Aaron J. Jackson is a 21-year old Miami based photographer who specializes in street photography and photojournalism. He sheds light on the black Miami experience overshadowed by the materialism of nightlife. How did you get into photography?
When I look back I was always into visual things. My cousin put me on to Tumblr and I saw pictures that I would never see every day. I saw pictures of my favorite basketball players. I saw behind-the-scenes pictures of Michael Jordan, Kobe [Bryant], and them playing with their kids. I was like “Damn I want to capture that”. The summer before 11th grade, I told my grandma that I wanted a camera and I’m taking a photography class. My grandma said, “We’ll see what we can do”. She surprised me a week before my birthday. We went to Aventura and she bought my first camera, the same camera I use now ’til this day.
What kind of camera was it?
A Nikon D3100. I just fell in love. I started taking pictures ever since. I did the photography class, learned the settings, took off and ran with it.
How would you describe your photography style?
Street. Fashionable. Lifestyle. I always told myself that I wanted to do lifestyle photography to show people what everyday life is compared to the regular sit and pose… which is ok to do but I just like lifestyle photography.
What’s your creative process like?
There are two different processes. When it comes down to photoshoots, I have tunnel vision. I have a way of just focusing on my subject. When I’m editing photos, I like to be in a space where I’m by myself, listening to jazz or old school music. It’s a long process when you want to perfect a photo.
Who are your top 5 inspirations?
I don’t have a top 5 but I can give you a little something. These inspirations are not your typical celebrities but I would say Gordon Parks, Jason Dill, Shawn Stussy, Marvin Gaye, Dick Gregory, Terence Price II, Vivian Maer, PhotoTea, Malcolm Jackson and Chi Modu – that’s a legend, he shot the Infamous cover, Tupac, a lot of the old school hip-hop photography. He took all of the legendary pictures that you know of. I know so many photographers that inspire me so it’s hard for one to be the most inspirational. They all correlate with what I like to do with photojournalism and photography as well.
What is the best type of picture to you?
A picture that captures people that come from where I come from i.e. Liberty City, Carol City, your regular Miami guy that has dookie dreads, permanent gold teeth in their mouth. I would say that would be my ideal picture.
Why would that be your ideal?
Where I come from they don’t showcase or capture those type of people, they just show the glamour of my city. I want to show people that this is not really what Miami is based out of, it’s really the hood.
What’s your dream camera?
The Leica M7TTL or the Nikon D4.
What do you like to do outside of photography?
Photography is my life, it’s what I like doing. I don’t see myself doing anything else outside of photography. I go to parties but it’s not what I like to do. I go to museums but that’s a part of my field. I also like to travel. I feel like I can’t be stuck in one place, I have to see something new all the time, new scenery… different places so I can get inspired for work and just life in general.
What else makes you passionate?
Right now, I’m passionate about photojournalism but I do have other things that I love like interior design, designing as a whole, clothes, visual arts, and just seeing my homies as inspiration. Also, influencing and if it’s not influencing, it’s inspiring people to keep going no matter what it is they want to do whether it’s getting a degree, playing basketball, football, the everyday hustle, or if they really see a dream that they want to pursue. I’m not where I want to be right now and it’s okay. I know where I can be and I’m going to still go for it. I live and die by photography because I see longevity in my career.
Your most recent project was The Liberty City Project. What did you enjoy the most about completing it?
The main thing was bringing awareness, people enjoying it, and the appreciation that people got from it. That’s what I wanted it to be about. I didn’t want to put a book or a project out just to put it out. I wanted it to be what someone can relate to. I wanted to show that the community has positivity and peace compared to just being bad.
The Liberty City Project
What inspired the Liberty City Project? What impact do you want to make in Liberty City?
In February, I went to Cover Books in Midtown Atlanta. I saw this book that caught my eye, it was a black and white photo of a guy with a regular revolver. The book was closed up so I thought it must be special. I looked at it and as soon as I opened it, I saw the imagery of people shooting heroin in the late 60s and early 70s. I saw the name and I did my research when I came back home to Miami. The book was Tulsa by Larry Clark who shot KIDS. Larry Clark himself always brought awareness to a certain extent, it may look weird at first but it was showing what really goes on in certain situations of America. He brought awareness towards the heroin epidemic and where he came from. He basically went back to where he came from and saw his friends shoot up all the time, it was really big in those times. I wanted my project to reflect on where I come from and I wanted to bring awareness to the positivity and gentrification in my city. I wanted to show people the real Liberty City before it becomes gentrified.
What impact do you want to make in Liberty City?
You know me, I express where I come from a lot because it’s what made me. I want people to look at me and say he made it out of Liberty City without football. A lot of people I know made it out because of football and they’re NFL players. I want the impact to be where people can see that we have very creative people in Liberty City. I want Liberty City to be impacted wherever I go. I represent Miami but I rep Liberty City the most. A lot of people don’t make it out of Liberty City or make it to 21 and I just got to 21, I’m blessed. I’m not even supposed to be here statistically. I might not get the attention of every kid or every person but if I can get one person to be inspired out of one million people, I’ll be satisfied with that.
What is your goal as a photographer?
Being my own boss when it comes down to this. I have millions of goals but with the space I’m in now, I want to be featured by different types of magazines and featured with other photographers in projects. If we’re talking about A 5-year goal or 10-year goal, I want to be a photographer that shot and captured celebrities that you’ve never seen before. My goal is to inspire people when they look at my pictures, I want them to see what I saw when I took that picture. I want people to get a chill when they see my pictures.
Is there anything new with Mxstermind?
Well…. right now, Mxstermind is retired. I’m going to reinstate it soon. I’m not in a space to do Mxstermind right now. People are asking for shirts that I made last year and I’m starting to see it build up but I’m chilling on it. Don’t be surprised when you see something in a few months.
What’s next for you?
Lately, I’ve been doing poetry. You know what project I’m talking about because you helped on different occasions. I’m doing projects with my good friends. As a co-founder of 92 Minds, me and Xleoniduz are trying to push our record company into place with Dotson, and Zay. I’m in a space where I want to collaborate with people. I’m trying to collaborate with people I feel I can make shit happen with. I’m also in a space where I want to give my underground friends and artists who don’t get love a platform so they can showcase their work whether it’s music, art, visual arts, etc.