my creative life

Photo essays, literary classics and art shops: how to inspire Jules Chalkley

Ogilvy's chief Executive Creative Director shares the creative things that fuel his vision

By Creative Salon

Magnum Photos

Photojournalists, IMHO, are the heroic and masterful story tellers of the real world. I love the human curiosity and will power that seeks to find the truth of a story and elevate it to a whole new level. As an art form it is my favourite, a mixture of real life and high art that tells in one global language, in a millisecond, what is going on.

Photojournalism is a two-way relationship, it allows the viewer to make their own decision. It reminds me to make sure all the work I do has an elevation and a simplicity to it, that there is a cultural narrative that finds a way into the minds of an audience, leaving them changed.

My current obsession is Eugene Smith, the pioneer of the photo essay. His work is staggering: “A photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes - just sometimes - one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness.”

Hemingway’s Old Man And The Sea

Books and I are not easy bedfellows. I don’t like reading. Strike me down, but rarely had I finished a book, right up until audio books entered the frame. Now I can’t get enough. I’ll find an excuse to jump in the car for a while so I can plug in to something I’ve chosen with literally no rhyme or reason; the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Steinbeck and lately the full history of Napoleon.

But towering above all of my new passions is Hemingway and in particular, the Old Man and the Sea. It is the most sparingly written and evocative story of the epic struggle of a seasoned fisherman and the greatest catch of his life. Breaking his unlucky streak he pushes his boat out to sea, too far. If Picasso could paint the power of the bull in the least number of lines, this is the literary version.

It reminds me of the opportunity and struggle in a creative life and wishing for things that are not in front of me. In Hemingway’s own words: “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

Art materials shops

Less a reference, more of an affliction. I’m like a moth to a flame. I can’t walk past an art supply shop without being drawn in. No normal person with a pulse can, surely? They are the sweet shops of colour, the purveyors of possible. I feel inspired every time I go in one and I will go in every single one I pass.

The big treat is Green and Stone. An old but beautiful delicatessen of sable brushes, pastels, gilding, oil primed linen – I’m already a sweaty febrile mess thinking of it. The great tragedy is I have little or no idea of what to do with most of it. They of course love it – I can see them mutter “here we go…" every time I walk in.

I have shelves of inks, pens, tubes of paint, nibs, tapes – all sorts - all unused. So far. But that is not the point; the kick is the feeling that there is creativity in there somewhere, it’s just waiting to come out.


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