Jimmy Marble is a director, photographer, designer, and muralist living in Los Angeles, CA. He was interviewed for The Lab Magazine by portrait photographer Lauren Lemon.
LAUREN LEMON—You moved to Los Angeles to direct films but when I met you it was on the set of one of your first photoshoot-collaborations. I’d say you’ve established yourself quite well as a photographer on your own these days. Do you still consider directing to be your biggest passion? Do you think your role as a director has now been influenced by working as a still photographer?
JIMMY MARBLE—That’s right! I always forget we met through that shoot. Such babies back then. As far as passions go, I’m pretty much just trying to make as much as I can all the time. I’ve always really admired artists who were prolific and seemed to never sit still. A huge part of getting into photography was because I wanted to be doing more. Film production is such a glacier. With photos you can just get ’em out. But, my directing has benefited a ton from photo work. My eye has become much sharper. I think I’m able to communicate a lot more out of a single image now than I used to be pre-photo. I never want to stop making videos or movies, though. That’s always going to be very important to me.
LL—You have a distinct style to your work. I feel like I can recognize a “Jimmy Marble” photo as soon as I see one. How much of your work is thought out and planned beforehand and how much of it comes with interacting and engaging with your model on set?
JM—With photography, the aesthetics are always pretty well planned out beforehand. The mood and tone, and even the idea of a picture. I like coming to set knowing I have 5-10 pictures planned out, sometimes with them sketched out, so I for sure won’t be going home empty handed. With that said, once I start working it can all pretty much get thrown out the window right away, and I’ll start improvising with the model. Because a lot of the time an idea that sounds good on paper isn’t a good photo, so you have to get in there and find that good photo. With directing it’s pretty much all planned, and I do very little improvisation.
LL—I feel like your work is “sooo LA”. Have you always had such a bright colorful aesthetic? Has having access to models, locations, studios, stylists, and production crews made a difference on the kind of work you’re creating now versus five years ago?
JM—Actually before moving to LA I think all of my short films and video work were black and white. I really liked new wave films, and just wanted to be mimicking them 100 per cent. But once I was here in LA I consciously started to try to find my own voice and be of my own time, so I switched to color. And the first thing I decided was if I was going to be working with color, I should make that a primary element of my work. LA really introduced collaboration to me. I love set life because you have a group of people all working together on the same idea, bringing their own expertise, their own taste, and their own story to what we’re all working on. It’s allowed me to mature a lot as an artist in these last five years. My collaborators have given me a much stronger voice.
LL—If someone would have told Jimmy 10 years ago what you’d be doing in life right now, would you believe them? What sort of expectations did you have for yourself when you finished school?
JM—Man, I don’t know. I think he would be really impressed I learned how to use a camera. That always seemed like a daunting thing to me. Nineteen-year-old Jimmy definitely thought he would be making movies for the academic set. Very minimal, very still and contemplative and with a statement. I wrote a feature script in college that had a big anti-war subtext to it. Now that I’m thinking about it, it was a pretty cool story. But that was back when people were still upset about American wars, though. Probably wouldn’t have an audience anymore.
LL—What expectations or goals do you have for yourself ten years from now?
JM—I hope I have my own swimming pool in ten years. Hopefully with a view. Other than that, I hope I’ve continued to make new work without retreading too many ideas. Definitely want to be making more narrative film work by ten years from now.
LL—Who is your biggest fan?
JM—Hmmmmm… at this point probably me still. I’m still having to believe in myself more than anyone else does. But the good news about that is I am genuinely pretty stoked. I think I’m making some cool stuff. Having fans is a wild new part of my life though. It’s really cool because kids in art school have shown me paintings they’ve made of my photos. Blows my mind that that happens. To go back to your previous question, maybe in ten years from now I’ll be able to say in earnest, “This one’s for the fans,” while embarking on a new project.
LL—Whose biggest fan are you?
JM—Whoever is playing that synthesizer in Africa by Toto. I’m that person’s biggest fan for sure. One time I karaoke’d that song and only performed the synth part.
LL—We both celebrated the New Year in Berlin, which is funny because that’s also where I met and got to know The Lab Magazine last Summer. Does traveling influence you as an artist? Are you inspired by the places you go, or do you think your work would look about the same no matter where you created it?
JM—I think location means everything. I think I use pastels so much because they’re everywhere in LA. This city’s a big Easter egg because everything’s so sun bleached. I love the effect of traveling on my brain. Just seeing all the different ways people are thinking about the same problems, it lets you grow. I have a script in my mind I could only do in Berlin, that wouldn’t even make an ounce of sense to film in LA.
LL—Your work exudes happiness and positivity, which is what draws myself and probably a lot of others to it – but do you have bad days? Are you ever bummed?
JM—Oftentimes bummed. Life is a really hard thing. It’s way more failure than success. But at the same time I’m pretty much always excited because who knows what could happen next? I always think things will get better, because you can control your future a little easier than the present through work and planning. I think the good things you feel from my work are me working through the bad things, and trying to remind myself that the future is still open and hasn’t been decided. Which is the best thought.
I have days that don’t go very well. But for the most part I really like my life. I found a line of work that leaves me really satisfied, and that’s the best. I love making things. There are times when money is way tighter than I want it to be, or a friend’s being a jerk, or I am, or I get in a bike crash, or heartbroken, or the news I read is all oppressively awful, and those things, but I also get to be a human, which is crazy. Really, really crazy.
LL—What gets you through those bad moments?
JM—Work, friends, smooching, and whiskey.
LL—Do you have any doubts?
JM—No, I’m blinded by my ambition.
LL—So you direct films, and shoot photos, but you also paint murals. Are there other mediums you’re interested in working on as well?
JM—Someday I’m going to design wallpaper. I’d also like to direct plays.
LL—You had a Kickstarter project get funded. How’s that project coming along?
JM—It’s a slow go, but we’re making headway.
LL—Can you talk about any other projects you have coming up?
JM—I’m about to put out a new zine called LAtopia, a collection of portraits I’ve taken of friends in some of my favorite places in Los Angeles over the last three years. Hopefully it will be out mid-spring sometime.