The latest in our series of creative profiles focusses on photographer Jacqueline Harriet.
We talk Coney Island, Joan Didion and crêpes.
Photography by Jacqueline Harriet
Interview by Emily Beard
Hey Jacqueline! Tell us a little about you and your work for anyone who is not familiar.
I’m a coastally confused photographer splitting time between California & NYC. I’m drawn to shooting portraits in colourfully significant scenes. I dabble between shooting fashion, lifestyle, and documentary.
Do you remember taking your first photograph?
I can’t verify my very first photograph but I do remember being about 5 years old and taking disposable camera photographs of my Dad at our new apartment. I found one of the photographs quite recently, it was a cropped shot of my Dad’s body—no head! Just his chest area and legs.
Would you say living in NYC has an influence on your work at all? How is it living there compared to where you grew up?
I think living in NYC has definitely helped me figure out how to use space wisely. A lot of times you’re forced to use the streets as your backdrop and New Yorkers have places to be, people are always walking through the frame so you’ve got to learn to be quick and creative with the physical space. In my hometown I can always find little pockets that feel almost deserted and I like that intimacy between photographer and subject when you’re not on display while shooting, it allows subjects to feel a bit more vulnerable and shed a layer of insecurity.
We meet you for a day out in NYC, where do we go?
We grab a smoothie at my favourite little Mediterranean cafe on Clinton street, Pause Cafe. I used to live on that block and still trek across the city multiple times a week just to visit. Then we take the subway (and after a few transfers) arrive at Prospect Park where we lie in the grass and the big buildings of Manhattan are just an afterthought in the distance. For dinner we head back to the East Village to the Crooked Tree where we drink peach sangria and eat savory & sweet crêpes on St. Mark’s Place.
You’ve recently been travelling the globe! Where were your favourite places/experiences when travelling?
Photographically I really loved the South of France, the colours were so vibrant in the nature as well as the small towns. The city of Marseille itself is very interesting because it’s this port that is near such great natural beauty and its city is mixed with such beautiful as well as grungy sites. There’s a huge clash of cultures and the nighttime scene during the summer when Ramadan is happening is wonderful, the city lights up with activity in those evening hours. London was where I felt the most at home and able to navigate easily. Japan was the most surreal, and colourful at night…it had this quietness to it that was very relaxing at the same time despite all of the visual equivalence of cacophony.
Is there anywhere you haven’t been but you’d love to travel to?
I really would love to see the coast of Australia, travel to tropical places like Brazil and Bali. And even just more places in the US like Texas and New Mexico, places where the colours of the soil are so pigmented.
Do you have a muse of character you refer to for inspiration?
Whenever I photograph Andrea (she is in a lot of my work, most specifically an image of a girl in a grocery store holding a watermelon and wearing gold sunglasses) I feel as if she is a direct extension of myself. A lot of times when I’ve got an idea in my head, I imagine Andrea in the shot.
Was there anything in particular (photography or otherwise) that you think had an influence on your style of photography?
The majority of my childhood was spent watching films rather than playing out in the front yard. I feel really influenced by film narratives and their cinematography, so often I think when I’m shooting I’m secretly trying to create film stills.
If you could photograph anyone, alive or otherwise, who would you pick?
I really admire Joan Didion, for her writing, for her resilience. She was beautiful as a young woman and even in her mature age she’s beautiful in an entirely new way. Her writing has held a special place in my heart and inspired me to soak up the beauty of my West Coast roots and the special strain of golden light that seems only possible in California. I would love to take her portrait.
And finally do you have any advice/mantra you live by?
When I was at Coney Island a few months ago, I took a picture of this corny quote “Don’t postpone joy” and made it my phone background for a few months. This was right before I decided to take some time away from NYC to travel around the world for the summer…sort of at the height of when I was getting some assignments I was really happy with. I had recently graduated from university and felt like I had just passively transitioned into being an adult and needed this trip to sort of feel aimless for a second. I had wanted to make this trip for awhile and in the days leading up to it I had contemplated calling it off. After seeing that quote I felt like everything was going to work out—and it did. This summer twisted and turned in all the right ways that allowed amazing things happen and I think it’s because I let myself give in to doing things that made me happy. The photo assignments found me during and after the trip and I felt more in touch with my creativity as a photographer as a result of my travels.