By Josh Burstein
At 26, Jasper Soloff soared quickly as a photographer, known for a bright, colorful joyous style. There’s no roadmap – switching early in his career as a dancer to picking up a camera – but Jasper continues to lift up friends and dancers in his queer community along the way. The honesty and authenticity of his visual storytelling also lands him projects with major influencers like Billie Eilish, Pete Davidson, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio. He’s directed Gigi Hadid for Maybelline, as well as a Billy Porter music video.
We check in with Jasper to hear his perspective on balance and boundaries as a freelance creative:
Josh: There’s that assumption that once you hit on socials, you have to always “feed the beast” the same way. Do you feel compelled as a Creative to always be creating?
Jasper: It’s a pressure to stay current and always create, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing. It’s a pressure that can push you to make more work that you love and not feel so stagnant. But it is frustrating. It’s crazy how quick the time passes when you post something you’re really proud of and excited to see how people react, then one week later you’re like ‘oh shoot, now I have to start again.’
Josh: How did you adapt to these past few years, not being able to practice your craft the same way?
Jasper: It caused me to think outside the box, ways you can still communicate through imagery online and connect with people. It’s been tough for everyone, the quietness. I have a new level of gratefulness when I do have work– that feeling can sometimes get lost when really busy and stressed.
Josh: What was the process like for remote shoots?
Jasper: A lot of my work is about connection: having people feel like they can be themselves. So I just continued having honest conversations, talking about what’s going through each other's life, how they’re feeling. It’s a great way to capture honest portraits and video content. You can still get a good output in the same way you would in person.
Josh: How did it feel to collaborate with other artists but not experience the in-person joy?
Jasper: That's the hardest part, even now with masks on set. You don’t feel the same sense of community and don’t get to know the subject in the same way when half of your face is covered. It takes a bit of the joy of getting to know people in person, but we are lucky to have precautions so we can continue to work.
Josh: How do you budget time for yourself when you have back to back-to-back shoots, or prepping a big music video?
Jasper: There’s actually a lot of down time, alone time when you’re a freelancer and not on set. For the most part, you’re on your own, so building a community around you that supports you is important because it can be a lonely career.
Josh: What has helped you personally?
Jasper: Honestly, I’ve been knitting a lot! Just random little activities that can take your mind off things. Unless you have the perfect partner, family, as a Creative especially it’s rare… so we love what we do to connect with people. But it’s helpful to find the little things: I like tennis, listening to music, binging TV can really help on an off-week and feel relaxed.
Josh: Is it possible to feel balance with the “hurry up and wait” chaos of production?
Jasper: We’re always striving for more balance in our careers, but it’s not the most important thing for me right now, because I’m feeling ambitious and want to make things happen. You’re always going to have one thing you want more time for, so I don’t know if there is a perfect balance in my life right now.
Josh: What helps you say NO to projects, and hold true to your values?
Jasper: Kindness is really important to me, Respect goes a long way on projects – the work only becomes better. Toxic work environments can make everyone feel isolated and unhappy. So for me gauging which project is going to bring me the most joy creatively has come with experience. I think there is so much power in saying no. Not every project is for you, and learning to lean into the ones that are can be incredibly freeing.
Josh: What’s your take on how photos aren't performing in the same way on Instagram and other sites: Does that make you consider your focus when engagement can change on a whim?
Jasper: Things change on Instagram and there’s more emphasis on certain things now, but I’m still going to do the same work. I share it to showcase what I’m doing in the visual space, but… I’m not gonna start making cringey BTS videos of every photoshoot or little skits cuz that sounds really painful. Those voiceovers seem so awkward… I don’t like viewing content like that, so I don’t feel I need to play a part in it.
Josh: Advice for other Creators?
Jasper: Have confidence in what you’re doing, find your own lane, know your worth. Even if you’re just starting out, your work is incredibly valid. So don’t let others dictate what your worth is.
Josh Burstein is a standup comedian and journalist. A digital strategist who produced content for the Obama Administration and Biden campaigns, Josh works at the intersection of impact, education, and entertainment.