Meet Director Jessica Marx

Photo by Jessica Marx.

Jessica Marx is a newcomer to GhostPepper’s roster. She’s done print and motion campaigns with The New York Times, Chobani, Blue Apron, KindBar, Verve Wine, The Village Voice, Wichcraft, Casper, Under Armour Brand and Ecommerce, and (Groupon Inc.). She makes food look fun, fresh, and delicious. We were thrilled to have Jessica stop by our office and tell us a bit about her work.

How did you get into photography and when did that transition into directing motion?

JM: I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art and received my BFA in Photography. As a primarily fine art focused program, they really trained and guided me on what I want my vision to be and helped me craft my eye. Since college, I have worked in the commercial realm and have always worked either as a full time photographer or freelance. I first started directing motion a couple years ago because my clients started wanting more moving content, so I adapted and began developing my moving image portfolio.

What is it about food that interests you?

JM: Where to begin? I could go on all day. Food is fashion, politics, history, socio-economics, and culture. Food is a way to connect to each other and share our knowledge — to learn about how we are more the same than different. Despite having a tiny Brooklyn kitchen, I love to cook and am constantly experimenting with recipes and ingredients that are unfamiliar.

One of Jessica’s spots for Chobani Yogurt.

What makes your vision unique? What is your color palette? What is unique about the way you capture food?

JM: I usually gravitate towards saturated colors and loud patterns. I love to choose unusual angles and try to stray away from how food is conventionally captured. I also love to try and show a sense of humor or playfulness in my photographs with either how the food is positioned, an action in the moving image, or a peculiar prop.

How do you bring story into a still photo or stop-motion sequence?

JM: It’s all about the action in stop motion, and whatever other objects are in the frame to help the viewer understand the plot.

Where does your inspiration come from in still and in motion?

JM: As for motion, I actually love watching commercials in my free time and am always taking notes on why some commercials are so successful and how they reach their pitch at the end of 30 seconds or less. I then try to relate that back to my stop animations and how I can capture someone’s attention in a very visually focused world and catch their focus. As for stills, I am very drawn to vintage ads for food and love to reintroduce old styles to contemporary food products.

Your website calls you a “food worshipper.” What does that mean to you?

JM: This might sound grandiose, but I truly believe that broadening your horizons by trying different cuisines and talking to and learning from someone from a different food background can make the world a better and more empathetic place. I also believe that not enough children understand where food comes from and are not taught how to cook, which can negatively distort their relationship with food.

One of Jessica’s spots for KindBar.

How does stop-motion work differ from still photography?

JM: Stop motion is a series of still images choreographed to appear like a video. A still image must convey everything intended where as a stop animation can create a more complex plot.

What kind of camera do you shoot with?

JM: I shoot with a Canon EOS 5DSR!

What’s your favorite thing to shoot other than food?

JM: Food is my favorite. I love to take lots of images when I travel outside of town — my most recent project that I liked the most was a trip to New Orleans documenting festivities and parties during Mardi Gras. Both of my parents are from Louisiana, and I was always fascinated with how tourists and locals lose all sense of control and abandon behaving within societal norms when Mardi Gras begins. Most of my documentation was from Bourbon Street.

Editor’s Note: Check out Jessica’s gorgeous Mardi Gras series here:

What’s the most important thing to remember when working in stop motion?

JM: Once you make a move, you can’t take it back! :-)

Jessica on set for Kind Snacks.

What types of projects interest you the most?

JM: I love projects when clients trust my stylist and I get to have a hand in the creative direction of the set. I find the most gratifying projects are when we are able to put our creative direction into the project while still delivering the client’s direction.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without on set?

JM: Easy — a variety of good music. We like to change the genre and the tempo of the music throughout the day so everyone can listen to something they like and we keep a steady and energetic pace.

What advice do you have for photographers that also want to direct?

JM: Find a great team you feel comfortable with, work well with, and have mutual respect for. Invest in your assistants, stylists and collaborators. It is incredibly important to find people that are communicative, collaborative and great problem solvers.

Photo by Jessica Marx.