Filmmaker and photographer KAJ JEFFERIES work explores conventional themes of representation, balancing abstract imagery with raw authenticity.

Her most recent film Boys, a collaboration with fellow photographer Rosie Matheson, is an extension of Rosie’s ongoing photo project with the same name. Depicting a selection of young British men from vastly different backgrounds, the film explores their takes on traditional masculinity and what it means today.

All shot on super 8 film, Boys is a beautifully intimate look at British youth culture, stripping back the façade of an often misunderstood group. Much of Kaj Jefferies' work is reminiscent of these themes, documenting life in a genuine and bias-free way.

Your work has a sort of rawness that feels very genuine; do you actively try and present it in this way? Or is it more of an unconscious approach?

I guess a bit of both. To me the best kind of imagery and cinema is the type that actively explores human emotions and/or relationships, the type that presents topics and visuals in a very raw way. Especially the more abstract, poetic or controversial imagery. My favourite directors and photographers all have this narrative thread in common. A lot of people exist in a sheltered environment, kind of ignorance is bliss type attitude, but I think it’s good to be real.

You shot your recent film Boys on super 8, what is it that drew you to almost exclusively shoot on this format and film in general?

I started shooting super 8 quite a few years back and had a lot of fun making films this way. Real film has, and always will be a beautiful medium to make work in. I think it was just what I was experimenting with at the time we shot Boys. I love 16mm film right now, and next year I’ll probably love 35mm! I think it's important to keep experimenting and learning however old or experienced you are. I have been working back in the darkroom lately, I don’t know why I ever stopped, the process just gives me such pure joy.

How did the Boys collaboration between you and Rosie come about?

So Rosie and I are friends, but we met, probably, nearly 2 years ago when we did a job together for Kodak. She had her portrait photo series ‘Boys’ and was keen to incorporate a video element to the project. She just asked me if I was keen to shoot it, and well, the rest is history.

What draws you to shoot and work in documentary styles and do you ever work on fictional films?

Before making films I actually fell in love with photography, documentary photography especially. So I guess that’s where it came from. But I do actually I love fictional films; I just finished writing a script for a short film actually. 

Is creating a short film on super 8 a long, drawn out process or does it come together pretty quickly?

Shooting on film in any case isn’t instant. But I’ve mastered the craft a bit now so I would say I’m pretty speedy. It's not like I develop the super 8 film myself so someone else is doing the graft. Although, I did try and develop an 8mm film in my bathtub once with a caffeine solution tutorial I found on YouTube, pretty interesting evening that was.

In Boys we see representation from a wide range of men, showing just how broad masculinity is. Do you think it's important for creative mediums to always be conscious of equal representation?

I think it was important in Boys to have a wide range of views from different types of boys from different backgrounds.

In everything I pitch on, representation is always a consideration & always will be, subconsciously or consciously. We live in a society where people are constantly classifying others as this or that, and it’s seriously fucked. We are far, far away from a land of equal opportunities and I think a lot of people can connect with that for whatever their reason is. But I guess it’s important to remember that everyone can make a difference and whether that’s casting films or just in your everyday life. That no one person is better than another for whatever reason, race, class, gender, sexuality… then I guess if we all think in this way, we’ll collectively be a step closer to a better world.

Interview by NAOMI DAVISON