Interview by Mia Kingsley
I came across Jacqueline’s project ‘Almost Famous’ when Tart (a zine by Maisie Cousins) featured the photo set, I instantly knew I had to interview this photographer. So the Facebook stalking commenced and before I knew it Jacqueline was giving me tips about traveling to America! Jacqueline Harriet is currently studying in New York city, has lived in Paris, photographs celebrity impersonators and is planning to work on films too! We chat about documentary photography, California and elevated versions of reality! Meet the incredible Jacqueline Harriet…
So how did you get into photography?
My high school stopped offering photography courses right when I entered my freshman year, it was a total bummer but it ended up motivating me to teach myself the basics and break the rules by experimenting. I started taking portraits of my friends for fun based on inspiration from fashion magazines, I think I wanted to find a way to align myself with the fashion industry without necessarily being a designer. I’m a visual person, but I can’t draw to save my life!
Your currently studying Visual culture through film & photography, tell us about it…
I’m in an individualized program at NYU called Gallatin where you mold your own ‘concentration’, mine is Visual Culture through Film and Photography. I’ve had the opportunity to take classes in a lot of different departments because of the flexibility of the program which has been helped me see art from a variety of perspectives. It’s also given me the opportunity to study photography & film through both theory-based as well as production courses.
Moving from California to New York must have been a big step when you were 17, how does your life differ now your in the big city?
It’s been almost three years since I moved to New York City, sometimes I forget how different my routines are nowadays compared to when I lived in the suburbs of Northern California. I think the biggest difference is my immersion into the community of artists here in NYC. I love that there’s tons of opportunities to come across new art and meet incredible artists on a daily basis. I’m a lot busier in NYC than I am in California, there’s always events going on all over the city and sometimes it’s hard for me to feel completely at ease and relaxed when I know there’s something relevant and interesting happening within blocks of my bedroom. But, that’s why I still cherish California so much when I visit during holidays…I may end up back there when I finish school if I can make it work!
What is the best thing about New York to photograph?
New York feels incredibly different from one borough to the next. For me, the best thing to photograph in New York City is blue hour on a rainy day. The crazy creamy colors in the sky mixed with the just flickered on neon signs makes for such an interesting mix of bright and dark.
You also travelled to Paris last year tell us about that trip too…
I studied abroad in Paris for four months, it was a brutally cold winter but by the time spring rolled around it felt like the most pleasant place on earth, I loved riding the bus when it got sunny and admiring all of the people sipping wine on terraces. Parisians also have great style, it’s no urban legend. And the architecture is so elegant, I remember thinking “I have to shoot here at some point!” every time I would visit a friend’s apartment or find an interesting street…. everything about that city feels worthy of a photograph.
When you travel is your camera always by your side?
When I’m sightseeing, I try to leave my camera at home to keep myself from taking postcard shots, I think it’s really important to take in a new place with your vision before taking it in through the viewfinder sometimes. When I’m meandering without a certain location in mind, though, I will often take my camera as a way of sort of creating my own map of spots I want to come back to.
Apart from documenting your travels and surroundings you also take some really impressive portraits, tell us about your project ‘Almost famous’…
‘Almost Famous’ is a project that began in my photojournalism class taught by Whitney Johnson, the photo editor at The New Yorker. I knew that I wanted to document a celebrity impersonator and my subject Michele has completely inspired me to see portrait photography in a new light. Documentary photography is raw and honest and requires a lot of quick thinking on the spot, it definitely forces you to trust your instinct and to experiment with subjects. I’m excited to continue the project and to soon add a film element in the form of a short documentary!
You also do some Fashion photography too, what do you prefer documentary projects like ‘Almost Famous’ or editorials with models and fashion teams?
I love photographing new people, so any project where I get to work with an interesting subject fulfills me the most, whether it’s a documentary project or an editorial narrative. I love that communication and understanding that occurs between photographer and subject.
How would you describe your style?
I would describe my style as a surreal interpretation of the mundane, I try to make my images feel like a very slightly elevated version of reality.
You have also been experimenting with narrative and documentary filmmaking, tell us about this transition from still photography to directing?
Filmmaking has completely challenged me to pay attention to all of the elements that create a visually pleasing image. With photography, you can often find a way to work independently, but filmmaking is a completely collaborative effort and has made me embrace working as a group and having a variety of perspectives add to aesthetic of the final image.
You’ve interned with Norman Jean Roy, taken photos of a celebrity impersonator, travelled, snapped behind the scenes of fashion week.. whats your most cherished memory photography has given you? Do you have the photo to prove it?
I think overall my ‘Almost Famous’ project has been my most cherished moment with photography because it challenged my ability to tell a story while still maintaining a visual aesthetic similar to my fashion work.
Whats next for you? Any exciting projects ahead?
I’m starting to work a lot more in the field of filmmaking, this summer I’m excited to work as the set photographer on a short film called PARIX, directed by Jacqueline Sir. It’s a really amazing project and I’m so excited to work with such a talented group of people.
I am also continuing my Almost Famous project and will be undertaking more documentary photography projects soon!
Thanks so much Jacqueline!! Good luck with your film!! To see more of the incredible work of Jacqueline Harriet follow the links below:
The next ‘Mia Meets…’ will be out this coming Thursday but until then for more Mia Kingsley: