About a month ago I got to sit down with friend, and one of our favorite photographers, Jacqueline Harriet. Both taking classes in the Photography Department at Tisch, we surprisingly never crossed paths, but knew of each other through mutual friends and the closeness of the department. It's crazy to think that Harriet only graduated a year ago, for she's already shot for Teen Vogue, Nylon, Refinery29, Zeum Mag, and Clinique, just to name a few.
Known for her bold use of color in her work, I knew we had to meet somewhere to match her aesthetic. I suggested Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery on the LES, one of my favorite sweet spots in the city. Having only lived a few blocks away from the bakery when attending NYU, Jacqueline excitedly agreed to meet there over some disposables and dessert. Read our conversation below and get to know this extremely talented artist, if you haven't already.
Jacqueline and I obsessed over the wallpaper.
RACHEL: How is it going between NYC and LA?
JACQUELINE: Yeah, right now I’m trying to spend about half and half between New York and then California, whether it’s Northern or Southern. I’m definitely more drawn to Southern California, and that’s a lot more of where the clients are vs. Northern. I’m lucky that I have this feeling of home in California already (I spent the first 17 years of my life there). I mean I spent the last four years in New York and it’s almost like a home as well. I usually try and stay in one place for at least 3 weeks at a time up until 6 months. If something big enough comes up with a budget, I’ll fly out very quick; I like having flexibility to be spontaneous for a client with the right project.
R: You traveled a bunch this summer! Did you have a favorite place?
J: The South of France was super inspiring because it just looks a lot like California, so part of me was like oh well this sure looks a lot like Southern California in a way but it's got this rich culture. The colors of the water, were so blue, and beautiful, it’s more cobalt than it is in California. And it’s really cool, cause the structures there just have so much more history. Because something in California that’s old is going to be 100 years old versus... a country like France that has been around for so much longer.
Jacqueline ordered a lemon cupcake and I got their signature trifle; half banana, half peanut butter.
R: And also with your work, you’re all about color!
J: Yes, I’m all about color! Oh my gosh, I was in heaven. There were so many photo opportunities. But I was also taking the trip for more of a… at this age right now I’m just trying to take in a lot. I’m trying to work really hard, but my trip to the South of France was certainly for fun and I worked really hard nonstop for months to save up for that short break.
photo courtesy of the artist
R: Have you always had this style where you’ve been drawn to color? Or do you think it developed over a certain period?
J: I think I’ve always been drawn to color. But I think there was one photo shoot that I did in 2012, which produced one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken. It's of a girl holding a watermelon in a grocery store with these funny glasses. She almost looks like an alien in this everyday grocery store, all dressed up in 70s style clothing. And it looks super editorial mixed with the colors of the store, the watermelon, her outfit… that picture, when I took that picture, I looked at it and was like, “this is what I want all my pictures to feel like color wise.”
R: Besides color, are there any other aspects that you always want to have in your photos?
J: I’m really open, whether it’s a shoot for a client or my personal work. I’m always dealing with different tastes of people and trying to please or at least come to a
compromise, and I think that as a photographer you obviously need to have the idea in your head and be open to collaboration. So I think most of my style comes from color and maybe I think I look for a sort of expression in my photographs. I feel like I really want the person to feel like they’re staring into my camera, to allow the viewer to feel like they're seeing into the subject's perspective.
R: I remember when you were at NYU, you took the photojournalism class with Whitney, right?
J: Yes! I did!
R: Yes! Do you find yourself wanting to do more of those stories?
J: I LOVED when I photographed Michele Marzano, a celebrity impersonator. It’s very different from the rest of my work, but I still feel like it has a fashion edge to it and shows my love for color. And that was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done with photography, because I am incredibly interested in becoming a filmmaker and doing more real life stories that aren’t just about fashion or clothing or beauty. So it was really cool because it showed all these elements that I bring to a fashion shoot that I could bring to the everyday. I love it. I really want to do more things like it.
R: Definitely! How did you get in contact with her?
J: I was searching for somebody with a really interesting lifestyle, like a very adorned life. So I considered looking up celebrity impersonators, and I think she was the first one that I found. Messaged her Facebook page, got a response that evening, and we were on the phone talking for hours, figuring out a game plan for when to meet up. I went out to New Jersey the next weekend and then it became a habit. I got really close with her, and she’ll still call me from time to time and send me emails, wishing me a happy holiday. It’s really cool, cause it’s obviously a visual project, but there were a lot of emotional connections that happened in between shots.
R: Was she comfortable with you right away? Or did it take time to build up that relationship?
J: Yeah, she was very open, and that’s what you want from a doc subject, someone who is going to pretend that you’re not there. But there were also things that I felt I had to be respectful of, that maybe you don’t show in a sense. Not that I kept myself from photographing certain things, but there are things that you’re just respectful of. I mean as far as photojournalism, I want to be accurate, but there is still a level of respect you keep at all times.
