[The Uncommon Creatives] Interview with Jay Visualz

Taken by Shae McCoy

I met Jay back in March, thanks to my little cousin. One of my cousins passed away days before and my family came from out of town, so I decided to take some of my other cousin’s to Washington, D.C. as a way to take their minds off of what was going on. We went to go eat some food a Ben’s Chili Bowl and I met Jay afterward. My cousin’s and I walked up to the street a little bit where Jay and another young man were taking photos of beautiful ladies. Usually when I see someone with a camera I just walk up to them and start talking my shit, but I was trying to handle grieving so I didn’t even want to be bothered with anyone. We continued our stroll and on the way back down we ran into them again. My cousin ended up introducing us so I feel like it was meant to be.

Fast forward to June and we are sitting at the D.C. Wharf re-recording this interview multiple times before actually getting the sound correct. We also took some time to explore the Wharf which I’ve only been to for a Tyler, the Creator concert. It is always interesting to gain perspective from other photographers, so I definitely enjoyed this one.

Interview with Jay Visualz & Shae McCoy

Photo taken by Shae McCoy

SM: We’re going to start with your name, age, where you’re from.

JR: John Ross. Nickname: Jay Vizualz. 32. From the DC Metropolitian area

SM: What does being a creative mean to you?

JR: In a couple words, to me, it means thinking outside the box.

SM: What is it that you do creatively?

JR: What I do creatively…is I like to capture different perspectives, as in different angles. My own motto has always been, ‘It’s all about the angles’.

SM: Is this your passion??

JR: It definitely is! I dwell into it, if you were to go through my Google search history or my youtube history it’s nothing but photography and cinematography how-to’s and everything else that goes with.

SM: How did you discover this particular thing was your passion and what were the determining factors?

JR: Well I kind of knew it was in me because my grandmother was a photographer. She was a personal photographer for Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, and she was a wedding/event photographer, so I guess it’s in the blood. But when I was working at Best Buy, back back in the day when I was in like 11th grade, I’d seen a little handheld HD cam and I thought to myself this would be dope to record with. Because if a picture says a thousand words, a video can say more. I like to preserve memories in time, so I figured video would be even better for that. I took it upon myself to save up some money and I bought the little HD camera and started Vlogging before ‘Vlog’ was even a word.

SM: What are some hardships that you’ve experienced in your creative field?

JR: Time. Having a 9 to 5 and being able to manage time, because when I would get hit up for certain events or certain projects I was always working or I’d have to let a project go because I was always at work. To me that was my struggle because I didn’t have enough time to be as creative as I wanted to be.

SM: How did you learn to manage your time?

JR: I quit my 9 to 5! I quit both of my jobs actually, but it was worth it. I had to jump out there and take the leap of faith, but it was so worth it. I love that I have now.

SM: How do you help others with your craft?

JR: I like to use it to bring people together. I’ll put up a post or tell people that may be into photography or that wants to learn about photography, kids too, it doesn’t matter who it is. I’ve had a couple parents reach out to me saying they have a son or daughter that’s into photography and were wondering if I’d be willing to show them the ropes, and how much I’d charge but I typically don’t charge for that, because it’s my passion and I wouldn’t want to put a limit on somebody else’s passion by having them say they can’t do it because they can’t afford it. Sometimes I’ll grab a group of photographers and we’ll go out and have little challenges such as, who can capture what within one minute or how creatively they can capture a certain muse because every photographer has their own style of shooting. It’s the same with videography, so I try to tell everybody to just be you. Don’t try to copy off of anybody because what you take through the camera is your perspective. It’s what you see through your eyes so that’s how you’re able to show people what’s in your mind or what you see because you’re capturing it through your own personal angle.

SM: Good answer! What makes you stand out in your field? Like what is like the unique thing that people know you for? When compared to other videographers/photographers/cinematographers, etc.

JR: I want to say…I think too deeply on things so my answer might be a little slow. Considering I’m what they call a Hybrid, in that I do photography, cinematography, I work with drones…I do a little bit of everything. And I don’t put down nothing, that’s one thing, I don’t limit myself. So if we’re talking about what’s going to make me stand out, sometimes it could be my image. I may not look like the average photographer like I’ve had people tell me, ‘You don’t look like a photographer’, and I’m like wait what does a photographer look like?! That’s a question to ask other people, I would like to hear other people’s perspectives on me and what makes me stand out because people say that I do, but I want to know why I stand out. So, no straight up answer for that one.

SM: If you could be doing anything else, other than what you’re doing as a creative what would it be?

JR: IT (Information technology) field. I’m a geek, well a cool geek, I’m a tech head I love electronics and I love putting things together and taking things apart. I remember when my mother bought be a PlayStation 2 and like on the 3rd day having it I took it apart and she was like ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I told her I wanted to know how it worked. I like to know how things work; I have a curious mind so I’d definitely be in that field. I already worked in the IT field, but I would go back to that if I wasn’t doing this.

