When did you first begin with photography? How did you find this passion?
I must say, everytime I say different ages because I am just not sure. But it was around the time that I got my first girlfriend which was like 17ish. At this point I got more into taking pictures. I took the camera on myself and my then-girlfriend because I felt that there was a misrepresentation and a gap that I saw in the images of the time, which focused on intimacy and women on women love. The pictures I saw at the time I always felt like that’s not me and that’s not my relationship, so why don’t I just try to fill that gap with my pictures and my experiences. So basically it all started from there, immediately full on naked very intimate, because that is what I love to depict the most. Of course, I had already taken some pictures of random stuff with me and friends and so on, but this is the point where it really started. After some months I then also found the courage to ask my straight girlfriends around me if they wanted to pose naked in front of my lense and they all said yes, so I could slowly build my portfolio around this. At some point I was then accepted to Willem de Kooning Academy and then I did four years of photography there.
© Jonnah Bron @jonnahbron
I feel like your images counter the male-gaze on female love quite a bit, but also feature nudity, sexuality and embrace and you said that this is something you immediately started with. Was it a way where you wanted to counter the mainstream or create a narrative for yourself and your life where you can tell a different story, or what led you to this?
I think both went hand in hand even though at the time I may not have been extremely aware of all these things. Something that has always been a large part of photography for me is that I have this fear of forgetting things, somewhere, someone. It was my great first love at the time and I wanted to remember everything. After of course I dated a lot and had many different relationships and I always sort of fear that there will be an end someday so I try to capture as many moments as possible in that relationship so that I will not forget those beautiful intimate moments. When I then see the pictures of those moments I may think or feel different things later on than what I felt in the exact moment of taking it, like a token of remembrance.
Something I noticed that is featured a lot in your works, almost like a motif through your different series, is the bed? Why is that? What do you associate with this place?
I especially focus on the bed in the ‘Where We Did It’ series. This series sort of happened naturally, it wasn’t a series idea in my head from the beginning. It sort of started again from the fear of forgetting things again and I had had a hook-up and sometimes you already know the next morning that you will not see this person again and so I took pictures of the beds sometimes and then sent them to my friend and was like ‘hey, guess what I did last night’. When I looked at the pictures again later by coincidence I was like wow this is super nice, because it tells so much about intimacy without having people in the picture. For me it was also different because I usually focus on people and have people in my pictures but for this series it just worked. So I started being more aware of it and took my analog camera with me when I was dating someone for longer, or when I was in a relationship, but of course these things are not always planned so sometimes I also took pictures with my phone.
You have recently started a new series on non-monogamous relationships, can you tell us a little bit more about this?
Sadly, I have recently paused this series. I found it hard to find people who were interested in taking pictures and also to find people that were non-monogamous and sadly did not have more time right now. So for now I have two couples/ sets, but the main goal was to at least have ten. However, I do think it is a very important topic that I am also very interested in and hope to continue one day. I am always intrigued by polyamory because I am still not sure what I am. I know that I do find monogamy difficult sometimes, but also feel that I am not polyamorous, so what is the inbetween, so it was interesting to hear about those labels and lifestyles where people have their own kind of rules from the people I have taken pictures of already.
Do you see nudity and intimacy as something separate from love, or do you think it is intertwined?
I definitely think that it is intertwined. Sometimes I also shoot people that I see on tinder that I find interesting. There it is not really a deep love, but from the moment she arrives I try to make her feel comfortable and we really talk a lot, sometimes even so much that I don’t even end up shooting, so there is a lot of intimacy. And then when I see the pictures later on I really think about the people I got to know and how close we were for that moment, and with some I am still in contact from time to time today.
You also did a series about quarantine love, how did this come about?
This series was the last one I did before starting on my film. It was really nice because people felt very comfortable and safe to be intimate with each other around me and to almost basically have sex while I was there so I could really capture their intimacy and the love they had found for each other during lockdown.
You usually have a focus on photography, but you have recently changed into the medium film with your erotic film 'need'? What inspired you to do this?
I think it started because deep down I always had the urge to make a porn. Four or five years ago I still called it porn, now I call it porna, as I was always fascinated by the work Erika Lust has done. I found her when I was quite young and in my opinion at the time those films were the only good feminist and aesthetically pleasing pornas. So I found them and thought wow this is amazing, but I first hesitated because 1) I am not a filmmaker and 2) do I really want to make porn? At first I always said that just because I do nude photography doesn’t mean that I do pornography, or what will people think when I announce that I will be making porna?
But this was years ago. Then two years ago when I had almost reached the end of the art academy I had a full year to do an end project. I then thought it would be super nice if I just used this year to start with my movie.
This is something I really noticed when taking pictures for my quarantine love series. For weeks I started thinking about it and planning it in my head and wasn’t really sharing it and then I thought fuck it I am just going to do it. I started by putting it on my instagram ‘ and saying that I need people for this and this and this. Basically I found my entire crew on Instagram then, which was great and then I was like ‘okay I really have to do it now because people are relying on me.’ I really wanted to make the film in that year to be able to graduate with it, but the crowdfunding campaign already took me like half a year. It was super intense, but eventually I did reach my goal. I then did a first teaser impression for my graduation project. In October 2021 we then shot the whole full movie.
How did it feel for you when it then actually happened after all this time?
It went a whole week and we had rented a house in Rotterdam, so the whole crew was there. It was really intense. It felt like a bubble from the moment I got there and I was there with them day and night working. It was honestly fucking amazing. It was my first big shooting and to find out how it all works and to see what troubles you find during the day and how to fix them the next day and see how it gets better. All the love and the bonding that you get over the shooting days, it was so intense because I told all my friends, family and the person I was dating to not really contact me, because I was the director and I really had to work. So maybe a ‘hey, how are you,’ is okay and maybe I would reply, but generally I was there with my head, body and mind I said I would talk to everyone else later. Funnily the rest of the crew had also told everyone that, so we were all extremely focused on only this, because we also had a lot to do with building up sets and then moving them to another location and so on. It was really fucking crazy and amazing.
On the last day when my camera man then said ‘okay, that was the last shot,’ it was silent and then I looked at my producer Inge and then I cried so hard. I cried in her arms, and then she cried and then my art director, everybody cried. Then it was like waking up from a dream, where everything was back to normal. It was great, but also frustrating, and things did go wrong, but it was my first time and I am so thankful to everyone that helped ‘Need’ come true. I would do it all over again in seconds.
So you are planning on making another film?
Yes, I think ‘need’ is a film in itself now, but it would be nice if I had the chance to make another erotic kind of movie. I would definitely do it, because intimacy is my priority and the most interesting thing I like to work on.
In ‘need’ what were the key elements through which you wanted to show intimacy and what inspired you to do it in such a way?
It’s just in my head, because of the photography. I think I transferred a lot from how my photography looks. I like certain things like medium shots instead of wide shots, I don’t really like feet so I avoid having them in the picture, I also like experimenting with extreme close ups of touching and kissing. This is always something I myself had wanted to see in erotic movies. Then I experimented with soft colors and cinematic lenses. Thinking how it should look came very easily to me, but verbalizing it and sharing it was a struggle for me at times. Thankfully, my camera man really understood me and my aesthetic and it worked very well. Editing of course also then has taken a lot of time and I hope we will be able to show the final version in May.