THE MUSEUM OF LIGHT: Just as an alchemist transforms led into gold, do you feel that being an artist relates to that of being an alchemist? Do you view the artist journey and your creative expression, as alchemy?
JAMEL SHABAZZ: As a practitioner of the craft of photography, it affords me the ability to transform a chemically based roll of unexposed film that has been placed in a camera, measuring light and adjusting speed towards a particular subject, conceptualizing and composing by the third eye through a glass lens, before applying pressure on the camera shutter release button, freezing a moment in time, thus preserving history. So yes, I would say that there is a direct correlation between being an artist and an alchemist. Any creative artist, whether they are a painter, musician, sculptor or photographer, who uses their innate ability to create something from nothing, is in fact dealing with the science of Alchemy. The various schools of artistry all use science in their creative process and it may consist of the mixing of chemicals, arranging sound, or creating shapes, but when these practices are applied, the results are magical manifestations of a high form of alchemy.
THE MUSEUM OF LIGHT: Artists are often labeled as "stars.” Just as a star radiates light and the planets then reflect this light, do you see your work as an artist like that of a star? Is this "light" that stars radiate merely the evidence of this journey of becoming a star/learning to radiate light?
JAMEL SHABAZZ: As a young man coming of age, I was told by a very wise man that I was the equivalent to the sun which was a giant star in the center of the universe, and that through studying the nature of the sun along with the solar system, I would better understand my purpose in life. It was that wisdom that placed me on the path of enlightenment and provided me with light, guidance and purpose. Like the sun, I would learn that my primary purpose in this universe was to use my kinetic energy to stimulate life and matter through my creative process in hopes that I would create other forms of light and energy in a world that was slowly becoming cold and gloomy.
THE MUSEUM OF LIGHT: When an artist is not "creating" it is often labeled a "creative block." How do you navigate this space, how do you find the creative spark in the dark, and does it require courage to create from this unknown space? Describe this process.
JAMEL SHABAZZ: With all honesty, I have never been confronted with a “creative block.” My creative energy is in constant motion and the light that guides me seems to always be illuminated. During the course of my many expeditions, I have accumulated such an abundance of photographs, negatives, and other forms of research, that are readily available to me. This keeps me in a constant creative mode to the point that I no longer travel outside my space to take images like I once did. At this stage in my journey, it took courage for me to realize that I needed to reevaluate my assignment in life, and I have been blessed to create a space where I can meditate, reflect and process what I have been blessed to document. In this undertaking, I continue to seek ways to share what I have with the universe and young visionaries who are fresh on the path of self-discovery.
Photo Credit: Jamel Shabazz
The Museum of Light is curated by: Billy Johnson Jr., Adell Henderson, Joslyn Rose Lyons, Rafael Casal, Matt Smith, Malik Buie.