2020 was a year of many realizations, but for Thomas Jackson (previously), the most profound was “proof of the adage that creativity thrives under constraints.” Known for suspending swarms of everyday objects on the rocky shores of the Isle of Man or desert locales across the southwest U.S., the photographer shifted his practice as lockdowns spread and limited his ability to travel beyond nearby landscapes.
The resulting series reflects these restrictions and focuses on a single location and adaptable material: swaths of colorful nylon float above the beaches and down the California coastline, creating compositions that juxtapose the natural environment with the bright, manufactured materials. “I chose tulle for its mutability—depending on how it’s arranged and how the wind catches it, it can morph from a solid to a liquid, to fire to billowing smoke,” Jackson says.
Shot on 4×5 film with little to no editing, the photographs convey a pared-down approach. Rather than hire people to help him install the sculptural objects in exact positions, Jackson utilized driftwood to prop up the lightweight textiles and the wind to infuse the fabric with movement. He explains:
On every shoot, Northern California’s offshore breezes were my collaborator, the force that transformed my installations from lifeless fabric to living things. As collaborations go it was a tumultuous one—of the twenty or so pieces I built and photographed last year, thirteen were failures—but along the way, I learned a thing or two about the importance of staying on nature’s good side. When I built pieces that obstructed or defied the wind in any way, I’d go home unhappy, but when my constructions respected and responded to the wind, interesting things would occur!
Jackson shares a wide array of his work that mimics the amorphous, self-organizing patterns of birds, insects, and other animals, along with behind-the-scenes shots and footage of his process, on Instagram.