An Exploration of Beauty with L.A.-Based Director Jimmy Marble

Colorful hues and punchy details elicit wonder in director, designer and photographer Jimmy Marble’s work. Yakima, Washington born and L.A.-based, Marble has delved into nearly every facet of filmmaking — he’s written, acted, and even created his own magazine, Fudge Monthly, to exhibit his photography in 2016. Although the 30-year-old husband and father of two strives to not be confined to any one type of aesthetic, a celebration of beauty concurrently flows throughout every project he pursues. With a knack for brilliantly configuring colors, Jimmy’s ability to capture the tenderness of the most mundane has garnered him over 130K Instagram followers and collaborations with major brands such as Coca-Cola, Kate Spade and Spotify.

Finding his art to be a manifestation of what I consider to be beauty, I was over the moon to speak with Jimmy about his recent short film End of Babes, his art world influences and the dire importance of creativity in Trump’s America. Meet Jimmy Marble: 

What drew you to film and photography? Can you tell me a bit about your background in art?

It all started from me wanting to tell stories as a kid. That was the first thing I was ever super into. As a boy, I loved writing stories. As soon as I learned how to type, I would come home and type, type, type, and that basically turned into bringing my stories — and this is like second grade, third grade — into class and I would read them aloud to everybody during lunch. And I’d get a great response. I got super into learning about guiding an audience, and getting reactions out of people — and loved it. Then, once I got into middle school and junior high, I started signing up for art classes and I got into doing sketches and drawing. I was never good at drawing, but I’d draw these really detailed tableaus with loads of characters and stories inside. 

Then, somewhere along the way, I wanted to make videos. I remember watching The Virgin Suicides when I was 15 and just being like, you can make movies like that? Because I grew up in a pretty sheltered household where I wasn’t really exposed to much culture. It wasn’t a priority of my parents, let alone the whole town — the whole town was pretty sheltered from culture. I didn’t know movies could be something special, I just thought they were movies. And I was like that’s what I want — I want to make movies like that. From there, I started writing scripts on my own. When I was a little older, I started making short films once I got to college. Photography came way later, after I got into directing and was establishing myself as a director. I was dating a girl who was a photographer. I’d start borrowing her camera, actually anyone’s camera, and went nuts taking photos.

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A photograph of Jimmy Marble on the road by Bethany Toews.

What do you wonder about? How do you explore these things in your film and photography?

It’s always about wanting to explore a location. And if it’s a set, it means I just want to explore that — I have an idea for an abstracted world, and I want to go live in that world for a little bit. With location photos, it’s the same thing: I just want to be there and interact with it. I want to create a story around it and use it to help create a feeling.

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From Fudge Monthly 6: The Youth Issue by Jimmy Marble and Jesse Chamberlain, 2016.

I loved the Garden of Eden shoot you did for Fudge Monthly. I feel like you definitely explored a location in those photos, right?

That shoot was exactly that: I just wanted to go out, and I just, personally, felt compelled to be in nature. I wanted to be shooting outside — I didn’t want to be in a photo studio; I wanted to be somewhere beautiful, documenting the spring in Southern and Central California.

So much of what people photograph is replicable. When you’re dealing with ephemeral stuff like the grass in the spring, it’s only going to be there for a little bit, so, you can take a photo of it, but someone can’t just go replicate it because the photo was a document of that day, that grass, that moment. So, I wanted to be in a temporary, beautiful spring and photographing bodies felt perfect for it.

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From the Garden of Eden issue of Fudge Monthly, 2016.

Can you tell me about creating Fudge Monthly, and what’s behind the name?

Fudge came about sort of out of frustration for distributing personal work. With photographers, there’s this sort of annoying bind between either making personal work — and you have to find somewhere to publish it, and consciously or unconsciously, one way or another, you have work inside whoever is going to publish its confines. Like, if you want to be in this blog, you have to shoot this type of photo, or if you want to be in this magazine, you have to shoot this season and they want a hot designer and a popular model — they want all these things to help them.  Which is a lot of extra work to put into a personal work when you just want to make something beautiful.

I had taken these photos I was proud of the year before, and they were being put in cool places, but it just didn’t feel right somehow. It just hit me I’d rather be doing my own thing. I felt like I was loaning out myself for free to all these other brands and not getting enough back from it.

So, with Fudge Monthly, I decided it was just going to be my own thing, it’s going to be monthly.  It was an ambitious project!  But my hope was that ambitious projects pay off in the end.

