Jack Davison: Magic and wonder

Nominated in our Photography Annual for his striking portraits of Cate Blanchett for the New York Times Magazine, as well as an exhibition at London’s Cob Gallery, Jack Davison’s work continues to push the boundaries of photography.

We’ve come to know Jack Davison as a great commander of light and shadow. Someone who can deliver radical theatricality or stripped-down minimalism with the same beauty, elegance and intensity. While these qualities remain in his work, there is a distinct sense of turning the volume up this year – a refusal to hold back. Emotions are heightened and reference points are more obscure. Davison’s distinctive visual language has been expanded and recalibrated, while his obsession with building layers has become more physical and tactile as his process becomes more hands-on.

“My time is so precious now,” says Davison, reflecting on how parenthood has shifted his practice and priorities. “Being a dad is the best thing in the world to me, so if I’m going to take on a project, I need to do something special. [Paternity leave] was a real clarifier. I’m grateful to be given space to make work, and after the break, I came back with a vengeance, determined to push it further.”

In his latest assignment for the New York Times Magazine – a publication the photographer has a long-standing relationship with – Davison collaborated with actor Cate Blanchett. Together with costume and set designer Shona Heath, stylist Rebecca Perlmutar, hairstylist Ali Pirzadeh, makeup artist Morag Ross, and manicurist Michelle Humphrey, they transformed Blanchett into a surrealist clown. Informed by old Soviet Bauhaus ballet costumes and a desire to play with colour, the shoot is dramatic and playful in equal measure, conjuring a side of Blanchett we’ve never seen before.