IN THE MOOD FOR
Jaylen Strong is an 18 year old poet based in Brooklyn, NY. His work is individual, self-reflective, and thought-provoking, often focusing on minute personal moments. An ambitious writer who wants his words to be read, Jaylen hopes that his readers connect with and learn from his poetry.
We stumbled upon Jaylen’s Portrait Project, a compilation of Polaroids portraits and short pieces of writing, and immediately saw its connection to our vision of QUIRK. In a month investigating individuality and personal eccentricity, Jaylen’s in-depth look at people’s personalities fits right in.
So our theme for this issue is Quirk, and we are taking it to mean the different ways that define individuality and the different things that define us. What does individuality mean to you?
So many people always say “nothing is original,” but I think that each person is their own individual soul. If you go out of your way to create things that reflects that soul, then I think it’s individual. An experience is individual, and the process you take to get to a piece of work is unique, regardless of the outcome. And that’s a testament to this series, “On The Process” of creating something.
Our idea of creating this column is focused on the work that goes on behind the scenes, which is so much we don’t usually see. And oftentimes that process can be even more beautiful than the actual end product. So in terms of your portrait project, how did you envision that and where did it begin?
I had worked in images and photography before, and thought about blurring the lines between what a visual image and what a written image can do. So pairing an image with writing, and then seeing how people react to that. Will they assume the writing explains the photo, or will they separate them into different experiences?
How does this work compare to other work that you’ve done?
It’s different, and it was meant to be different. It’s not just about experiences that are solely mine, like much of my previous work, but instead bridges the gap between myself and other people.
How do you feel it will shape the next work that you begin?
After doing the Portrait Project I’ve begun intensely thinking about the readership, and people in writing. I’ve been getting into fiction, and been really interested in how you form a character.
How did writing your page differ from writing everyone else's?
I took a self-portrait, and put it in the book, and then said that I’d come back to it. It was the first one I took, but I wanted to wait until all the other ones were there, so I wrote about everybody else before returning to it. I, like everyone else, became a character in the narrative of the photos. The piece I wrote about myself was based on my experience, and I wanted to be a part of it next to the people that I loved and appreciated.
What was the process of interviewing the participants?
I sat down with everyone, and talked with them with no limits or questions written before. I spent hours with people, went to people’s homes, watched as they really opened up. After I left, I would think about how important that moment was, then I would write it. I took the Polaroids as we were talking, but then put them away to focus on the individual person.
How would you spend your ideal Sunday?
If the weather is warm, I would get up around 10, go outside and take my first breath, and then walk with no purpose, not knowing where I was going. Then I’d sit down to eat, something like chicken and waffles, pull out a book and read till the end of the day.
Images by Jaylen Strong
Interview By Carly Smith
Words by Elena Scott