Story behind the imagery: Jonny Briggs

Rebecca Greig

Find out more about the thoughts behind young British photographer Jonny Briggs’ intriguing imagery

Story behind the imagery: Jonny Briggs
© Jonny Briggs


Saatchi Gallery and Huawei have teamed up to present an exhibition called From Selfie to Self-Expression. The show will be the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to the present day.

The show will also highlight the emerging role of the smartphone as an artistic medium for self-expression through the commissioning ten exciting Young British Photographers to create new works using Huawei’s newest dual lens smartphones co-engineered with Leica, as part of their artistic practice. Reprising the spirit and energy of the Young British Artist movement first launched 25 years ago; the works of these young British photographers will go on display in a gallery dedicated to world-class smartphone photography. In this gallery the focus will shift from Selfie to documenting the world around us as a contrasting form of Self-Expression.

We spoke to young British Photographer Jonny Briggs to find out a little more about his thought-provoking imagery.

What first got you interested in Photography?

My interest in photography; interestingly; comes from a dislike in the medium. When I was younger, I used to struggle with having my photograph taken. I found the family photograph staged and performative, having to stand in a particular way, adopt a certain facial expression. I found family difficulties were muted, censored, and masked in the family photos. The photographs I make now feel like a role reversal of the family photograph. Now I’m behind the lens, making the decisions.

Photography is in an interesting place, where there is much mistrust in the medium; if something is remotely peculiar, we assume it to be digitally manipulated or photoshopped. I find this a preconception to play with; to suspend disbelief and blur the boundary between what’s real and what’s not. This takes me to the childhood mindset, of not knowing what’s real and what’s fantasy, and on the other hand conjures daunting contemporary political discourse of post truth and alternative facts. We should question our conditioning, and those who may be conditioning us.


Story behind the imagery: Jonny Briggs
My Blood
© Jonny Briggs

Can you tell us more about the image ‘My Blood’?

This piece is a photomontage of two photographs; bringing together my mother’s body, and my father’s hand upon her face. My Father becomes my Mother; or vice versa. The hand appears almost as if part of her; gagging her or silencing her. Yet it also feels like it may be healing her, or performing Holy Communion where the Priest’s hand is placed upon the head of the individual. The hand becomes a surrogate face, yet censoring her face, hijacking her identity, like a parasite. I find an alluring awkwardness in the misalignment of the two photographs, that create a frustration of order/disorder. I think back to the orders of my Christian upbringing, and the rituals we engaged in. My mother’s body language reminds me of the gestures I’ve noticed in Priests. Although her glasses are visible, she can’t see through them, and appears almost pacified; her way of seeing is blocked. I’m reminded of puppeteering; the hand of the puppeteer may be seen as a hand that controls; or on the other hand; a hand that guides. I find the same about God.


How did you come up with the concept? What do like about the final image?

My idea making process has been largely intuitive, embracing play, obscurity, and acting upon feeling, before my thoughts can hold them back. The thoughts play their use in hindsight; to look back at what has been made and to ask the question ‘what is my mind telling me?’ I like how the images confuse me; they are mirrors, and are clues to parts of myself that I may not have been able to have voiced before. They are opportunities for me to have a conversation with myself, and to play within the  blurred boundaries in a way that words can’t.

Story behind the imagery: Jonny Briggs
© Jonny Briggs

What is your favourite image from your collection? Why?

My favourite image is almost always one of the most recent images, as they feel further along my creative journey, and are often the works that I have the least to talk about, where there is much I still need to figure out about them. From this series, I am drawn to Consuming a Grief That’s Yet to Come; My Mother’s long nailed adult fingers penetrate an image of my father as a child. My Mother’s fingers are in full colour, in contrast to the black and white image, and in this sense feel like imposters of the image, like woodworm. It’s as if they are attempting to grasp or hold the image, yet in doing so, destruct it.

From Selfie To Self Expression will be running at the Saatchi gallery until 23 July 2017.

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