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A conversation on inclusivity and self-expressionwith artists Jasper Soloff and Jennifer Younger

by Maja Bebber

We delve into the narrative of photographer Jasper Soloff and artist Jennifer Younger, two remarkable visionaries whose collaboration has sparked not only artistic brilliance but also cultural resonance.

Jasper Soloff, a photographer hailing from the vibrant streets of New York City, Los Angeles and London stands as a vibrant force in the industry. His journey from Central Saint Martins in London to the colourful hues of identity-focused photography resonates with the celebration of queer vibrancy and joy. His work has previously appeared in Vogue, GQ, Paper Magazine, Dazed, i-D Magazine, Nylon Magazine, Out Magazine, Gay Times, and Billboard to name a few. He has directed music videos for RCA Records, Republic Records, Capitol Records, Columbia Records, Sony Universal, Sony Music Entertainment, and Roc Nation.

Complementing Jasper’s artistry is the craftsmanship of Jennifer Younger, an artist raised in the Southeast Alaska town of Yakutat. Jennifer was always surrounded by nature and traditional ways of life. She is Tlingit of the Eagle Kaagwaantaan clan and now calls Sitka, Alaska home. Her intricate artistry, particularly in jewelry-making and metal engraving not only exemplifies modernity but also embodies a profound connection to her indigenous heritage. Her work has been recently featured on the cover of British Vogue,

Their meeting at a fashion event bridging native and non-native expressions in California initiated a collaboration that breaks boundaries, seeking to bring indigenous narratives into mainstream art and fashion. The two came together on the rooftops of New York City to shoot model Andrea Denver in Jennifers’ designs.

Join tmrw, as we delve into a journey of inspiration and sit down with the two artists to learn about identity, expression and their craft.

Tell me more about how you two met?

Jennifer: I was at a resort owned by the San Manuel tribe in California. And the idea behind it was Kelly Cutrone was working with the San Manuel tribe to do a fashion show that brought together native and non-native people in the industry of Fashion Designers and photographers and stylists. And the whole idea was mostly to just integrate indigenous designers into more mainstream fashion. And so I was asked to participate and show my work on the runway there, and Jasper was one of the photographers brought in to photograph the event. So that’s where we first connected, and that was just in April of this year.

And you got along!

Jasper: It was so fun meeting Jennifer because she’s so authentic. And I feel that is displayed in her work; she really has a very distinct style. As a photographer, I look for that uniqueness. I’m always seeking people with an honest voice. I love to also give voice to artists who wouldn’t necessarily have that mainstream connection yet. So, I think it’s been really exciting working with Jennifer because she’s done so much and she’s significantly impacting the artists she’s collaborating with. She’s truly dedicated to working closely with Lily Gladstone, and it’s incredibly exciting to witness the Native American or indigenous experience presented in mainstream culture. It’s something that’s been so overlooked, so I’m genuinely thrilled to have been working with Jennifer. The latest shoot we did was recently featured in Vogue, which was particularly special. Working with a designer who stays true to themselves and their culture has been a remarkable experience. In my work as a young queer photographer, authenticity has always been at the forefront—representing the community truthfully. It’s truly enjoyable to collaborate with someone who shares a similar outlook.

How do you inspire each other?

Jasper: Well, I’m a huge jewelry fan. I would say I’m a jewelry fanatic. So, I just really love her jewelry, and I adore portraiture too. When I get to photograph it, it feels like armor; it’s incredibly detailed, hand-etched, and drawn. I feel they can get really close, and it starts to tell its own story alongside who’s wearing it. I am inspired by that, and it encourages me to look closer when taking these portraits and truly getting to know the subject, understanding how the jeweler describes their feelings or identity. I’m sure Jennifer could go on for hours about how I inspire her. She thinks my spirit animal is a raven.

Jennifer: Yes, I do. Well, you know, Jasper lives in the heart of New York City. I’m in Alaska, at the opposite end. So when we were together, for me, it’s a whole different experience. I have photographers up here that do great work, but my focus is more on nature, which I love. When I take it and Jasper and I work together, he just brings a whole different edge to it. I think it’s really important to show that my pieces can be worn in various kinds of settings. I guess that makes sense.

Jasper: Yeah, and I think that goes back to the mainstream conversation and bringing indigenous art to the mainstream. It’s so important. It’s opening the conversation that this artwork isn’t just for a small community; everyone should be able to enjoy it and support Indigenous artists. Having that artwork and jewelry bought by a variety of people is really significant. It’s fun to bring Jennifer’s style into an urban environment. The shoot we’re sharing with you is on my rooftop, with New York City as the backdrop. I find that really enjoyable. When you look at her work, it’s a lot of nature-inspired art, so having that cityscape in the background and a big model, who works with brands like Hugo Boss, collaborating with an indigenous designer from Alaska, which is rooted in nature in a small town—juxtaposing that with this big city environment is really cool.

