Capturing a trace of the unexplainable, Jasmine Clarke’s photography brims with open-ended narratives
The Brooklyn-based photographer talks us through her thoughtful practice and how “the nature of photography tells us that what we are seeing is true, but it’s not.”
- Jyni Ong
- 16 June 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Expressing the feeling of dissonance between dreams and reality, Jasmine Clarke’s photography brims with a palpable narrative. Born, raised and currently based in Brooklyn, the photographer’s work is steeped in emotion, a craft she has honed from a young age immersed in the arts. She remembers her mum taking her to museums around New York. Often, Jasmine tells us, “she would sit me down in front of a painting with some crayons and paper and tell me to draw what I was seeing.” Recalling how it was a “fun way to learn about art,” these formative experiences offer an insight into how Jasmine creates compositions; beautifully lit and with particular attention to materiality and softness of expression.
It was during Jasmine’s first year of high school that she first got into photography. She took a black and white 35mm class at the School of Visual Arts and was “hooked” in an instant. “The more [time] I could spend in my high school darkroom the better,” she recalls. “I also loved being an editor for my yearbook that was all shot on film.” Having studied the medium at Bard College, later on, Jasmine studied under the likes of Stephen Shore, Tim Davis and Gilles Peress, graduating a couple of years ago with a distinguished talent for taking pictures.
For Jasmine, her interest in photography comes from the medium’s ability to weave a narrative, especially when the narrative is open-ended. She continues: “I love that you can put three photographs next to each other and a story begins to unfold.” Through capturing portraits, hints of magical realism, the natural world and mysticism, fundamentally, Jasmine’s images portray the liminality between dreams and reality while themes of shadow, memory, family history and migration also play a key part in telling the image’s story.
“When I look in the mirror,” says Jasmine, “I want to believe that what I am seeing is an extension of myself, even though I know it isn’t. “I’m seeing a reflection (an illusion) of me and my world. I can never quite trust a mirror. A picture creates a similar sense of reality. The nature of photography tells us that what we are seeing is true, but it’s not. It is a selective truth, or even a fiction.” She recalls a memory, evoking this: driving through the mountains with her father in Jamaica, Jasmine’s dad described a recurring dream. In the dream, he is in his hometown of Saint Mary’s, on a winding road that’s shaped like the letter “N”, trying to catch the bus.
Jasmine goes on: “He misses the bus and has to run up the mountain through the bush and slide down the other side to catch it. This is his only dream set in Jamaica. He told me as we approached the letter ‘N’. I listened while chewing on my sugar cane. It’s strange hearing about a dreamscape while physically going through it – like deja vu.” In turn, Jasmine was overcome with the sensation of jamais vu – foreignness in what should be known. She felt a lingering sense of familiarity driving through the area where her father’s dream was set. And with this in mind, Jasmine explains, “this is why I photograph: to capture a trace of the unexplainable.”
In her pictures, dreams meet the physical world, “earthly things take on a higher meaning,” like how she saw the moon driving in the car with her dad, breathed in the air, smelled the flowers, but they were familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. “You’ve moved, travelled – maybe even transcended – although you don’t know to where. You look in the mirror and see yourself, but can’t be sure that it’s the same reflection you saw yesterday.” Searching for the uncanny and uncovering what is hidden through her emotive practice, Jasmine’s photography takes on a whole new meaning. The beautiful obscured faces, the symbol behind the wet flowers, the dark shadows.
Jasmine is exhibiting at the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon in November 2020. The show is titled Women of the African Diaspora: Identity, Place, Migration, Immigration and is curated by Aaron Turner, featuring work by Widline Cadet, Jasmine Clarke, and Nadiya I. Nacorda.
Jasmine Clarke: Watermelon Swimsuit
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.