Photo taken by Shae McCoy

SM: Who or what are your creative inspirations?

JR: For the most part I’d definitely say my grandmother, because when I go back and look at her old photos she definitely had an eye. My sister, Diamond, is also a photographer & she has a clothing line called Passion Over Pain, and she has a very good eye, so it really runs in the family. She’s down in Atlanta and I’ll catch myself going through her IG page and looking at her photos thinking, ‘That was a dope angle/perspective right there’. She was more serious about the photography before I was. I go on YouTube and see all the creatives there’s a lot of them that stand out to me, and that kind of inspires me, just being able to, I don’t want to say imitate or duplicate, but to kind of throw my own style on stuff.

SM: That kind of segue ways into my next question, I was going to ask have you met any of the people that inspire you? But your sibling is one of them, so yeah..

JR: Yeah. But the crazy thing is me and my sister have never shot with each other. We’ve never gone out so that’s one thing we’re definitely going to do, like I said she lives in Atlanta I’m in DC so we’re in two great cities. I know for a fact that if both of us come together we’re going to turn up with the cameras we could definitely make some things happen since we’ve got two creative minds. Two creative minds are better than one. And that’s why I like to branch out to other photographers or cinematographers, I’m never the type that wants to step on anybody’s toes. If I feel like you have something that you can bring to the table I’m going to invite you to be in on said project, because you might have something that stands out that I can’t do or don’t know about. I think that collectively we all have to come together in order to create.

SM: What is the most rewarding thing that has happened on your career so far?

SM: You look very happy to talk about this!

JR: I’m always happy when it comes to talking about my passion and what I love to do! January 2, 2019 is when I got my LLC and I decided to take things seriously, not even a whole month later, thanks to my man Chef Anthony, he gave me the opportunity to do all of his photos in one of his cookbooks. And I asked, ‘does this make me a published photographer?’ and he was like yeah it does! So I was like, well dang! I’m a published photographer already!? That’s whats up! Make sure you check that out, it’s on Amazon. I got a couple other things too..

SM: Talk about them all!

JR: I just got a contract with the fire department, this is stuff I NEVER thought I would do, because I’m trying to be on the more corporate side of things with my craft. I want to do commercials and promo videos, etc. I really got into this game to do promo videos for people’s businesses, because, you know content is king right now. And we live in the social media era where content is everything so if somebody has an idea I want to be able to manifest their idea into existence, because a lot of people have ideas but a lot of people don’t know how to put things together, so I just want to be able to manifest their visions into this reality and help them sell what they’re trying to sell.

Photo taken by Shae McCoy

SM: What do you think you can do a better job of as a creative?

JR: What can I do better? Organization. I’ve got to be more organized, I need to go old school and start jotting things down on paper because I have so much going on in my mind at one time. I feel like you asked me a question and I completely overlooked it because there’s so much stuff running through my mind. I hear that’s part of being a creative because there’s so much going on I got to stay focused an it’s hard to stay focused on one thing due to there being so many things going on in my mind, so that’s the main thing just staying focused and staying organized.

SM: What do you see yourself doing in the next 5 years? I know that’s like a cliché question but its still relevant, got to have a plan.

JR: Yeah, got to have a plan, what is a goal without plans? What I can see myself doing is travelling the world. Mark my words on this interview I will be doing some world travelling, getting paid for this travel, all expenses covered. This is my dream to be able to do what I love to do and get paid to travel, I want to be able to capture different perspectives, different people, different cultures I just want to go out there and create. Some people are afraid to leave the hood or leave their grounds where they are right now and they’ll never be able to experience that, but they will be able to experience it through me because I’m trying to capture all of that for them.

SM: What are you working on next? Any projects coming up?

JR: Oh yeah, I got a lot of stuff. I’m about to work with the black chamber of commerce, the DC chapter on the 10th of next month, which is my mother’s birthday. I have a contract with the fire department I’ll be doing their recruitment videos, a couple weddings coming up. Oh! Another project, I got a call from this record label and they selected 25 people from the whole DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) area and I was selected as a participant to create something that has to do with the music industry and this is going to lead to having a more permanent position within this record label in the videography/cinematography department. We have to link up with other participants and we have to create a project and the deadline is the 25th of this month so that’s the most recent project I’m working on actually.

SM: Lit! Alright, so just to wrap things up, let everybody know where they can find you and your work.

JR: @_vitalvisualz_ IG. I don’t have a Facebook right now, I’ve been told I need one, I need to make a business page so you’ll see the Facebook soon. I guess I might get on twitter, I wasn’t really fond of it but I’ve heard it’s great for networking so I’m going to do it, for the business.

SM: Thank you for setting aside time for me, we’re about to go take some pictures, and we out!