You know the drill by now: this is the A LOOK AT series in which we examine the work of one of you. It could be an exhibition, prints, a zine, and so on. In this article, we take A LOOK AT Jason Brewer’s Oddments Volume Two. If you enjoy this article, make sure you check out the other A LOOK AT articles here.
Those of you that have followed these articles for a while will know that we featured Jason’s previous zine, Oddments Volume One, in July 2018. It quickly became a worthy addition to the ever-growing YOUR EXHIBITION library as it featured a wonderful variety of work, in a well thought out layout, presented with premium materials. I’ll be completely honest with you: I didn’t expect it to be as good as the first. That’s not because I doubt Jason, I don’t doubt him at all, but I regard Oddments Volume One so high that I felt it unreasonable to expect the same again. I’m glad to say that Jason has proven me wrong. Let me explain why.
Let’s begin where I often do: the cover. As this is the first thing we see, I think a cover needs to be striking, and this emotive image certainly grasps the attention. Volume Two’s cover features an image of Jason’s Grandma’s hands. The image is contrasty, and the composition of the hand reaching up from the corner invites the reader to turn the page, but most importantly, it prompts questions. With questions comes the desire for answers, and, naturally, we open the zine to explore. I think this is an excellent use of such an image from Jason, and it’s done tastefully.
The zine itself follows on from Volume One, and features the same definition of the word Oddments:
“a remnant or part of something typically left over from a larger piece or set
bits and pieces, odds and ends”
The zine also features five sub-narratives, similar to the first, though the ones in Volume Two are very different. Each sub-narrative was shot on a single day, hence the subtitle on the cover “This one day I photographed…”. The sub-narratives are:
Waukesha, WI - images from the city of Waukesha in Wisconsin.
People at Tosa Farmers Market - photos of the people hosting or attending a farmers market.
At the Zoo - as you’d expect.
Visited a Barber - A trip to the barbers, caught on film.
In Memoriam - a beautiful tribute to what I’m sure was a beautiful lady.
Once again, I really like this idea of splitting a single zine into 5 chapters. I personally really enjoy variety, and so having a constantly changing narrative in one zine is a delight. They’re detailed enough to carry the narrative within the chapter, but brief enough to not become mundane. It is perfectly balanced by Jason - kudos.
Before I reflect on my favourite sub-narratives, I want to first recognise Jason’s selection of paper. In Volume One, I commended him for his paper choices, and I’m glad to see he’s used similar materials in Volume Two. The cover features the same sheen and protects the contents well. The colour images featured on the back cover and inside the zine are complimented well by the paper and printing method. A great example of this is this image from the Waukesha, WI section. The pastel tones come through beautifully. Later on in the zine, we see scenes with exceptional saturation, and these images are also perfectly rendered. It’s a great balance which seldom happens in a single body of work.
As I don’t wish to spoil this zine for any of you, I’ll select key works that I really enjoyed. Firstly let me reflect on the sub-narratives:
Waukesha, WI features work that typically I associate with Jason Brewer; street scenes that focus on geometry and irregularities. A collection of aesthetically pleasing work with a balance of colour and monochrome work.
People at Tosa Farmers Market features a number of playful portraits. It’s a great demonstration that a good portrait begins with building rapport with your subject. You can tell Jason has approached the people for the photo, and so we’re cherished to these almost intimate interactions.
At the Zoo lasts a couple of double page spreads, but still manages to yield such great images. Six images, all of which are excellent on their own, but are stronger as a collective. The variety, even in the act of capturing an animal is quite remarkable. This section reminds me of the studies of animals by Eadweard Muybridge with the invention of the zoopraxiscope. There’s a deliberateness to the way in which he’s captured the animals. The shape of the flamingo, and the stripes of the zebra - Jason has captured these animals in a manner that highlights their individuality. I expected this section to be just images of animals, but it’s made me reconsider how I approach some of my photography, and that’s always a good thing.
It’s amazing how Jason manages to capture the essence of an environment through his photography. Visited a Barber represents this very well. Through these images, you get a wonderful sense of what this place is like; not just what it looks like. I feel like I know what this barbershop would sound like, what conversations you’d expect to hear, the type of person the hairdresser is, and so on.
This brings us to my favourite section of the whole zine: In Memoriam. It takes a particular type of person to capture images of such a sensitive subject, and present them with a mature approach. Jason demonstrates he has these qualities as he does a fitting tribute to his grandma. Not only are the images composed well, but they help tell a story. Not dissimilar to the previous section, we get a sense of what it was like to be there with Jason’s Grandma. Through Jason’s story telling, we get to know who she was. We see her cherished wedding ring, we see her birthday badge, we see the flowers brought for her, and we see her family lovingly pinned to the wall.
As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, I have quite the collection of zines, and even though I consider myself lucky to have every one of them, this zine just feels different. That’s not to say the other zines aren’t special, not at all - I consider each one a cherished possession. Oddments Volume Two sets itself apart because I feel so honoured to be invited to experience this moment. I’m finding it very difficult to explain this feeling; I think I’m trying to say that these images feel intimate, and so to be able to witness such an intimate interaction between Grandmother and Grandson is very precious. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s quite moving.
Lastly, Jason included a small print with his zine. This isn’t the first time we have seen a print included with a zine: Spencer Reed included a print with his debut zine MY CITY, and I did too with LIFELESS. As you can gather, I am a fan of including a print with a zine. Most people don’t put their zines on display like they do with prints, so having such a print that can be framed, stuck on a wall or pinned to a board serves as a wonderful reminder to appreciate such a zine. It’s brilliant - I implore more photographers to include a print with their zines.
In closing, another standout piece of work from Jason Brewer. It’s the second zine I own of his, and it certainly won’t be the last. From cover to cover, this zine is full of gold. Whether that be the narrative, the images, or the principles it shares - I support all of it.
Fortunately for you, Jason still has a few copies available on his website. You can support Jason and acquire a great zine by purchasing Oddments Volume Two here. Also, make sure you’re following Jason on Instagram so you don’t miss the inevitable Volume Three here.
Finally, if you have enjoyed this article, you might enjoy the other A LOOK AT articles. You can find them here.