Behind the lens: A conversation with photographer Jasmine Durhal

Jamine Durhal, also known as, JASSIEUO, is a conceptual fashion-beauty photographer creating bold influential work based in Los Angeles. She serves as the focus of this week’s Behind the Lens feature.

On a scale of 1-10, how close are you to reaching your maximum potential as an artist (with 10 being the highest).

On a scale of 1-10, I would say 6.5. I’m doing really well at the moment, but I feel like it’s on the beginning of a major change in my life and work. I have big dreams. I’ve been doing photography for 8 years, but the growth changes dramatically each year.

2. Describe the moment that you knew photography was your life’s calling?

I knew photography was my life calling my first year in college. I literally cried when I couldn’t afford to take my introduction to photo classes, but I promised myself then to continue, despite that.

All images by Jasmine Durhal.

What were the steps that were taken to get you from the initial dream to becoming an accomplished professional?

I started shooting everything lol my roommate at the time was a major inspiration. I’m not sure if she knew it, but she would create shoots and concepts and I was so in awe of it. At the time, I didn’t have a camera and was broke attending Columbia college in Chicago. I decided the wise thing to do was leave and try pursuing photography on my own. I moved back to Detroit, saved up, bought a camera, and started shooting my friends and family, and gradually grew from there. At one point, I was doing $30 photoshoots.

Who has been your greatest teacher?

I’m self-taught, but I do have people who helped me along the way, mold my work and become a better creator. Dante Marshall was one of the first people to show me how to properly work a camera. I remember being at the studio and him being shocked at the fact that I was shooting in auto. He then showed me how to shoot in manual settings — I think I was 19 at the time. Then, there are actual jobs that taught a lot about consistency and organization. I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of a nine-to-five, but my full-time photography gigs have made me so much more efficient on set.

All images by Jasmine Durhal.

Who has served as your greatest creative inspiration outside of other photographers?

I’m really inspired by films and video. I love their moving stills. I really love Hype Williams’ work. Mostly, the way he incorporates a photo composition into a film [or] video and the color [and] tones he plays with. I hear he’s pretty innovative as well, working with what he has to create the best visual. I respect that.

How important is it to study the greats?

I think knowing the greats is important — knowing their story. However, studying someone else’s work too often makes me uncomfortable especially when I’m trying to understand my own. I go to greats for an understanding of the journey and appreciation for their unique style.

Rank these in order of importance, while describing your rankings: Technical proficiency, clarity of vision, personal project investment.

Clarity of vision: I don’t create unless I really have something to say. I love the idea of creating just for fun, but I’m aiming toward being more impactful and I think a clear vision is needed first.

Technical proficiency: This kind of keeps everything from the vision in order, whether it’s deciding the set or organizing the list of models involved, or even deciding which lighting techniques would look best. I think this is a great thing to do after deciding the vision.

Personal project investment: I normally invest in my own work, so this is definitely something I look to after the idea is set in stone. I try not to limit my ideas around income. Instead, work income around my ideas.

All images by Jasmine Durhal.

How do you ensure a connection with your subject?

If I sense my subject is nervous, I always ask them to trust me. Depending on the project and feel for the shoot. I ask them to embody whatever we’re trying to execute, may it be strength or happiness I try to tap into what that looks like for the subject.

What is one passion project that you are looking to pursue in the future?

I just recently wrapped up a passion project, inspired by the seven chakras I’ll be releasing soon. However, I don’t have any future passion projects. I’ve been so busy doing work with clients, but I’m sure the right idea will come at the right time.

Have you felt personally impacted by the fact that you are a minority among working photographers?

Being a minority and a woman in the photo world has always reminded me of how much harder I have to work, as far as my work ethic, quality, drive. I have to always do double, simply because of the rarity of representation in this field. I do think opportunities are getting better, but we still have a long way to go. It’s so many people of color creating amazing things on the regular that deserve to be viewed by the masses, but I’m also learning it’s not just us working hard that fixes the issue. We have to also reach out to those photo producers and photo editors and let them know we’re here!

All images by Jasmine Durhal.

What advice would you have for aspiring photographers, specifically people of color?

Advice for photographers of color would be don’t give up, keep knocking at those doors until one answers. Keep creating work that challenges the viewers’ thoughts and don’t shy away from that. Also, be patient — sometimes our work has a timeline of its own.

You can find out more about this talented photographer at www.jassieuo.com.

DeWayne Rogers
DeWayne Rogers

I write. I create. I take photos. In my spare time, I'm also a part-time super-hero. Go figure.

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