Q&A: jasmine Clarke
By Zora J Murff | February 21, 2019
Jasmine Clarke is a 22 year old photographer from Brooklyn, New York. She recently graduated from Bard College with a BA in photography. Inspired by the historical links between nature and mysticism, her images focus on the surreal qualities of our waking world. She is interested in dreams and magical realism, and likes to play with the tension between fiction and reality to create ethereal and alluring images.
ZJM: I remember really digging into your work when you received an honorable mention in the Lenscratch Student Prize. Can you talk a little bit about Shadow of the Palm?
JC: When I first started working on the project, I didn’t really know what it was going to be about. I just knew that I wanted to make it open-ended. It’s sort of my first real body of work, and I didn’t want to constrain myself. I think in hindsight, I didn’t have to worry about that so much, but throughout the first few months of working on Shadow of the Palm, it felt really important. As I worked through the project and began to see the kind of ideas and images I was more interested in making, a lot of the fear I had fell away. I felt more confident in writing about this project and choosing images.
ZJM: One of the many compelling elements of your work is the sense of mystery. In some of the images, I fell like I’m happening upon something. In others, it feels like I’m watching a moment unfold. How did you approach image-making for this project?
JC: I would write down ideas for images or sketch little vignettes of pictures I knew I wanted to make, then I would go out and try to create them. I think because at first, I didn’t have a clear idea of what the project was. I believed (and may still believe) that the pictures would tell me what my project was, instead of working the other way around. I photographed my family more than I thought I would, which is interesting to me now, because most of the portraits give the subjects a certain level of anonymity. They’re the people I’m supposed to be closest with, and in my photographs, I sometimes feel like they could be anyone. I still don’t really know what that means or why I did it, but it’s something I’ve noticed.
ZJM: I was reading your interview on Photo-Emphasis, and you preface the work by talking about a moment when your father was telling you about a recurring dream while traveling through the location where the dream took place. You say,
It’s strange hearing about a dreamscape while physically going through it—like déjà vu. I feel this sense of familiarity driving through my father’s dream. But what’s more overwhelming is the sensation of jamais vu: foreigners in what should be known.
Could you elaborate more on this sensation—the dissonance felt between dream and reality—how it relates to your work, and maybe more broadly, your relationship with photography (or what photography does)?
JC: Yeah, I almost feel like that could go back to the basics of what photography is. A photograph of a flower isn’t actually the flower itself. But it feels like it is and we almost treat it like it is the thing itself. On the flip side, photography has the uncanny ability to do that—to take something so ordinary and usual and give it the strangest life inside of their images. I think in my own way, that’s what I’m always striving for in my work, to create images that seems so other-worldly that I doubt I even saw them in real life.
ZJM: What’s next for you, Jasmine?
JC: Well I’m in Senegal for two weeks. When I get back I’ll have a lot of film to go through which is always exciting. I’m going to be in a show in April at the Barret Art Center in Poughkeepsie juried by Michael Rooks, a curated exhibition at the High Museum in Atlanta. Then this summer I’m accompanying a travel program to Cambodia as the photographer for the website/social media. I’m also going to start planning another pop up show!
ZJM: Congrats! I hope that you enjoy the rest of your time in Senegal. Thanks for taking the time to share your work!