One of Our Favorite Photographers Creates Mystical Images of the City’s Music Scene

Jasmine Safaeian’s hauntingly beautiful portraits come alive with hyper-saturated colors and hazy textures

Jasmine Safaeian wants her photographs to leave you confused. The L.A.-based photographer plays with light, color, and texture in a way that tricks your eyes, along with your mood. Similar to the rich hues that bleed together in her imagery, you’re left wrangling a mix of conflicting emotions—is she hinting at sadness, exuberance, doubt? Her portraits seem to mirror aura photography, capturing the multifaceted personalities of her subjects by blending a range of  saturated, emotive pigments. With mostly musician subjects, it’s hard to side-step the clíche and not describe her photographic style as musical—but the various tones and textures that characterize her work are exactly that. Take a look for yourself by following her on Instagram and scrolling below as we talk to Safaeian about her creative process and life in L.A.

How long have you been shooting and how did you fall into photography?

When I was very young I was always volunteering to take the photos at family outings. When the film would come back, my mom would critique my work. She’d say things like, “You need to leave more space above people’s heads.” In a way she was already training me to think of photography as a craft. In my teens my friends were in bands and I’d tag along to photograph—that was when I became determined to be a touring photographer someday. I was obsessed with documenting every moment and telling a musician’s story through my photos. In college I was our yearbook’s editor in chief. We had barely any photographers on staff so I was able to assign myself to cover every single on-campus concert. That was the first time I was getting paid to photograph and I loved that I was literally giving myself the job.

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Who are some of your favorite photographers?

Autumn DeWilde, Lauren Dukoff… I’ve always looked up to them because they’re female music photographers who’ve released books of their work. I love Lauren’s “Family” and I don’t even know where to start with Autumn’s oeuvre. Growing up all I wanted was to stick with one band, photograph everything, and eventually release a photo book of their story.

What song would be the best soundtrack to your photos?

Imma say press shuffle on this playlist and the first song that comes up is your soundtrack to my photos. It’s the only playlist I listen to, really.

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Do you think there’s an overarching feeling or theme that runs through your photos?

I feel like I’ve succeeded every time I end up with an image that looks haunted. I fixate on colors the most—complimentary colors, contrasting colors, washes of colors. Oftentimes I have colors or particles distracting from what may actually be going on in the image—I call those distractions my ghosts. I also love to fixate on confusion—leaving things open ended so the viewer can decide if I’m telling a happy story or a sad one.

Favorite hangout in L.A.?

Every hipster coffee shop on the Eastside. Lamill was my first love when I moved here. Cafecito Organico in Silver Lake is a haven. The LINE Hotel‘s lobby is a great place to work, and their Commissary upstairs is paradise to me.

I’m also a huge fan of my couch. I travel for work so when I’m back home in L.A. I mostly linger the comfort of my own home. Please invite me to parties, everyone.

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When you’re in a creative rut, what do you do to get re-inspired?

Nothing. I have to overcome my panic and stop thinking. Visions arrive at the most unexpected times, and sometimes it takes ages for them to become whole. I had a vision of flowers growing out of my head last year and only took the photos yesterday. The final image will be ready whenever I grow the guts to sort through hundreds of awkward self timer’d proofs of myself. (See the final image above.)

Favorite music to listen to while shooting?

Whatever makes the client the most comfortable. If they say “I like everything” I just put on Rap Caviar. If they’re feeling eclectic, I put on this incredible French radio station called FIP.

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What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Organize your portfolio not necessarily to showcase what you’ve done, but to guide your future clients and show them what you want to be doing. This reminds me I haven’t updated in a year, so who am I to talk. 🙂

Favorite place to shoot in Los Angeles?

I love exploring the L.A. crest north of Sunland. I also love shooting in my living room studio. I used to be embarrassed about it, but I’ve realized my clients are much more confident and comfortable on camera in my home rather than in a rented-out studio.

Dream shoot?

I want to be Solange’s touring photographer.

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