Once you have seen a Jade Black photograph you will never forget it. You will not be able to escape the powerful emotions it evokes. Her work consists of dark, hauntingly beautiful images, all featuring the artist herself, a small, vulnerable figure in gothic costumes, lost in the daunting magnificence of our coastal landscapes.
“I am an open book,” says Black. Freeing her from childhood trauma, the masterfully composed photographs bring art therapy to a new level. She hopes that her images will also help others cope with emotional trauma.
Jade Black was born and raised in the Lucerne Valley in Southern California. Growing up in a loveless foster home, beginning at age four, left her emotionally scarred. Her artistic talent had emerged early and developed further in high school, where she refined her drawing and painting skills.

Portrait of Jade Black Artist
Photo by Jade Black
Photo of Jade Black Artist on the Beach with Camera in Foreground
Photo by Jade Black

However, she says she has found her true medium in photography. Black studied graphic arts and photography at the Chicago Art Institute’s online program, graduating with an associate of arts degree in photography in 2012.
She dabbled in portrait photography, but her creative spirit would not allow her to settle for a standard photography business. Besides, in addition to building a career, she needed to nurture her emotional health.
Looking at the shapely, beautiful, 33-year-old, it is hard to believe that she weighed 230 pounds when she decided to photograph herself. “It was very hard to take photos of my body,” she remembers. “It was so terrible that I just had to lose weight.”
Jade Black’s signature photography fully emerged when she moved to Grays Harbor in 2019.
“I had seen the forest in the Twilight movies,” she recalls. “I felt drawn to the Pacific Northwest landscape – the many shades of green.” Her favorite colors are green and black, appropriately reflected in her name, which is not the one she was given at birth. She changed it, just like her life and her surroundings. She infuses her life and her art with symbols of her struggles and victories.

Even though her natural surroundings inspire her, Black’s photographs do not begin with a place.
“I picture myself somewhere, for example as a princess sitting on a ledge,” she says. ”Then I go and search for the right place. It can take a long time, but I have learned to wait for the perfect spot.”
Then she dresses up. An entire room in her home in Ocean Shores is filled with costumes, mostly long, ornate, romantic dresses she found in thrift stores. She usually adds a long, luxurious wig to the outfit. Although her photographs are built up digitally, from composite layers, she always takes shots of herself on site. This often involves walking into the ice-cold surf, barefoot, in a thin gown.  She believes that suffering the cold adds to the truthfulness of the image.
After shooting on location, Black begins her studio work. She estimates she spends an average of five hours of Photoshop composition per image. She likes to color foliage in reds and purples using the digital palette as a painter uses a brush, often adding a dramatic sky as a background layer.
Symbols abound in her work: ropes, chains, tape or cages, imprisoning her wounded soul. She loves to photograph birds, which feature in most of her pictures. Crows, seagulls, herons, pelicans and other species surround the lonely woman in the photographs, sometimes appearing to lift her up, sometimes merging and becoming one with her.
The butterfly is another favorite. In a striking photograph she is enclosed in a hollow tree wearing long butterfly wings with her face wrapped in a lace chrysalis. The struggle of emerging from the cocoon is an important recurring motif.

Jade Black Art

Image by Jade Black

Jade Black feels called to help the emotionally traumatized through her work. She has begun to add eloquent texts to her photographs to clarify the cathartic purpose of her dark images. Her words are poetic rather than descriptive, touching the emotions rather than reason.
“I believe in God,” she says. “He uses me as a vessel for his purpose.” She is extremely goal-oriented, aiming to reach one person a day and praying for the words to reach that one person.
A brown paper scroll listing her goals is mounted on the wall of Black’s richly decorated studio, a concrete and symbolic prop on her way out of the chrysalis. Completed items are encouragingly crossed out with a thick black marker. Milestone achievements include a large whale photograph displayed in the Westport Maritime Museum, a book of her photography published, and having become a permanent artist at the Tim Rossow Watercolors & Associates Gallery in Ocean Shores, and at Alder Grove Gallery and Mother Crow’s Gallery, both in Aberdeen.
Unchecked goals involve more exposure for her work and “healing through art” projects. Her purpose is to reach and encourage as many people as she can. Her big dream for the future is her own art gallery, made of brick, painted black, with gold letters and a workplace in the center. The butterfly is spreading her wings!

To view, purchase or commission her work, go online to Jade-Black.com.

Photo of Jade Black Artist's Studio
Photo by Christine Vincent

Classes, TV show and upcoming events

Jade Black will be a featured artist at the Aberdeen Art Center during the Rain Glow Festival, July 23. On July 24, she will participate in the Art Splash Festival studio tours in Ocean Shores.

Black also has her own TV show on North Beach TV, Channel 68: “Jade Black – Healing Through Art.”  The hour-long program airs on northbeachnow.com/arts-entertainment each Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. (Reruns can be seen every other day of the week.)

In addition, she teaches each month at the Tim Rossow Watercolors & Associates Gallery, 171 E. Chance a La Mer N.E., in Ocean Shores. The “Introduction to Fine Art Photography” classes include Camera Basics on June 25; Composition, Color, Mood on July 30; Lighting on August 27; Storytelling on September 24 and Shooting with Intention on October 22.

For more details about the classes, contact rossow.tim@gmail.com.