Stephen Jess: A Few Of My Favourite Things
The Cut+Run editor talks us through the items that keep him creative, as well as showcasing a collection of photographs captured on New York’s subway system during the pandemic.
Fuelled by his dual passions for editing documentary style projects and still photography, the project was the latest in a varied career that has seen the Belfast-born gent get a start at The Mill London, before moving to the US where he honed his gift for storytelling as an editor.
In this Favourite Things piece, he talks us through the items that keep his creativity flowing, including a well-parked Van, a well-stuffed fox and a well-used camera.
The 'New Normal'
With three kids at school online and my wife needing the only decent ‘office’ space at home, there was little room left for my WFH.
Because I spend most of my time in a dark room anyway, I cleared out half of my cellar and built a cutting room there.
I filled it with things that are important to me - music, images, and memories of growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The Van Morrison
I emigrated to New York in fall of 1996. I spent one of my first free weekends going to all the second hand record shops on St Marks Place to find this album.
In the mid 60s US record producers were looking for the next ‘Beatles’. Bert Burns of Atlantic Records found Van Morrison playing kick-ass Blues in Belfast. He had Van record for two days in New York, and released this album to capitalise on the success of Brown Eyed Girl. Van hated it. He recorded 36 nonsense songs in one session to fulfill his contract, and walked away to record the seminal Astral Weeks the following year.
I keep this hanging on the wall to remind me of the importance of staying true to your own creative vision.
The Primaluna Prologue Integrated Amplifier
Music is such a huge inspiration for all my work.
The first thing I do when I get dailies is to make a playlist of music to listen to as I am screening, looking for something that defines the mood of the film.
When I was building my cutting room I pulled together bits of old stereo equipment I had kept over the years.
This amp uses EL34 valves- same as classic British guitar amps, and four smaller valves that were designed for use in tanks in WW2. I can work for hours on end, cranking it out with the glow of the tubes to keep me warm.
The 'Barctic' Fox
It can get lonely down here so I have Bartic the Arctic Fox.
There is a story as to how a stuffed arctic fox came to live in my basement...but, em, let’s just say he got lost and now we’re keeping each other company.
The New Yorker Cartoon
When I was cutting the documentary Glass: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts, we needed a cutaway to this cartoon from the New Yorker magazine that Philip’s sister had on her wall.
We framed a print and shot it on my cutting room wall - and it cut seamlessly into the film.
It says “Those drums! Tap-tapping incessantly with barely a change of timbre or rhythm! Do you suppose it could be something by Philip Glass?”
Even though everyone else may think you're crazy, you have to be creatively fearless.
The Ricoh GR
I wanted a camera to carry with me to photograph life on the streets of New York, so I got this Ricoh GRII.
It looks plain and simple, but in fact it’s very powerful, and shoots RAW.
As New York started to leave lockdown I wanted to document this unique time in the city’s history, so I took the Ricoh into the subway system and spent 10 days travelling through Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Despite the ever present sense of isolation, a familiar energy was returning as we transitioned from phase three to four.
I am thrilled that The International Center of Photography selected one of the images for their exhibition #ICPConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis.