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.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Shadow of the Palm
When I look in the mirror, I want to believe that what I am seeing is an extension of myself even though I know that it isn’t. I am seeing a reflection (an illusion) of me and my world. I can never quite trust a mirror.
A picture creates a similar false 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.
One night in Jamaica, as my father and I drove through the mountains, he described a recurring dream: he is in his hometown, Saint Mary's, at a certain winding road that’s shaped like an N, trying to catch the bus. He misses it 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 N. I listened while chewing on my sugar cane. 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: foreignness in what should be known. The moon you see, the air you breathe, and the flowers you smell are all suddenly unfamiliar. You’ve moved, traveled—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.
This is why I photograph: to capture a trace of the unexplainable. My pictures are where dreams meet the physical world and earthly things take on higher meaning. I search for the uncanny. I uncover what is hidden. An obscured face, a wet flower, a dark shadow.
When and where did Shadow of the Palm begin?
I began this project during my senior year of college at Bard. Reading Cane by Jean Toomer inspired me to start this body of work. The imagery in Cane is palpable and I love that each story or poem can stand on its own, but together they weave a dream-like narrative that dances around a greater concept without telling you exactly what it is. After a few months of working on Shadow of the Palm, I began to realize that this project was a lot more personal than I had intended it to be. In the beginning, I did not want to make a project about myself, my experiences, or my family, but I think this project is highly personal even though that was not my original intention. Most of the people in these images are either in my family or have a very close relationship with me, yet I often obstruct their faces or cut out their face altogether. Similarly to a lot of the stories in Cane, I think this project could be seen as my exploration into my feelings surrounding the fact that I don’t quite fit one group. I’m half black and half white, and though I’m loved dearly by all my family, I do feel that sense of jamais vu (foreignness in what should be known) every now and then, simply because I do not look like anyone else in my family.
Where do you see this project going?
I formally showed this project upstate in Bard’s photography gallery, but I think this project is still in progress. I can see myself continuing the project for many years. I also showed a few of the photographs in a Bard graduate group exhibition that I curated with a friend in a design space in Manhattan last month. In the future, though, I think I would like to expand this project to more locations.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
I would say travel. I get away whenever I can, even if that means taking a day trip outside of New York City. Not only does it feel refreshing to make work in new places, but I also feel more focused when I return home. It feels like hitting a restart button.
What’s next for you?
Now that I've finished curating a Bard-graduate art show in the city, the next thing I am looking forward to is a trip to Senegal in a few months! My mom’s partner is from Senegal and they visit his home there once or twice per year, but this will be my first time going. I will be there for about a month and then I will continue traveling from there. I plan on using this trip as a jumping off point for a new project.