THE INTERVIEW: James Jackman

“Beauty arises from our synergy with the environment.”

“Beauty arises from our synergy with the environment.”

Miami-based photographer, James Jackman, specializes in documenting stories that highlight the beauty of working with nature. After capturing the space and menu at our tropically overgrown rooftop restaurant, Terras, we caught up with James about what inspires his art – including self-created paradises and dedication.

The Setting: What led you to photography?

In high school I took all of the art classes that were available, including a college credit AP option. When reading the guidelines for portfolio submission I noticed that one could submit photographs instead of other more time-consuming, demanding mediums. So really my introduction to photography was as a time-saving tool, a shortcut. I would later attend SCAD and major in photography, which developed my practice and interest in documentary work.

The jungle exists in Boca Raton, 2018

The Plot: What do you strive to reflect in your art? Are there recurring themes?

I’m really into the idea of paradise, especially self-created paradises, mentally-protective bubbles, refuges of sorts. Florida has all of the ingredients, but we just can’t stop mowing our lawns. I enjoy framing South Florida with that idea in mind.

Lawn turned jungle, Boca Raton, 2016

I also think a lot about zen and balance when making work. How can I speak about environmental destruction in a way that is positive, in a way that encourages people to listen and act? There is with nature and against. We can fight the flow of the river, or we can let it take us to our destination. I make an effort to highlight those who are working with the flow of nature, who embrace it.

Someone else’s paradise, Miami, 2019

The Characters: Are there any artists or works that you draw inspiration from?

I try to find inspiration outside of the traditional art world and bring it in. For example, I love a film called The Architecture of Mud. I am obsessed with the idea of pulling buildings out of the earth; buildings that last 600-1000 years and pass from generation to generation. Pure beauty arises from our synergy with the environment.

Overall, I’m inspired by anyone who is completely dedicated to their craft. I’m inspired by my friend Concetta, who is wholly obsessed with food and ingredients, who exudes ‘joie de vivre’.

Concetta singing in front of the Carrie mango tree, Boca Raton, 2019; Sunday dinner dishes, Boca Raton, 2022

The Conflict: What difficulties have you faced as a photographer and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for creatives is usually self-doubt. This is a major internal struggle for me. I’m highly critical of everything I make, which is good in some ways, but can be a big hindrance to accomplishing goals and progressing my career. It really helps to talk with other creatives, to share space critiquing each other's work. I owe much success to my friends and colleagues in this regard.

Sea gazer, Deerfield Beach, 2020

The Theme: You recently did a photoshoot for our rooftop bar & restaurant, Terras. How did you tell the story through imagery?

I love when photography projects align with my vision, and this was a great example of such. Lush foliage, garden boxes full of herbs, and quality ingredients are easy to work with for me. Simply giving these things a healthy dose of sunshine was the key to documenting Terras’ offerings and space.

Terras at Life House Little Havana, Miami, 2022

Point of View: Tell us about one of your other past projects that you are proud of.

In December 2021 I went out to Oahu, Hawaii to work on a project with a guy named Gabe, who breeds bananas. I had followed him on Instagram for quite some time, always fascinated with the tidbits of info he was sharing about this plant. In the two days that I spent with Gabe, I was totally blown away by his dedication and devotion to the banana tree. I really love working with people like this. I ended up creating a visual portrait, I wouldn’t exactly call it a film or a movie, but it is motion-based work. In this piece you’ll see Gabe on a typical morning crossing banana varieties. I hope this inspires folks to dig into whatever they love.

A bract peels back to reveal the male banana flower, Haleiwa, 2021
Gabe, Haleiwa, 2021

See James on Instagram at @james_jackman_.

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