Jennifer: Right, and along with many people from my community in southeast Alaska, or in this small town of about 9000 people, they often question, “Why do you go do that? Why not just stay home?” I could sit here and keep working in my shop and not even consider ventures like that. But to me, it’s important to reach out to a broader audience, to show the next generation and the younger designers here in Southeast and the indigenous creatives that they can go out and share their work with a broader audience and the world. For me, it’s exciting to get out there and reach a broader audience, drawing people in to see what we have to offer as artists from Alaska.

Let’s circle back to your work, Jasper. What drew you to directing and photography in the first place?

Jasper: Yeah, I mean, I think what drew me to working is I studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martin’s in London, and I was really drawn to color and fashion. However, that interest grew after graduating into something that was much more identity-focused. As I became more comfortable discussing my sexuality and how I perceive gender, I started shooting my friends in New York, which opened up a whole different community, celebrating the queer community and who we are. It showcased the vibrancy and joy; it’s not all about sadness and isolation—there’s a lot of joy within my community. I love joy and celebration, which is what draws me to pop colors and vibrant set designs. I believe life can be really difficult, so within my art, I aim to share a more optimistic view and offer a bit of escapism from the darkness. So yeah, that’s what draws me to directing and also photographing.

Yeah, I went to LCF actually.

Jasper: Oh, no way. We’re twins. When did you graduate?

Last year, but I did Fashion Journalism.

Jasper: Oh, wow. Oh, that’s awesome. My friend actually did Fashion History at CSM. I have some friends that started at LCF. But I graduated in like 2017. So a while ago.

Jennifer, let’s talk a bit about how you infuse your cultural heritage and identity into your creations.

Jennifer: First of all, I have to say Jasper, I do like all the color you use and your posts and your pictures do bring me a lot of joy by the way. So please send me more.

Jasper: I knew that was coming at some point!

Jennifer: You know I’m much older than you two.

Jasper: We know already. You’re younger. (laughs)

Jennifer: Throughout my life, I loved art as a kid. I grew up without electricity, not that I’m that old, it’s just where I lived; we didn’t have TV or such. My mom kept her children busy with crafting, and I did a lot of drawing and painting through my childhood and education. I always loved to paint, and I think I was good at it. However, after school, I never thought at that point that to be an artist meant being a starving artist, you know? So, I jumped into working full-time. But I always felt like, you know, something was missing, and about halfway through my life at 40 years old, I felt that something was missing. I wanted to do something to honor my grandmother, who wasn’t allowed to practice her culture. I felt like our generation, her grandchildren, were not carrying on our heritage. I tried various things, from basket weaving to metal carving, and working with Nicholas Galanin and Dave Galanin, renowned metal carvers here, really sparked my passion. I’m obsessed because if I could have my way, I’d be in my shop 24/7 creating. What I love most is blending traditional and contemporary designs, inspiring the younger generation to feel good wearing something modern. It’s about reviving and carrying on. I want every piece to have a connection or a story behind it, infused with something from here, my home, giving each piece meaning beyond mere artistry.

I think that’s what I love about fashion that you can add your own story and your own meaning to every piece. For example, the ring I’m wearing has two fishes on it and I bought it two years ago in Notting Hill on the market. And it is one of the only rings that I still have that doesn’t wear off and because I’m a Pisces, I kind of add my own history to it and my own meaning.

Jasper: Yeah, that’s so nice. I love them; I think the difference in our upbringings is fascinating. You know, I grew up in New York City, and she grew up in a really rural town in Alaska. I think that’s so cool. One of the most special things about art is that it allows you to meet and collaborate with people that you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to getting to know. Through photography, I’ve encountered so many amazing people, people that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to reach. I think that’s a really exciting aspect of what we get to do, and why working with Jennifer has been so fun. It’s like talking to her about Alaska and her upbringing in her world of indigenous design, and then blending it with the perspective of a queer, younger artist from New York City. So, it’s really cool to be able to work closely with someone that’s so different yet also very similar.

Let’s talk about identity. How do both of you define and add identity to your own work?

Jasper: I feel a big identifier for me is working with my community, collaborating with a majority of queer people, whether it’s in front or behind the camera. I’m really proud that I work with many people from my community, including women and people of color; I strive to surround myself with diversity. I hope that’s evident throughout my work and career, focusing on individuals who aren’t as prominently showcased in mainstream pop culture.

Jennifer: One thing I often share in my social media posts or the work I do is collaboration and community. I love these connections, like Jasper being in New York City and me here in a small town in Alaska. I enjoy uplifting and collaborating to showcase others’ work. I have a hard time calling it work because it’s genuinely enjoyable. Building community, connecting with others, and sharing their work—I feel like that’s what life should be about. It’s not a selfish thing; it’s about collaboration and connecting.

