Earthly Things That Take on Higher Meaning

In a dynamic and colorful series, Jasmine Clarke looks to capture traces of the unexplainable: images where dreams meet the physical world. She creates standalone vignettes that read like a poem when viewed all together.

“When I look in the mirror, I want to believe that what I am seeing is an extension of myself even though I know that it isn’t. […] I can never quite trust a mirror”, American photographer Jasmine Clarke writes as an introduction to her series, Shadow of the Palm. In fact, she questions photography the same way. “Photography is one of the most mysterious medium in a way. It’s so close to reality but not quite”, she told me. “Photo exist between two worlds more than any other medium so, I’m playing off with that.”

Playfulness, though not at the heart of her series, transpires in her colorful images: leafless trees take on a bright pink hue, footsteps overlap and cross paths as if looking for a treasure – or for an exit? More than playfulness, her images a poetic, sometimes flirting with dreamlike scenes. The characters she depicts are in most cases hard to identify, either because they are hidden behind a curtain or because she ousted their faces out of the frame, or half-way out. “There are many photo of my family, such as my dad or my sister, with very domestic, intimate things, such as the curtains. Making them anonymous is a way to have access without disturbing it, to still allow privacy”, she explains.

Her series was triggered by a dream Clarke’s dad did about his childhood. Her photos are thought the same way: unclear memories, traces of belonging, blurry evocations in intimacy and experience. “One of the things I love the most about photo is the hyper reality. How would memories look like in the utmost clarity?”, she wonders.

And her visual answer are images whose content is obscure, open to interpretation, and whose texture and light is hyperreal. So is the vividness of the pink, or the plastic of the fake orchids that she shot as a close-up to reveal the uncanniness of an un-dying flower. In the image, a hand reaches out to the artificial flower, inviting the viewer to feel the touch of plastic. “There is an aspect of touch and texture that I wanted to come across and be present for the viewer, to imagine what it is to be in that landscape. Photos can be kind of impersonal so, it was a way to bring other senses, like the smell or touch, and to create a visceral reaction”, Clarke explains. Images after images, by opening her world she also invites everyone to project his/her own world. Just like with cave painting, there are like short novels as much as a symbol of having been here.


All photos © Jasmine Clarke, from the series Shadow of the Palm


Jasmine Clarke is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her practice focuses on identity, memory, and family history through a surrealistic lens. Her work has been shown at Howard Greenberg Gallery, Photoville, Photo Vogue Festival, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Paris focusing on cultural and environmental issues. She is also the editorial director of Dysturb and the international photo editor at Le Monde.


This article is part of our feature series Photo Kernel, which aims to give space to the best contemporary practitioners in our community. The word Kernel means the core, centre, or essence of an object, but it also refers to image processing.

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Stay in the loop