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Jazzelle Pierrot
Photography Rob Rusling

This Pierrot-inspired photobook explores the melancholy of solitude

TextAlex Peters

Photographer Rob Rusling teamed up with Jazzelle in a series of images that capture the sadness in the memories of times before

“For me it is the feeling of melancholy, that feeling of vacancy after you have been sad that I found most interesting about Pierrot’s stories,” says photographer Rob Rusling on what it is that draws him to the classic sad clown who acted as the impetus behind his new photobook Pierrot. Taking inspiration from his passion for the pantomime character and Goddard films, the fashion photographer teamed up with Jazzelle for the project, capturing the model in a series of evocative images which loosely tell the story of that feeling of remembering the night before.

Lyrical and contemplative, the dreamlike photos draw on those feelings of melancholy and sadness, “the feeling afterwards when you’re sad but not sad,” Rusling says, to explore the emotional states between the extremes. “The real extremes of the emotional scale are pretty obvious and well understood, happy and sad. What about the feelings that come in between and afterwards though? They’re really important and much harder to describe or explain,” says Rusling. “There’s beauty in all emotion and I hope these images sort of show that.”

For Jazzelle, who came to the project mostly unaware of Pierrot but left a fan, the character is a symbol of unrequited love, representing the timeless story of love and love lost, of passion and heartbreak. “Love often makes people, myself included, feel like fools,” they say. “You can’t choose who you love, and you can’t make people love you back. He represents the feelings of sadness and frustrations, while also a kind of innocence I think.”

Presenting the images as a photobook was important to Rusling who says he has always held an obsession with the format, believing it to be the true place of belonging for photography, a place where the images really have a chance to breathe. Collaborating with Paul Hetherington, who he met while working as Nick Knight’s assistant, Rusling saw the opportunity to make a book out of the work which he says he and Jazzelle initially just made for the joy of it. 

While the images were made pre-lockdown, they are eerily pertinent to our times, speaking to the emotions we are currently experiencing in isolation. “Obviously at the moment we’re all living a new kind of normal and I think the solitude, the sadness, the melancholy, the memories of times before.. all these are things we highlight in the work by chance happen to be the reality we’re living right now,” Rusling says. “We didn’t make it knowing of course and the work offers no answers. But hopefully in being able to find a beauty in the solitude and emotion of our pictures people can also find that beauty in their own situations right now.”

Photography Rob Rusling; model, make-up and creative Jazzelle at Storm Management; styling Flora Huddart; Hair Alfie Sackett; concept direction Victoria Sestier; book design and custom lettering Paul Hetherington.

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