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Support Series — Jai Lennard

Jai Lennard

Photographer

Brooklyn, NY



As a BIPOC Creative, what does support mean to you?

The best type of support for the BIPOC community is selflessness. I think our industry is so engraved in exchange — not equitable exchange, at that. Sometimes it’s good to remember that we all benefit down the line when more of us can add to the creative pot.


What is a big challenge being a BIPOC creative in your industry?

One of the largest challenges in being BIPOC creative is understanding how cultural norms affect judgment on who you are as a creative and person, better than the people who hire you. It’s a very hard exchange and interaction to quantify and detail, but racism and simple prejudice very much exists and holds this community back in DEEP ways.

Why are telling BIPOC stories important to you?

The BIPOC community has been through a whole different range of lifestyles, that include injustice of all sorts, that have forced them to be stronger, more resilient, and creative. It’s only right this community is able to express themselves and tell stories that are not just important but entertaining.

What is your cultural heritage and how has it influenced your work?

I’m African American, but my heritage comes from Nigeria. Being that the majority and connection of my history have been erased, I find it very hard for me to create based on that history.

Who has supported you and why was it meaningful?

I worked for Daniel Garriga on and off for nearly a decade — he was my first internship. This was someone who never ever hesitated to let me borrow their main camera or lights to get what I wanted done. It was NEVER a problem or a question and that truly helped propel me.


Another photographer who I worked for at the end of my assisting stage immediately saw potential and talent in me and raised my rate, then had me shooting with him as a second-shooter, on his campaign jobs. This act directly lead to me making enough money to step out of assisting.




Who are your mentors? What creatives did you aspire to, respect or were inspired by growing up?

When I was coming up, I looked up to Annie Leibovitz and Phillip Toledano. Annie because of her classic portrait style, and Phil is an advertising mogul and true creative. He’s all about the idea and doesn’t care so much about the medium — he’s just someone who gets it done and that was truly inspiring to see someone straddle art and commerce.



Why is DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) important to you and your industry?

Because we can’t move forward without learning and acknowledging our collective history. Without DEI, we will continue to hurt and disproportionately affect those who deserve an equitable chance at creating, building, and earning a living.


Why is BIPOC representation meaningful to you?

It is the collective voice fighting against generations of storytelling that has been solely focused on the White narrative.

Who would you like to support?

2 years ago I decided to root for everyone Black, after spending a few years supporting everyone female. It’s a community I’m a part of but would also like to be more connected to — I grew up in a white community. My program Color Positive aims to do just that.


Can you name any brands that are actively supporting BIPOC creatives?

I have found that The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard Magazine, which are under the same parent company, are extremely good and not just hiring new talent but talent from the BIPOC community. It helps that their print schedule is often, but they put it into practice.



Are there any non-profit organizations that you support?

NAACP and my own program (not officially non-profit) Color Positive.



Any words of advice or encouragement to BIPOC creatives just starting out?

KEEP GOING. So many people get frustrated, tired, and bow out. Keep going. Persistence is a truly great asset in the creative industry. It's one of many ways to earn respect and eyes on your work.

Have you ever experienced any discrimination or limitations with work opportunities as a BIPOC creative?

Absolutely. How much time do you have?

SUPPORT

Jai Lennard

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