Jasper: Similar to what I said earlier, it’s exactly that. What’s most important for me is that everybody I’m working with is really having a good time and learning from each other. It feels like this open experience because the fun of art and creating is that we’re crafting these moments together that last forever. They provide opportunities for people who might not have had that chance otherwise, and I find that incredibly special. With Jennifer, she’s given me numerous opportunities that I wouldn’t have accessed otherwise, and vice versa. There’s something remarkable about people who wouldn’t always have had a place, especially in an industry previously dominated by straight white men for so long. It’s truly exciting that things are changing, and that we’re contributing to that change. A significant aspect of my work and Jennifer’s work is spotlighting communities that haven’t always been given the attention they deserve in pop culture and art.

Jennifer: Right. I mean, someone can say to me, “Why don’t you just work with another indigenous artist?” which I do, with other photographers or whatnot. But why limit it to the gap between communities? I shouldn’t have to confine myself to just staying right here, and you shouldn’t have to stick to your little circle. Why can’t we bring it all together? That’s what I love. I’m in my small community here, he’s in his community, and it’s important to bring all of these communities together and uplift each other.

Jasper: But we can offer each other, you know, being part of the LGBTQ community, so much strength in our differences. We’re able to overcome not having the easiest time always, and more of society recognizes that. So, I think there’s a lot of importance in coming together as marginalized groups and supporting each other through art and creativity.

"I think that's what draws me to pop colors and these vibrant set designs and I think that life can be really difficult. So I love that within my art I can share a more optimistic view and escape a little bit of the darkness. That's what draws me to directing and also photographing." - Jasper Soloff

TMRW: And what’s that one of the greatest milestones you both achieved so far?

Jasper: Oh, my God. Well, Jennifer, obviously, is on the cover of British Vogue, right? Yeah. So cool. I wish I was on it because I’m jealous.

Jennifer: They didn’t let me choose my photographer. I love you. Well, only because going back, no electricity. We did have, you know, the little magazines they sold, fashion magazines, and here I’m even in the 1800s, it was, yeah, one thing I was kind of in my early teen years, I was very, I honestly was, I hate my life because I’m in this small town and we lived outside of town, and I loved fashion magazines. So when my mom would go to town, so funny to me. Yeah, I would ask her to get me the latest fashion magazine. And so I would just look at these magazines. And I don’t know, I would just see this whole other life and think it was so amazing and whatever. And so never ever did I imagine that my work or I would ever create something or have it on the cover of a fashion magazine. Yeah. So then, the British Vogue, that’s, you know, it has this huge, I don’t know, it’s amazing. But honestly, going back to the community and collaborating, to me, it’s, I feel so grateful and fortunate about all these different styles, different people, and working with Jasper in New York and all of these things, they just, I appreciate all of it. I really do. It sounds cheesy and kind of corny, but this is what I get to do for a job. This is my life. I’m going to enjoy every opportunity that comes along, and yeah, I’m just loving all of it.

Jasper: For me, growing up in New York, it was always a dream of mine to have my work displayed in Times Square. You walk around Times Square as a kid and see these massive billboards. I’ve always desired to reach a large audience with my work, to have it seen within pop culture and by communities that might not usually engage with what I create. Whenever I witness one of those moments, seeing a billboard or a Fashion Film that I’ve produced in Times Square, it’s genuinely exciting. It reminds me that what I’m doing is reaching a broader audience and allows me to communicate what I love through my art, connecting with people. That’s what I truly cherish about my daily work. Yeah, I love it. It’s just fun and also, it’s like going back to, I think, honestly, kind of similar to what Jennifer’s saying. It’s like getting a chance to recall memories. Jennifer seeing magazines growing up and thinking, ‘That’d be so cool if I was a part of that,’ and then me growing up, walking to Times Square as a kid and thinking, ‘Wow, it would be really cool if my work could be up there on those billboards and screens.’ So, I think it’s funny that we both connect a lot to our childhood dreams. I feel like being an artist is so much about dreaming.

Jennifer: My next show will be in Toronto. An Indigenous fashion art show. I think it will be the last weekend of May or May 30 to June 2 or something. And that is a three or four day indigenous fashion show event.

Jasper: That’s awesome!

Jennifer: And so yeah, I’m super excited about that. I’m hoping as soon as after the beginning of the New Year, then I will start working on those pieces. I think it’s going to be a lot more big metal work pieces, again, sewn into garments. Yeah, so I’m super excited about that. Jasper, you’ll have to come to Toronto.

Jasper: I would love to, I’ve never been, I think that’d be so fun. I’m really excited. I’m actually doing this project that’s kind of random, but it’s with the MTA, the subway system. They’re closing down a subway car for us. I’m working with this really amazing choreographer. We’re going to do this really awesome performance piece in the subway, and a visual for that is coming up next week. So, I’m really excited about that, and I’m just really looking forward to the new year and starting fresh and seeing everything that’s in store for both of us, honestly.

Jennifer: Yeah, me too.

"I enjoy uplifting and collaborating to showcase others' work. I have a hard time calling it work because it's genuinely enjoyable. Building community, connecting with others, and sharing their work—I feel like that's what life should be about. It's not a selfish thing; it's about collaboration and connecting." - Jennifer Younger

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