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Photographer Caroline Japal Creates Space For Artists, Other Women To Thrive

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By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

In the past two years, Caroline Japal has used her talents to not only create an art magazine but also develop an online space for Christian women.

Japal, 23, was born and raised in Irondale and attended Shades Valley High School, where she became a member of the art academy. Photography, however, has always been her preferred mode of expression. Her experiences seemed to fall into place in 2017, when she started Art Concept Magazine (ACM), a publication that focuses on creating a platform for photographers who want to gain experience.

“My goal is to help other younger artists have a mentor, … so they have something to look at and be like, ‘OK, I’m not the only one struggling trying to do stuff I want to do,’” she said.

The idea for a magazine came during her time as a student at the University of Alabama (UA), where she and two of her good friends assembled a team for a photo shoot.

“That was the first [time] I worked with a bunch of creatives like that for a whole day and actually was on a set where there’s food, models, photographers, videographers, and someone directing everything,” Japal said. “I really liked that experience.”

Her friends graduated, but that didn’t stop Japal from doing photo shoots: “If I like doing something, I should be able to still do it,” she said.

And she did just that. Japal contacted designers, models, another photographer, and a stylist on campus and planned a photo session.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was so fun, I barely even shot during the shoot. … I was like, ‘I want to keep doing this, but I also need to figure a way to release all this content together.’ … [So, I decided] to release it in a magazine format.”

The photos were a start, but Japal felt she needed more content for the magazine.

“I didn’t just want it to be a spread of photos,” she said. “The clothes were beautiful, the designers were super-talented, the models were talented, but I didn’t want to [put] random photos out there and have no one look at them.”

To date, ACM has published six issues. The magazine is available quarterly, in both print and digital formats. Print copies can be purchased through magcloud.com (search for “Art Concept Magazine”) for $15 to $27; the price is determined by the page length, which differs for each issue. Digital copies can be viewed on issuu.com (search for “Art Concept Magazine”) and via Instagram (@artconceptmag).

We Are Cybersis

In addition to publishing ACM, Japal teamed up with five other women earlier this year to create Cybersis, an online platform that provides a safe space for Christian women. The founders met online, became friends through Instagram, and learned that they had something in common—none of them attended church with other women who were “super-creative and female.”
Japal said she and her fellow Cybersis founders looked for other women who “related to what we were going through,” trying to mesh work in a creative field with spiritual values. Even though they are in the early stages of the venture, the group members talk to many girls who follow and interact with them through Instagram (@wearecybersis).

“We want to keep building an online community and have open discussions about what we as women struggle with every day, about going to church, things we have to deal with, our bodies, … the political climate, and everything that’s happening,” Japal said. Much of the discussion is held online, she said, because “people are more inclined to answer an Instagram story or explain what’s going on or how they feel about something [online] than they are to talk to someone in person. … I feel like people can be more open sometimes [online].”

Gaining Experience

Japal’s passion for art grew during her time at Shades Valley High School.

“I [joined] art academy because I liked drawing and painting,” she said. “[To get into the art academy], you have to make a portfolio … that [features] a little bit of everything. I put [in] some photos, and the photography teacher [who] … saw them [told me] he thought they were really good.”

Japal got her first taste of professional photography during her junior year of high school, when she shot high school graduations, proms, wedding receptions, and birthday parties, as well as did portrait work. She still does event photography, and she also does shoots for bloggers and brands that need visual content for social media. She really enjoys working with brands because doing so gives her more creative freedom.

Finding Her Process

Japal further sharpened her photography, painting, and digital skills from 2014 until 2018 at UA, where studio art was her major and painting was her secondary. She considers herself an abstract artist, and her work includes designs and a lot of line work and layering. Her paintings usually come from a stressful or emotional place, and she paints messy, “so there’s a lot more expression.”

She found her painting process at UA: “I always paint in layers because a white piece of paper overwhelms me, … so I just have to get something down,” Japal said. “I do a wash of color or something first and then start adding some kind of line work or detail or pattern. … I keep going until I feel like it’s enough.

“Photography is … different. They’re different tactile things. Painting is more expressive with your hands. Photography is more technical, and you can manipulate photographs on a computer [afterward], so I think that’s why I like it more.”

Check out Japal’s work on Instagram @carolinejapal and at www.carolinejapal.com.