I switched pretty drastically towards photography as I wanted to try out this new medium. I had zero experience with it so that became something I wanted to challenge myself with. I guess initially I was just curious. I bought myself a Mamiya and just tried out everything with the same approach I had when it came to drawing.

F.P: How did you start as a photographer?

J.G: I started once I was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art so I started by doing assignments when I got at the academy. As I didn’t know shit about it I needed to keep up with the rest of class but I think this played to my advantage as I was open to just try out everything and every direction within photography. I had no personal references to compare my work to so I ended up exploring everything I could and formed my own personal style.

F.P: Is there something in particular that you are drawn to when it comes to photography?

J.G: What lacked for me within the drawing is that I could draw everything I wanted and that was just it, but when I added something truly strange in a photograph I was suddenly able to change reality. This is the main reason I love photography. Changing reality, in turn, has become my main focus as I’m creating works that are not reality nor fiction. It enables me to work within a grey area that can't be simply identified as reality or fiction, it’s something new and undefinable that combines both perspectives to create something new.

F.P: I can definitely see that in your work. It is really interesting as it offers different takes on photography, from fashion and documentary and portraiture. In one word, what would you say informs your style of photography the most?

J.G: Confusion.

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY; commissioned project © Jaimy Gail

F.P: We absolutely love the portrait meets fashion images you have created. There is this unusual beauty to them; like your school portrait series. How do you go about photographing your subjects? Is there a meticulous planning process beforehand?

J.G: Thank you so much. Not at all. Don't get me wrong, the process of creating and production is very precise but not entirely restricted. In most of my work, I do everything myself from styling to set to casting, but I keep some crucial elements open. I’m at my best when I work from a place where my instincts take over so I leave myself and the subject a bit in the dark. I work really well when the pressure is high and I am able to make changes as I go along to either win or fail. That doesn't scare or bother me as I am open to failure as long as I am doing my best in the process.

F.P: Can you talk about your idea (feelings) behind Normaal Doen?

J.G: For the series Normaal Doen, I wanted to photograph the concept of normalcy. It’s a project born out of a comment made by the Dutch prime minister, addressing the public to ‘act normal’. It’s a project that changed over time as it grew bigger and turned out to be this ongoing project that is really dear to me.

F.P: What makes an image special to you?

J.G: Most of my inspiration I get out of regular amateur photos. It’s special when you see that the photographer really tried to put his mark on the image. For instance, a family photo, where all members of the family really dressed up and the photographer created the setting. It really shows how creative we can be.

F.P: Who would you say are your biggest influences today?

J.G: The internet. I try to not see too much work of other photographers as I’m afraid I’ll copy it or get too much influenced by it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing if you do, but for me, it works better to get inspiration out of random images I find. I bought an old darkroom from a photographer who photographed during the 70s until the 90s in the dance scene and portraits which he shot in his studio. One box was full of his negatives. That kind of photos really inspires me. However, if I had to name a few photographers that I love, I would say the portraits by Shadi Ghadirian are favourites of mine. And the first time I got obsessed with a photographer it was because of the work I saw by Jamie Hawkesworth and I still think he is the best.


F.P: Is there something or someone you would love to photograph?

J.G: Not really to be honest. I love photographing real people who don't necessarily fit the "model" aesthetic. Most of the people in my portraits are neighbours, family members or random people I met on the internet or the street.

F.P: How have you been using your time during the lockdown?

J.G: Pretty good. It was hectic before the crisis and it felt like I had no time to just reflect and see if I was going into the right direction with my work so I’ve had plenty of time to do that now. I’m also in the middle of building my own darkroom which I think is super exciting and perfect during a lockdown.

F.P: Is there anything you find challenging creatively at this time?

J.G: I can’t portray people in my mind. So I have ideas popping up, images I see in my head and want to create them and then I can’t which is very unfulfilling. I miss that feeling I get when I’m in the process of making an image. The stress and excitement it gives me.

F.P: Do you have any tips for other creatives who are just starting as photographers?

J.G: Don’t go for mediocrity.

F.P: Can you share some hopeful thoughts for the future after COVID-19?

J.G: Can’t wait for this to be over.




OSAS © Jaimy Gail





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