Student Artist: Jasper Soloff '17 uses shadow to capture movement

Photographic work of Jasper Soloff, '17

I met with Jasper in an empty studio in Heimbold. He’s a really friendly, easy to talk to guy and was nice enough to bring a couple of his portfolios with his most recent work, which I spent a few minutes drooling over. You may have seen some of his work on Facebook or Instagram, but he is truly a genius when it comes to working with lights and shadows. I’ve always admired Jasper’s work and it was exciting to finally get to talk with him about it. 

Sasha Helinski: So Jasper, why photography? 

Jasper Soloff: I was a dancer before I came to this school and I’ve always been really interested in the way the body moves through space, so I think that’s initially what drew me to photography. I’m a very visual person and I wanted to be able to capture moments of the body moving on film that you might miss in person. I was interested in using lighting to enhance certain features specifically. I love how the human body looks and moves. 

SH: When did you start pursuing photography? 

JS: Well, I was doing iPhone photography, “iPhone-ography” before I got here, but I was mostly focused on dance. The dance training has helped me I think, because I spent so much time looking at what was wrong and what was right, visually and aesthetically. So, in a lot of ways, I feel I see a lot more than I would have, if I hadn’t been involved with dance. 

SH: That’s awesome. So what are you hopes, goals, or dreams regarding photography? 

JS: I’m not quite sure yet. I’m really interested in fashion photography and I would love to continue doing studio work, experimenting with different types of film and lighting and seeing wherever that takes me. I don’t have any specific plans yet, but I’m really excited to figure it out. 

SH: Which photography class are you taking currently? 

JS: Black and white film photography. 

SH: Is it your first time doing film photography? 

JS: (Chuckling) Yes, yes it is. 

SH: How is that whole experience? 

JS: I love it. I think film is definitely for a specific type of person. You have to be ready to give it a lot of time and patience. It’s easy to get frustrated with all the steps and technical elements; it takes so long even to produce the negatives, which is the first step. That’s been the hardest part, but I think length of the process almost brings me closer to my work because I feel like I’m making it and really having a part in its production, rather than just snapping a shot. 

SH: So, it sounds like you prefer film to digital?

JS: Yeah, definitely. I am loving it. 

SH: I know you’ve only recently begun exploring photography, but has your style changed at all throughout this process? 

JS: Yeah, I think because I am just starting out it is precisely why my style has changed a lot. When you first go into something, you have all these ideas in your head of what you want to do and what you want it to look like. But, as you continue, you figure out what works and doesn’t, you are inspired by your own work, and it changes that way. Throughout this year I have been really drawn to manipulating lighting and directing shoots, so that’s been really exciting for me.

SH: Out of all the shoots you’ve done so far, do you have a favorite?

JS: Yeah, I definitely have favorite shots. It’s funny because sometimes those favorites will change because of other people’s opinions, as much as I try not to let those affect mine. In class during critiques, I’ll go in really enthusiastic about one, and then end up leaving with a different favorite after listening to what my peers have to say. They help me look at my photographs through a different perspective. I do try to keep my own opinions as the prevalent ones, though. 

SH: How do you come up with the ideas for your shoots? 

JS: It really comes from a lighting standpoint and then I use my choreography experience to consider how the body will move in that light. Once I’m there, I really like collaborating with the model because it’s really exciting to work with someone who’s as enthusiastic as you are. I’ve many times had to adjust my ideas simply because of the way my model related with my ideas. That’s part of the process and I enjoy it. 

SH: Are you working on anything new right now?

JS: I actually just finished a project with two of my good friends. I got this really big, old gate and was able to light it in a way that I could project the shadows onto the bodies of my models. I’ve been trying to recreate patterns with light and shadows, and I was able to align the shape of the gate with my models’ spines. I find the way light can have an effect on a space to be fascinating. 

SH: What else are you pursuing this semester? 

JS: Political Science and Japanese Literature.

Jasper Soloff is a first-year student at Sarah Lawrence College. You can see more of his photography by following him on Instagram @jasperegan.

by Sasha Helinski '17
Twitter: @sashahelinski

Instagram: @sasha_spice