'Almost Famous,' courtesy of the artist
'Almost Famous,' courtesy of the artist
R: I know you’ve been working for Refinery and Teen Vogue, have these connections just kept building up off of each other?
J: Yeah, I’ve always been trying to put my photography out there, but I never wanted to push it in people’s face because how i’ve been doing a lot of my photography is without being preempted and a lot of the photographs that clients send to me as shoot inspiration are not ones that I produced for my portfolio. I shoot because I like to shoot. And then the right people find me through friends, or maybe I know them, and recommend me.
It’s been a nice flow of getting work from word of mouth. I definitely try and put a lot of stuff on Instagram so that it gets seen by a wider crowd than just the people I met at NYU and the photographer scene in New York. I think as a photographer it’s really important to not push yourself on others, because there’s so many types of photography that the right client will come, based on what your style is already and not force you to change.
R: Did I already ask you when you started photography?
J: I started taking pictures when I was 15 or 16 I think. I was a sophomore in high school and I had a crush on this boy who was really into photographs and our way of connecting was going on walks, taking photographs. It was this sort of thing where I felt I had to impress him and I taught myself all this stuff and then just kept on going with photography long after we weren't close anymore. We were just friends, it never turned into anything.
R: Well look at you now.
J: It was also the MySpace age... wanting to show a personality- I felt like I was a very quiet kid, I’m an only child, which doesn’t mean that I’m super loud, that actually means I was pretty quiet growing up until recently.
R: Yep, same exact thing for me.
J: Yeah, so once I started doing photography, people started seeing a different side of me because I could show myself and a new side to my subjects through a picture on their Facebook or MySpace that you couldn’t see in the classroom.
R: How does it feel to be part of the Sand Castle Collective with Natalie Yang?
J: It’s cool to be connected to people who are doing a lot of different stuff because at least photography, I know Sand Castle is a collection of mediums, but photography can sometimes be a male... dominated world, but I think it’s just good to have a support system. If you can’t get something from me, then maybe you can find something from another lady in the collective.
R: And I also think, not just with Sand Castle Collective, but kind of the age that we’re in right now, there are tons of networks, and just tons of young artists that are always doing something, and not just in Brooklyn-
J: Yeah, no, and I also don’t think it should be competitive either. I think it’s really important for photographers to support each other, to go to each other’s openings, to like each other’s things, and complement them on things they do well. Photography spans so many different realms that I feel like photographers as friends should pass along things that can help another person.
R: Yes, definitely. And also with arts bleeding into each other like music, fashion, photography, and everything. I also feel social media, totally opens that up. Especially for POND. We have people from across the world who we never would’ve known if it weren’t for social media and the internet. Do you think social media has had an impact for you?
J: Oh, yeah, definitely. Because there’s people who I’ve actually been following since, I started on Flickr, for fun. And some of my first friends in New York City, actually 99% of my first friends in New York City were from my Flickr days.
And honestly, to this day, i still run into them or work with them, or see them on a regular basis, and it’s great because it’s sort of like, the Tinder of photographers. Not romantically, but it links you up with people with similar interests and you’re able to see where you fit, so that as soon as you meet that person, it’s like being on a third date- you've already skipped all the intros and stuff. You just get each other immediately and in places like Sacramento, where I grew up, it was initially hard to find somebody who was on the same wavelength. Because there’s a bunch of guys who want to shoot a bunch of hot girls in bikinis on cars. But that’s not- like we can both look at each other and say that we’re photographers... but we won’t really be able to help one another in the same way, as someone who is more aligned with my vision of photography.
R: What do you look to outside of photography?
J: I look to cinema. I really want to be a filmmaker. I really like looking at stills, and TV is getting so amazing these days. Like Mad Men.
R: Oh my god, yes the styling.
J: Ugh, every still is like a painting. And I like… I’ve been looking at some comics recently, you couldn’t really tell in my work, but I just love seeing how artists choose colors and patterns.
R: What’s something that no one would really know about you?
J: I get nervous for every single shoot I do, no matter how well equipped I am. Every shoot, no matter whether it’s for a big client, a small client, or a friend of mine. I try not to show it. But I consciously am always nervous. It never fades. You can never see it in my work but I always- it never gets easier, in my opinion.
R: Okay, people always know what their spirit animal is. Like people think that I’m a rabbit… (token POND question)
J: People always say I’m a rabbit! Or I always tell people that I want to be a rabbit. My boyfriend called me a hamster but then he took it back and said rabbit.
R: Haha, that’s a little bit better.
J: Yeah, no I think a rabbit, or a baby chick.
R: If you had to live in a different decade, which would it be?
J: 70s, hands down.
R: Yeah no, I’m always torn between 60s and 70s.
J: But part of me also wants to live in the Renaissance times. But then I think about having to clean myself and the fact that it probably smelled terrible. Definitely the 70s, like Boogie Nights era.