Jasmine Engel-Malone: Beyond the Male Gaze
The London-based photographer talks us through her thought-provoking practice.
Based in London, Jasmine Engel-Malone is a photographer, designer and UAL grad, first catching out attention with her intimate, dreamy analogue depictions of the female body. With a raw and emotional edge, her nude portraits, created as part of series “Together”, give women of colour a space to reclaim their beauty and self-perception from the male gaze. With themes of feminism running throughout her work, Jasmine is also a strong proponent of giving women more control over how they are represented in the creative industries.
Below, we catch up with her to talk about what a day in her life looks like, as well as what needs to change in her industry.
Introduce yourself — who are you and what do you do?
I’m a photographer from London, mainly shooting beauty, fashion and fine art concepts on analogue film. I love to shoot themes that make us question how we view femininity and beauty within our society. Experimenting with the idea of what the ‘female gaze’ means and pushing the boundaries that have been set by the traditional male gaze. I also work with fashion brands and music artists on their creative direction and imagery.
Have you always been creative?
I’m very fortunate to have a very creative and supportive family that has always pushed me to explore ways to express myself. Since childhood I’ve had a deep interest in various art forms; from music to theatre, to fine art. Photography is the only medium that really held my focus and became my main form of self-expression.
When did you first get involved in photography?
My family really values the idea of capturing memories physically, and I always had access to point and shoot or single-use cameras as a child. This developed throughout my teen years, where I started building a real portfolio. I began to build my creative network by attending various events and branching out, in order to book jobs and start doing more editorial projects. This then led to me self-publishing my first book in 2019 and hosting a solo exhibition.
Describe your photographic style in three words.
Comforting. Ethereal. Peaceful.
Talk us through a day in your life.
I shoot a lot fortunately! And when I’m not on shoot days, I’m usually planning my next projects, scanning and editing photos, and making sure to stay on top of admin work. I also still work full time so my schedule can get very hectic, however it’s all things I enjoy doing and I’m grateful to be able to have so much going on in such a difficult time.
What camera do you use?
I use quite a few! For medium format I have a Mamiya 645 super. My 35mm camera is a Canon EOS 1N, which I enjoy because I have a lot more lenses and can be more versatile at times. Then I use an Instax wide to shoot test images on set. This allows the whole team to know the set and styling etc. of the shots and allows a smoother shoot day.
How do you look after your models on set?
On the shoot day, I always like to chat to everyone before we get started and really make sure we’re all in a comfortable environment. I think that it is really important for this to come across in the images. As much as I want to create beautiful work, I want the shoot to be a good experience for everyone involved. This also is what has allowed me to develop so many good relationships with the creatives that I work with, and we almost always keep in contact and work together again.
Talk us through a project you’re particularly proud of?
In 2019 I wrote my university thesis questioning, “What does it mean to be naked or nude in relation to photography and the female gaze?”. I then self-published a book and hosted my first solo exhibition to share the visual project that I created in response to my research. I named the project “Distance” and described it as; “A visual inquiry into the differences between nudity and nakedness.” In summary, the project explored the ways in which the female body has been represented within fine art and photography throughout history, and how this has been almost constantly defined by the male gaze. Creating, in most cases, an erotic, unrealistic and almost unattainable standard for woman to look up to. I concluded that more women need to create the art that they wish to be represented by, to create a more balanced view. Using photography, I created my own body of work, working with different women from varying backgrounds, and captured images of them. Working with them to create the images that they wish to be represented by and taking out the element of erotica which is often associated with a “nude” image.
I am currently working on my next project, “Together” which is a continuation of the research from “Distance”, looking at how the male gaze has impacted womxn of colour in particular. Being a woman of colour and mixed heritage myself, this adds an even deeper personal connection and is something I am really passionate about building my body of work upon.
What are your ambitions?
I really want to start getting more work published and do more editorial projects with fashion brands and magazines, as well as music artists. I have so many names that I would love to develop concepts with, I’m overflowing with ideas! I also hope to publish another book and host an exhibition. One of my long-term goals is to open my own photography studio or creative space. I want to create an affordable and versatile space to host workshops and rent out, for people to learn new skills or develop ones they already have.
What needs to change in the industry?
I think that inclusivity in all of its forms is something that is still developing and we are heading in a positive direction. However, I do believe that there are still major gaps for younger creatives to have access to bigger opportunities. I think it is extremely hard to break into the industry, and I agree that hard work should be required; however, bigger companies should also want to scout for new talent and give a platform to the younger generation. In addition to wanting to open doors for female creatives, I also want to help give womxn the power and opportunities to have control over the ways they are being represented.
Who are other young photographers and creatives who inspire you?
I’m very lucky to be surrounded by so many talented friends, in terms of photographers a few names are Vicky Grout, Faith Aylward and Shingi Rice. Some other creatives that I draw inspiration from are Maria Gulina and Ella Florence. The list could go on and on! These are all artists that I’ve worked with and really push me within my creativity to work harder and improve on my craft.
Follow Jasmine on Instagram and check out more of her work here.