In Conversation: Jasiah Powers



Interview: Ajay Woolery

Media: Jasiah Powers + Collaborators

As the famous quote says, “we are all a product of our environments." For multi-hyphenate creator Jasiah Powers, this especially holds true. Powers’ upbringing in New York City has taught him that community and place are central to creative expression. We caught up with Jasiah to learn more about his experiences and how he's navigating life as a young creative. Continue reading to learn more about his infamous North Face project, studies and words of wisdom for other creatives.


As I usually do, I’ll just start out by asking you to introduce yourself and what you do…

JP: Well, my name is Jasiah Powers. I'm a photographer, a videographer, a photo editor, and a digital artist. I'm somebody who just appreciates creating art in its entirety. I’m basically, just an inner-city creative and a young kid who just really cares about black art, artists of colour, and showcasing my abilities in a way that can help highlight the culture and, you know, different elements [in life and culture] that aren't highlighted enough. I feel like I’m somebody who cares about culture so much that I'm trying to utilise my resources to highlight that.


I initially discovered your work through your first North Face project last January and it's one of my favourite projects you’ve done. Could you share a bit about the idea and inspiration behind the series and what it means to you…

JP: So the first North Face project came about because I have friends that had different colour Nuptse jackets. Whenever I would see people around, because they had that jacket on I would automatically assume that they were fly, but I would then look at the rest of the fit and see that they didn't care about clothes, they just owned a North Face Nuptse. But something told me that the North Face jacket had the power of making people who don't even care about clothes look fly. I don't know, it's just like a staple piece for New York, and I'm just like, Yo, this jacket actually holds weight. I just thought it'd be really cool to do some really cool colour contrast and just showcase something that's really cool and highlight the people who own them. So I hit up maybe five or six friends, strategically went over the different colored Nuptse jackets and I did a video shoot with them.

I think I've done better work. But you know, a lot of people also rock with it so I think that's pretty fire. And then for the second North Face project, my idea was just to go big or go home. What if you just bring as many people outside with North Face garments as possible and showcase the power behind that piece? And that's what that was, it was like I could really bring together so many different people to work on this piece, and there were all different types of coloured jackets. There were so many people there and the whole thing behind this is just community. You know, it's far more than just a Nuptse jacket, it's about inner city kids who all love colour, art and creation. Or they don't even gotta love those three things. I mean, maybe it's just that they like throwing on fly North Face garments. And I just think that's something that's extremely New York City relative. I feel like the North Face is a staple that is bringing those two elements together as one, like, everything is contingent to through one piece.

Thought Continued: The day itself was crazy. We got kicked out of the park. This woman, I'm willing to say this was racially motivated. But she said that she saw all of us in the park and she was scared to walk in so she told the park director. She said if we don't leave, she's gonna call the police on us. So yeah, then we were just mobbing Manhattan 50 deep in these jackets and with cameras and stuff like that. It was just in the name of art, you know, we were modelling in train stations, dancing on the trains, and on the platforms going crazy. It was definitely a moment in time for sure and there's a lot that I can go into. So they [the North Face projects] really came about by bringing all the elements of culture together, and being a New Yorker that kind of resonated with me personally. I just thought, with me having the facilities and a platform to highlight that, why not do it?


I'm happy that you kind of mentioned the piece about growing up in New York because I wanted to know how you feel the city has kind of influenced your journey and work?

JP: I feel like if you are from New York, then you know that this city has a specific pocket of dynamics that cannot be replicated anywhere else that you go. First of all, being a creator, New York, is the most convenient place to live. You got nothing but photoshoot opportunities. New York is very colourful and very urbanised so there’s now way that you can never not be inspired. I just think that being from New York definitely influenced me because everything around me was so artistically sound, even just walking outside. Everything [creative and inspiring] was just so prevalent. I just became appreciative of my circumstances, all the colours, all the people around me were also making stuff. When I was in high school, one of my friends was making beats, another one was a model, and everyone was doing something creative. You can never really be uninspired in a place where everybody is striving to create daily, it’s just the perfect place. It's too convenient, because then I go to other places like where I am for school, which is in Baltimore and it’s harder to get inspiration.


