If you look up queer, you’ll find it most often defined as anything that goes against established social norms.
With the queen of heteronormative traditions, Valentine’s Day staring us in the face, we are reminded of the difficulty of finding another human to shower with love. Yet we need to first look in the mirror and remember we have our damn selves to cherish, gush over, and love. We need to allow our individual selves to find what makes us truly happy. After all, sexuality is a journey and love shoots in all directions.
Entangled in the netting of a society that loves stereotypes, I often struggle in the search for a partner I want to be romantic with. As you may also have experienced in your own life, being queer isn’t easy, even in the LGBTQ world. Media shouts at us from all different platforms about how we should act, dress, live, and love.
It is time we break tradition of (the warm fuzzy feeling) by moving forward past antiquated ideas and embracing the endless possibilities of love. Be it platonic, romantic, or most importantly singular with one’s self. Loving ourselves starts by owning the masculine/feminine energy that we all possess. Finding the beauty in what makes each of us unique, on the inside and outside, will boost our confidence and strengthen our self-love.
In January fate would cross the paths of two strangers at the Madonna Inn. Leila, a golden curled lass covered in silk and feathers and myself, a blue haired boy with horns and hooves. What would follow this wild creation is a blossoming friendship. Phones calls and hang outs in sun drenched LA would bring up topics such as dragon women sperm eaters, celibate monks, sexual frustrations and what it means to be “queer”.
Shared annoyances with sexual stereotypes along with histories dotted in miserable intimate moments sparked an awareness for us to delve deeper into what it means to be entirely who we are.
Leila and I embarked on a visual journey of what ‘queer’ means to us. Breaking the molds of “boy kiss boy” and “girl kiss girl,” we showed each other our vulnerable selves, radiating our innate feminine/masculine energy. In so doing we discovered when we own who we are, explore the possibilities of love, and evolve sexually that is when we will feel the most happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.
The most historically celebrated artists are recognizable by their signature style: while admiring a Dali or Picasso, you can immediately picture the legacy and face attached to the brushstrokes. Therefore, there is no doubt that history will remember Jasper Soloff
in shimmering lights. Just looking at one of his works, all at once hyper-colorful, expressionistic, and emotive, Soloff’s face behind the lens comes to mind.
The 26 year old photographer, director, and overall visual magician has worked with the likes of Dove Cameron and Billy Porter to create unforgettable music videos that show the true beauty of the subject being showcased. Most recently, he collaborated with Maybelline New York to shoot a campaign with Gigi Hadid and Storm Reid which brought new life to their electrifying products. He’s also photographed a myriad of familiar faces (see the now forever iconic Pete Davidson and Julia Fox Paper Video), and with every project he works on, he has an innate creative sense – not capturing but displaying his subject in all of their glory.
Soloff sat down with Isabella Vega to talk how he got into photography, the visual science behind crafting his masterpiece, and the lessons he hopes to impart on other young queer creatives.
What was the moment where you first decided you wanted to work in visual mediums?
I always thought I would be a Ballet dancer, and eventually I was training so much in dance that I had to do online schooling for high school, dancing 12 hours a day, six days a week. I think what inspired me most about dance and movement was choreography though, and I quickly realized that directing and being behind the camera was what I was most passionate about. I wanted to create visions and stories and not have someone create them for me. It wasn’t till university that I took a basic black and white film class though that I fell in love with photography and directing. Just the control you have behind the lens and the creative process, it’s so collaborative and magical. I became addicted to printing my photos in the darkroom and perfecting my craft. I knew then this would be what I would do professionally.
Something I’ve always loved about your work is your very specific color palettes you use for each subject – you’ve shot the likes of Dixie D’Amelio, Ava Max, and Tommy Dorfman, yet each image feels fresh and so true to the subject’s soul. How do you create these colorful landscapes for your portraits?
Aw thank you so much, that means a lot because for me the most important thing when approaching a subject is making sure their identity is expressed true to who they are. I want my work to be a tool in which people can explore themselves whether it be in what they wear, the makeup they use, or how they are feeling in the day emotionally. I think an image has an incredible ability at describing someone, sometimes uncovering things we didn’t necessarily see in a person before it was frozen in time with a photograph. Image making is magical in that way, the things it reveals.
How I found you was through your work with Dove Cameron on her “Lazybaby” video/launch. There are a variety of different aesthetics and styles within this video – tell me about the process of creating this video and working with different “looks” to make one cohesive work.
Honestly it’s a lot of storyboarding and color blocking. A lot of the work I do happens in pre production, the decision making always starts with set design and then the choices are made with what they wear and the hair and makeup. I love the playfulness of that video, almost like Dove is playing different characters of herself. I think fashion and color has such an amazing ability to showcase different sides of people.
You directed Billy Porter’s music video for “Children” (which has been featured in TIMES SQUARE!). Tell me what that process of directing a music video was like, and how you collaborated with Billy to bring to life the creative vision for the song?
This video was such an amazing experience. It started off with an idea which was to showcase Billy as the godmother of the queer community, which he rightfully is. We then casted such amazing queer youth in it, a bunch of the kids were actually from the Ali Forney Center wich Protects LGBTQ Youth from Homelessness. It was so amazing seeing them meet and interact with Billy. That is what it’s all about, queer
representation matters and for these children to see themselves in someone who has done so much like Billy, it showcases that the possibilities are endless.
What do you hope your audience feels with your art?
I hope they feel seen and represented. And I hope my colorful art makes them feel happy and hopeful.
If you could give one piece of advice to other young queer creatives out there trying to break into the industry, what would you say?
I would say stay true to your vision, whatever that is. Find your passion within whatever medium you choose and be confident in your creative choices. Just because you are not right for one job does not mean you aren’t brilliant for another! Keep creating!