The name came from more of a joke between some old roommates and me. When I was in college, my roommates and I lived in a house together and we’d get the previous tenants’ catalogues — like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie, or whatever. We would leave them on our coffee tables with sharpies and would go in and doodle on all of them. It was really immature jokes… and we would just call it Fudge Monthly. I love it because the word Fudge is like a triple or quadruple entendre. It’s got a lot of alternative meanings. So, I liked the way you can’t take the word very seriously. There’s something funny about the word Fudge, so, you can’t really define it. It’s slightly immature and you can’t take it seriously, and I think that’s what I like about Fudge, it’s completely different… it’s not a very definable title.  Fudge was sort of a banner for whatever possibility.

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Fudge Monthly: The Cake and Crying Issue, February 2016.

How is your short film coming along? I read on your blog that this has been a goal of yours for a long time.

Yeah, I actually just put one out! It just premiered on Nowness like two weeks ago. I loved the process. It’s called End of Babes, it’s about the world ending and not being aware of it. It’s about a couple that’s falling in love, but they don’t realize that it’s also the day of the apocalypse. 

Oh wow, that’s so fitting for 2017 also.

That’s what I’m saying!

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From Marble’s Self Discovery II series2017.

Can you tell me a bit about the film you’re working on now?

It’s called If You’re Ready. Without giving too much away, it’s kind of about wondering around Los Angeles.

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From Marble’s 2013 Greetings from Utopia! shoot, where friends of Jimmy and Amanda Jasnowski were painted in vibrant colors to represent the surreal dreaminess of LA.

That sounds amazing. I’d love to hear more about how living in LA has inspired or informed your work?

It’s the best — there’s no other city I’d rather live in. LA has changed my life in ways I don’t know even know about; I love the work ethic here, I love being here, I love the colors of the city, the quality of the sunlight, everything — it’s a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing city.

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From Marble’s La-topia series, 2014.

Can you tell me about the album work you created for Kings of Leon and what that experience was like?

They got in touch with me late last Spring, and they thought their vision for the album cover matched up with my aesthetic. And they had a pretty solid direction — and a vibe for what they were going for, and I love when people come in with a strong direction. Basically what they wanted was for me to take forty photos all in line with the idea they had. They gave me lyrics and told me to visually interpret them in a way that wasn’t literal, in a way people wouldn’t necessarily know they were references to the song lyrics. It was a super cool assignment.

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Kings of Leon aerial shot by Jimmy Marble.

So, how did the faces floating in water come about — if it’s possible to pinpoint that place in your creative process?

It was one of the things that came out. It felt pretty iconic; there was something about it that had this great glow.

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Kings of Leon “WALLS” album cover art by Jimmy Marble.

I think one of my favorite things about that photo is how while normally four heads floating in water would be an unsettling visual, there’s something so peaceful there. There’s definitely something really deep to the image.

Yeah, that’s sort of what we were trying to do — we wanted every photo to have more than one emotion attached to it. We wanted to make everything have at least two sides to it: it’s peaceful, but it’s also creepy. Like, it’s this and it’s also this.

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More of Jimmy Marble’s work created for the “WALLS” album.

Growing up, who were some of your favorite artists? How have they inspired your work?

Well, I don’t think I really had favorite artists until I was a little bit older. I studied Art History in college, and I was really, really, really obsessed with Matisse. I think Matisse has had an overarching influence in everything I’ve done.  He was my first love.

I was also totally obsessed with Godard in college, too. I feel like the two of them combined were these mentors that I could never have a conversation with, but could find interviews of and obsess over their work. Both of their work is really similar in my opinion — extremely different, but similar — they both had this love for their medium. Matisse loved painting, you could just tell he loved to paint, and you could tell Godard loved to make films. It’s almost like their work is about loving to paint and loving to make movies. Not all artists you walk away from looking at their stuff like they’re obsessed with what they do. When you look at Picasso, he was a really intellectual painter — he was painting to get across intellectual ideas, and you could say that about Godard too, but even more than that, I think he was just playing with making movies and loved making movies. Which is great.  You should be in love with what you do.

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From Marble’s Self Discovery series, 2016.

Going forward, what are some of your goals as an artist in 2017?

My wife and I talk about this more and more — starting the night Trump got elected, we realized we have to be political now, there’s no other choice anymore. If you’re not raising your voice, you’re consenting to Trump’s vision. I don’t know what any of it is going to look like, but I know I want people to know what side I’m on. I want to inspire young people because I feel like people who are sixteen right now, and will be voting in the next election, I want them to be engaged and to know that this isn’t normal and right.

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A portrait of Jimmy Marble (he’s also a muralist too, by the way).
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From Fudge Monthly: The Cake and Crying Issue, 2016.
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Reverie, 2017 by Jimmy Marble and Jesse Marble in collaboration for @jimjam.
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Alex in Close Up by  Jimmy Marble, 2017.
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Marble’s Florals series created for Nike, 2015.
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From A Year of Stains by Jimmy Marble. For more Marble, check out Jimmy’s Instagram, website and tumblr.

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