You spoke about community and the role that's played in your image making. Tell me more about where this theme springs from…

JP: It's actually pretty funny, because I didn't know that my work was soo group oriented until one of my friends told me like two weeks ago, I was doing a shoot with one of my friends and she was telling me like, Yo, like, all your shoots are so group oriented. And I looked and was like, Whoa, every single one of my projects is group oriented. I never really cared but that was funny. It wasn't intentional, I wasn't going into any of these projects and saying I want to highlight that group. It just happened to turn out that way. But it's a common theme with me personally, I just like highlighting groups of people who want to be represented. That's just my whole thing. I'm just a person of community to begin with, I have a proper family foundation, my mom, dad and siblings who are active in my life. I don't create by myself, I have a group of friends who I create the majority of my projects with. If I need a stand-in, subjects, actors or anything, I have a solid 10 to 15 people who I can call every time who support me and my artistic endeavours. I’ve just always cared about people, always cared about caring, always cared about making sure people feel good. It's important to have a community around you and it's only right that I highlight that.


How would you describe your creative process?

JP: I would say it’s reserved but sporadic. I'm never really as structured as I would like to be because I'm a get it and go type person. Like, I’ll get the idea and I’ll get all my ducks in a row and then start. There's some times when I will sit down and write out the project and get everything going. But if I can get that going in that [same] week it’s gonna get done that week. I don't like to sit on ideas, I get a lot of ideas in music, I get the idea, make a storyboard, find everyone for the project and then put everything together. When I start shooting when I'm really in my element, like I really get into a whole different mode. If I'm feeling it, I want to get that [project] done as soon as I possibly can because It's really present. I love what I do so much that when I start editing, I just can't stop, I love it. I become a kid in a candy store. I'm thinking that there's no way I could stop in the middle of this project so this has to get done.So I would say my process is sporadic but fast paced. Very important, is a heavy emphasis on getting that job done. You know, I don't really just stop and let it sit and go back to it. If it can get done, there's no reason why it shouldn’t. That's the best way I can explain it.


You are currently attending Morgan State University, are you currently pursuing a pathway focused on the work you’re currently doing?

JP: Yeah, I'm actually majoring in fine arts.Through what I’m studying in school, I'm trying to place a focus on what I’m currently doing. I may change it to something else related to photography or multimedia platform production. I actually came to Morgan State University because I heard they had a good fine arts program. The school, the destination or the location of my school is not really artistically sound, it’s pretty desolate. It was really, really hard to find inspiration out here. But to answer your question, yeah my studies have a heavy emphasis on the arts. This is all I want to do in life so I just want every step to be synonymous with what I want to pursue as I get older, essentially.


You mentioned music as one of your major influences. If you could choose a song, album or artist to play as the theme song for your life who/what would it be?

JP: That's a great question. Um, for a theme song or album – I would definitely say the album Negro Swan by Blood Orange or Where Do We Go by Solange which is a song that also resonates with me. The music videos for Negro Swan and director’s cut for When I Get Home are also some of my favourite visuals to date.


What words of wisdom would you share with another creative?

JP: I will say first and foremost, comparison is the thief of joy. A friend of mine told me that. When you start to compare yourself to other people who are already really good and have a solid practice, you invalidate your entire experience as a creator in general and your entire process, because you're just gonna think that you're not as good as somebody who probably started about eight, nine years ago, you don't even know the journey they’ve taken in those nine years to get where they are. So I would just say, Don't compare yourself to a lot of different creators, because you're your own entity. Once you start to compare yourself, you're no longer having fun, because you don't think you're good. And I don't think that's fun for anybody who's trying to compete.

Another thing I will also say is not to sit and have ideas or thoughts accumulate, a lot of people say, I want to start, I'm going to start, I want to get started. Don't tell yourself that too much to the point where you're stagnating yourself, if you really want to do something, just go out and do it. Even if you're afraid you're gonna be bad, you probably will be bad, I was bad. If you really care about it, just get started. The faster you get the ball rolling, the more you're going to learn, understand and realise the power behind what you're creating.

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