I’m Jamal. A concert and street portrait photographer based in Washington, D.C.
I like to take pictures. No, really.
For me, photography has always been an outlet for my creativity. When I was younger, I loved playing with legos. Building and creating, making the gears in my mind turn as I turned my vision into pixelated reality. Somewhere along the way, I felt that that creativity dried up. I’m not quite sure when, but I remember feeling a real existential dread (or at least what felt like it) around my sophomore year of college, as most sophomores do. I took stock of my self and that summer I decided to try something I’d always been interested in. That thing was photography.
At first I was scared. I’d taken a film photography class a few years before and enjoyed it, but I was always afraid of the financial investment that went into purchasing a camera. I took the leap and it opened my mind.
I realized that my creativity had not dried up. It wasn’t gone, it had just moved on, and I needed to catch up.
I was relentless my first few years as a photographer. Hungry and motivated, I took every opportunity to make photos. I found myself at events, shooting weddings, trying my hand a t “fine art” (whatever that means), and then I had the opportunity to shoot a concert.
In those 9 minutes, I’m just 3 short songs, the feeling I’d felt as a little boy came surfing back. Tinkering, changing, adapting to the challenge of a frantic artist and chaotic lighting. I was home.
I felt, and still do, that in those few fleeing moments, you can capture an artist. They leave a piece of themselves upon every stage they perform. A testament to their struggles, their triumphs, their own fears and sacrifice.
The connection the make with their audience. I aim to capture that always. Their most vulnerable and visceral moments, shared with a group of strangers.
I’ve been blessed to sit with artists for interviews. Picking their brains and sharing laughs, then moments later watching as they give themselves to the audience. It’s poetic.
It got me thinking about my legacy. How have I connected?
I came to realize that I’d been using concerts as a crutch to avoid my biggest fear as a photographer; portraiture.
I’d deluded myself into thinking that capturing these visceral moments of others was, by extension, my way of connecting.
In January 2017 I decided to change that. I started a personal project entitled “Art Everyday” to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and make portraits of total strangers.
It’s been exhilarating. And terrifying. I’ve learned a lot about my self and so much about others. I realized that I am a complete goofball and it’s hard to hide. I’ve learned to embrace my awkward, and use it to make meaningful connections.
Since the projects inception, I’ve become more comfortable interacting with, and directing subjects. I feel that I’ve grown so much through this project.
That’s me in a nutshell. A sometimes awkward, but always relentless image maker, who’s becoming less afraid to call himself on his b.s.
These experiences have constantly kept me asking “What is your why?” and it has forced me to take stock of this answer.
So I ask you “What is your why?” and how can we realize it together.
I’m always interested in connecting, so please do reach out. Even f it’s just to say hey.