Interview Series: James Browne On “Gathering Dust”

James Browne is an Australian set and costume designer who creates breathtaking worlds both on stage and off. His conceptual garments, use of color and textures in juxtaposition and brilliantly curated accessories & props transform characters and stories across theater sets, TV shows, events and photo shoots across the world. In “Gathering Dust,” Browne collaborates with photographer Daniel Linnet to create a captivating setting using exquisite garments and lavish sets to tell the story of two sisters trapped in an attic during the French Revolution. We caught up with the designer to pick his brain on his inspirations and the ideas behind this gorgeous collab. Have a look:

James Browne_Gathering Dust_Daniel Linnet

Q & A

LF: Explain to us what exactly you do.

JB: I come up with with visual concepts using set and costume design to support a theatrical experience both in live performance or in photographic stills.

LF:  Describe your creative process.

JB: I thrive on limitation. Budget, time frames, availability and spacial awareness. My inspiration can stem from a single item of scenery or clothing. I build from there, collecting and making anything that might fit into the ‘world.’ From these items I work in a narrative that will pull everything together. Then I start the casting process and begin a brief for the team I’m working with. Each of those talented creative individuals are able to bring their own interpretation of the brief and we end up with something quite special and unique.

James Browne_Gathering Dust_Daniel Linnet

LF: What are you trying to accomplish with your work?

JB: The intention of the work is to create a theatrical or filmic still life and mold an original world or atmosphere into a story. We polish and style each shot and look as you would in a fashion editorial. I think the work falls very much between fashion and theatre. We usually use actors as models and we utilize their skills in terms of developing a character and interacting with other characters.

LF: What inspires you?

JB: I take most of my inspiration from the past. I love history but I love to rework it and mash up different eras. I love clever design and clear visions where all the elements are melded together successfully.

James Browne_Gathering Dust_Daniel Linnet

LF: What was the inspiration behind the “Gathering Dust” photo shoot?

JB: The inspiration literally came from looking at the different shades and color palette on the reverse sides of some scenery I had lying around. A lot of my work is dark and wet in its look and I wanted to try going the other way while still keeping my aesthetic. I then developed a narrative about two sisters who are locked in an attic during the French revolution.

LF: Is there a dialogue behind the photographs? What story are they trying to tell?

JB: Unlike a theatrical or filmic experience, where the script or directors vision are the starting point for the design process, the dialogue in the photographic work is developed almost entirely from a design perspective. I create an rough narrative based on the resources we are able to pull together and we shoot with that intention. But like all art forms its an open book. Open to interpretation. The viewer can use the series almost like a graphic novel to formulate their own narrative.

LF: What are you working on next? What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

JB: My theatre designs are in constant development. The future projects are vast, from ballet, to developing visual concepts for bands. My next photo shoot concept will involve the idea of 1940’s propaganda.

James Browne_Gathering Dust_Daniel Linnet

LF: What turns you on?

JB: My great passion is extreme beauty. I love to celebrate the female form and accentuate it. I think it’s important for everyone to escape reality and enter a fantasy. A deep photograph makes you able to revisit it with ease.

LF: How fast do you live?

JB: I find the most difficult part of being a designer or artist is being able to put a value on the hours and hours spent each day developing ideas in your head. It’s almost all encompassing. My brain never stops even in sleep. Sometimes its juggling several projects at once and can be quite stressful but the reward of seeing a vision realized is life’s great reward to me. The creation and evolution in my head isn’t going to stop, so i just have to roll with it.

Check out some behind-the-scene footage of this striking shoot to see the artists do their magic:

All photographs courtesy of Daniel Linnet.

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