Sponsored by PhotoShelter
Why do people pursue the arts? The career paths are often windier, the competition fiercer, and positive reinforcement is often fleeting. But for many, it’s an itch that must be scratched, one that can only be soothed by creative expression. When Sandra Jasmin left her native Germany for Canada, she also left behind a career in engineering for one in the creative arts, reinventing herself and finding a way to travel the world and bask in its cultural wonders. We caught up with her on the phone from Montreal, and asked about her second life, her photography and how she’s using her new website to point her career in a new direction.
PDN: How did you first fall into photography?
Sandra Jasmin: I immigrated to Canada about 18 years ago. In Germany, I used to be in engineering, so when I moved to Vancouver, BC, Canada, I wanted to live in the completely opposite way. I went into painting and fine art, and through painting I picked up photography, because I wanted to study the light. I loved that it was instant, and I loved the interaction with people. So I got more involved in the photography community. I was shooting film at that time—black and white—and also did some work in a black-and-white photo lab, developing film and working in a dark room. I loved it, that tactile feeling; learning how to develop the film was a really nice treat.
PDN: Why did you first decide to ditch engineering for fine art?
SJ: I was always interested in and attracted to art. When I was little, my parents travelled a lot. So I went to Africa, Asia and the Caribbean when I was little, and that had a huge impact on me. I was always intrigued by culture and how it relates to art and sociology. And because I was coming from engineering, where it was so strict, I was more interested in creating organic forms. I went back to school and studied visual effects and compositing, and that got me into using Photoshop, which I was never exposed to before. I just went from there, and pushed myself to evolve. After years of travel and working in the creative field, I realized that photography is my identification and my language to communicate and engage.
PDN: At what point did photography become your job?
SJ: Upon completion of my masters in visual effects and compositing, I started working in the film and television industry, and worked my way up to art director. I simultaneously created paintings, illustrations and photography, on assignment and for exhibition and sale. While I have a bit of fashion, events and music in the past, they aren’t areas that I want to primarily focus on. So, I recently created my PhotoShelter website because I decided that I want to focus on travel, tourism, portraiture, environmental portraiture and some humanitarian, more documentary-style travel photography. I’m in the process of creating my branding right now and putting marketing together to send it out to clients.
PDN: Is this your first website? What were you looking for in a portfolio site, and why did you eventually choose Photoshelter?
SJ: In a professional sense, yes, this is my first website. PhotoShelter is very user-friendly. The design and the layouts are beautiful; they’re well-done. They’re also extremely intuitive and the client libraries are great. With the lightboxes, you can switch on and off the galleries you want to display. This is useful for when a client wants to see a different project that I don’t want to show that on my website, or if somebody says “I want you to do a fashion shoot, can you show me some work of that?” I can send the client an image gallery of just that. It keeps my website a bit tighter on what I want to focus on in the future. PhotoShelter is fantastic for photographers because you have everything where you need it. It makes our job much easier.
PDN: A lot of your recent work focuses on Cambodia. How much time have you spent there?
Cambodia is really interesting: the cultural mix, the history and the temples. So I wanted to find out more about it. I like to immerse myself in a culture, so I usually like to stay a bit longer, but I had just three weeks in Cambodia. I did my research before and while I was there, learning as much as I could about the culture and talking to the people. I traveled with local buses or rented a motorbike to get to certain places. I found people who told me a little bit about the Khmer Rouge; politically, it was quite interesting. The more time you spend with people, the richer the story gets. I was fascinated by the colors and by the diversity of its cultural background, the mix that exists in Cambodia, which I wasn’t previously aware of. It has the richest backgrounds, from Buddhism to Hinduism; they’ve had so many influences there, and through that, such a diverse and rich culture.