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Artist Interview - Fine Art Photographer Jasmine Abena Colgan
By Cassandra Vagher

Jasmine Abena Colgan Fine Art Photographer Boulder Colorado

If there’s one word that sums up Jasmine’s life and art it’s "dichotomy". Everything seems to be a perfect division between opposing parts. From taking digital photos in 2020 and using ancient printing techniques, to studying biology and art, to being born American but having deep roots in Ghana, to being a full-time student and also a professor. The contrast of all of her traits is what makes Jasmine and her work so unique, giving it much more depth and meaning.

Jasmine Abela Colgan, known as Jazz by close friends, grew up in Fort Morgan and was raised in the Denver Metro Area. When I started the interview process with Jasmine in October of 2019 she was knee-deep in her final year as a graduate student at the University of Colorado where she studied Photography. I was eager to learn more about the alternative techniques she uses to create her imagery, as well as the unique and very powerful projects featuring social issues and education, such as her long term project, turned non-profit known as Tough Skin. Jasmine has vitiligo, a long-term skin condition characterized by patches of skin losing their pigment. It’s obvious, at least from the outside, that this doesn’t hold Jasmine back. She emanates confidence and is a leader in vitiligo education and awareness. 

Fine Art Photographer Jasmine Abena Colgan

When Jasmine began her academic career at CU Denver, she planned on majoring in biology, but after taking Bio 1 three times, and realizing you’d have to be able to swim to be a marine biologist, she decided to take a different road. Eventually, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Photography. After a series of jobs that she didn’t love, Jasmine went back to get her Masters at CU Boulder. “I have taught photography for non-majors,” she said, “learned how to print with 19th-century alternative printing techniques, and even discovered an ancient method in printing with actual gold from Obuasi mine in Ghana.” It’s clear from the way she speaks about her work, and time in the master's program this is where she belongs; where her creative heart flourishes.

If you’ve seen any of Jasmine’s photography, which I encourage you to explore, it’s clear that she’s pushing the limits and has a real adoration for the actual process of making a photograph. When asked to describe the photographic style she said:

“My photographic style is complicated. I have a commercial side and capture special moments for families. But, my heart truly lies within the social good aspect of art. I love hearing the journey of other vitiligans and how they got where they are in life.”

Jasmine Abena Colgan Fine Art Photography

Jasmine's photographs range from bewitching overlay self-portraits in the Sankofa Experience series to monotone prints in her Platinum Palladium. “My photographs are documentary,” she notes, “I typically turn the photographs into 19th-century prints, such as platinum and palladium.” After talking with her for just a short while, it was obvious that the process of printing her photographs was just as important to her as the subject matter. She draws a distinct correlation between the ritual of printing photographs and vitiligo. “The printing process is a metaphor for the skin condition, through the process of layers, sun exposure and a series of baths and chemicals, a pigmented photograph is preserved and serves as a moment that is essentially timeless.”


Jasmine’s emphasis on the process of printing however, isn’t the only thing she’s passionate about. She chooses to explore culture and identity in her work through the lens of a multi-cultured woman with Irish and Ghanian heritage living in America. She is always trying to deepen her understanding of the belonging of individuals who don’t check a certain box. The final paragraph of her artist statement reads: “I have developed my understanding of what it means to be a woman of colors. I am embracing my skin condition and expressing my body of work by painting a mask of makeup, to portray the persona of a halfrican.” 

Fine Art Photography by Jasmine Abena Colgan Boulder Colorado

Jasmine Abena Colgan Fine Art Photography

Jasmine had the opportunity to expose herself to many different types of photography and printing, both in her undergrad degree and in her masters. She says that the best advice she can give to aspiring photographers is to do the same; learn anything and everything. “The truth is, [the photography] world doesn’t know everything. So, when we shut out opportunities to learn old fashioned techniques to prolong our contemporary ways...sit down and listen.”

Jasmine Abena Colgan Fine Art Photographer


Jasmine finished work on her thesis installation which is a nod at the colors of her skin and the ways in which she has worked to handle institutional racism. The name of the exhibit is SLAYBOR. “SLAYBOR is a contemporary and urban definition. A reinvented, alternative method in response to institutional racism and ostracizing behavior. The act of slaybor is to work with great effort while continuing to dominate and maintain the skills to do what the mind believes.” 

Fine Art Photography by Jasmine Abena Colgan

Outside of her academic work she has traveled the world to photograph, document, and empower others with vitiligo. She does this through her non-profit Tough skin, that has diligently been educating the general public about the condition for several years. Tough Skin is currently expanding its reach and message beyond photography. 

A few more tid-bits about Jasmine Abena Colgan:

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