Jess Kohl is an English filmmaker and photographer. Her directorial work marries a raw, intimate style with a focus on global youth culture and marginalized communities. Jess has been quick to make her mark on the industry as an observational filmmaker whose intimate work shines a light on subjects that have not yet been explored.
Graduating from Central St Martins, Jess subsequently undertook a master’s degree at Goldsmiths University. Soon thereafter, she launched her career with the still-image collection Friends of the Dead, in which she captured the workers, tour guides, and litter pickers who watch over London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian graveyards.
Recently, Jess has turned her attention to the world of moving image and has been quick to carve a niche in the industry for clients such as NOWNESS and Dazed. Her work has been praised for its revealing and personal style, creating strong emotional narratives that tell the stories of those existing on the fringes of society. Whether documenting the UK Jewish underground scene in her film, Buttmitzvah, or following a group of rebel Filipino punks living under President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs in her film Anarchy in the Philippines, Jess’ work shows a clear talent for crafting films that document those searching for acceptance in their communities, whether they be stemming from religious, racial, or cultural identity.
In mid 2018, Jess released her documentary film, Nirvana, which focuses on Koovagam, the largest festival of transgender covening together in Asia. This event occurs annually between April and May in the Koothandavar Temple in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu. By immersing herself in this culture, Jess was able to beautifully film the fringes of LGBT identity in India and highlight the contrast between Eastern and Western queerness.
Beyond film, she has continued exploring the intersection of culture, religion, and gender non-conformity across the globe through photography. Most recently, she traveled to Scampia, a suburb of Naples, Italy, to document one of the oldest recorded communities of gender queerness in history, the Femminielli. She also directed a branded content mini docuseries for Facebook, in which she captured communities in the American south.
Jess’ distinctive style and talent for capturing nuanced and authentic moments have naturally led to her working in advertising, creating poignant commercial spots for clients, such as Carrera, Lamyland, and Tinder.