Born: London, United Kingdom, 1972
Studied: London College of Fashion, 1998-2000
The Arts Institute at Bournemouth, 2000-2002
Jessica van der Weert has been taking photographs for more than 40 years, since her father gave her a first camera at the age of eight. Her first commission, to shoot a wedding for a family friend, came at the age of 12 and she was hired as a professional photographer for a London agency at age 16.
“Film was expensive – I had an allowance of one roll per month which made my approach extremely considered,” van der Weert says of her childhood practice. “I would sketch every picture in advance, recce for locations and pre plan every shot – slightly crazy for a 12-year-old.”
In her mid-twenties, feeling that photography had become just a way to earn a living, she returned to education to deepen and reconnect with her practise. Photography studies at the London College of Fashion and The Arts Institute at Bournemouth -- recently ranked the UK’s top specialist art and design university – led to a position as assistant to the renowned British fashion and art photographer Nick Knight.
In her career van der Weert has become well known for her use of bold colour, her meticulous eye for detail, her creative composition and a genuine interest in human culture that inspires her work. Developing a unique ‘mini film’ approach to photography and storytelling, she recreates everyday scenes, highlighting the small nuances that separate and define our identities. Her love for photographing people is reflected in iconic portraits of many of the best-known personalities in contemporary British history and culture, especially within the music industry.
Her work has been regularly displayed in galleries and museums across the UK and Europe, and is included in the collections of the Rijkmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands in Amsterdam, and the 500-year-old portrait gallery of The Royal College of Physicians in London.
Her current exhibition “SELFLESS” chronicles the response of Britain's National Health Service workers to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was privileged to been given unparalleled access to medical facilities during the first UK lockdown, to document the incredible effort of the front-line health and care staff working in crisis,” van der Weert says.
Launched by celebrity DJ Fatboy Slim at a special party for front line workers in Brighton, SELFLESS opens in Liverpool this summer before travelling to London.
Other major exhibitions have included “FlipSide” a tongue-in-cheek trip through the off-stage lives of Dance Music's defining creatives, with a mission to raise awareness of Tinnitus, the noise-induced hearing condition that affects some 10% of British adults.
“Physicians for Africa” is a series of portraits of African doctors conceived in association with the Royal College of Physicians. Shot mostly in Uganda it forms part of a project aiming to double the number of physicians in Africa by the year 2030, positively effecting the lives of millions.
“After 40 years of making pictures and telling stories, I feel stronger than ever that art has to have a purpose,” van der Weert says.
Commercially she is regularly commissioned for global advertising campaigns for brands and charities with ethical purposes, such as the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Mencap, Marie Curie, Barnardo’s and the Stroke Association.
Going into the next 30 years, her goal is to further push her photography, to see what is possible within this wonderful medium. History has proved what a powerful storytelling medium photography can be and we view more images today on a daily basis than ever before in history, photography has never been more relevant.