Aaron J. Jackson in Depth About Photography, Life, Creative Direction & More

by Rubén Palma
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Aaron J. Jackson, is a multi-talented artist, working as a photographer, director, creative/art director, and author based in Miami, FL. With a deep passion for storytelling in the world of imagery, Aaron specializes in a wide range of creative pursuits. His expertise includes portrait, documentary, commercial, and editorial photography, as well as music videos and commercial videos.

Preferring to identify himself as a visual storyteller rather than simply a photographer or director, Jackson views storytelling as a fundamental element in capturing the beauty and rawness of his subjects. Driven by a desire to capture the essence of his subjects and communicate narratives, Aaron utilizes his artistic vision and technical skills to bring stories to life through visual mediums. His work captures authentic moments, exploring themes of identity, physical space, and raw emotions, providing a window into real-life experiences.

His photographs have been commissioned by Tobacco Free Florida, Miami Herald, 11 Freunde, Adidas, Rolling Loud Festival, Atlantic Records, Sony Records, and more.

Hi Aaron, thank you for sitting down with me. First question, that I always ask. What does a regular day look like for you in Miami?

Man, thank you for having me. Hmm, I know this might sound crazy and bizarre but a typical day for me in Miami would have to be going to the Library or going to Panther Coffee in Little Haiti sometimes to get work done on my MacBook. I like going there because I’m able to block out any distractions and get all my creative work done in an environment where other people are either learning or doing some work of their own, feel me? In a city like Miami, man you can easily get distracted by so many things like parties, women, beaches, etc. So I try to at least go where there are like-minded people because you’re able to get inspired and motivated in real time.

So how did you get introduced to photography? What were the early days like? How did you first start out practicing with your camera? And when did your journey start for real?

Ruben, you don’t understand how much I love it when people ask me this because I remember this like it was yesterday. I got introduced to photography when I was 15. Literally 10-11 years ago and around that time I was still finding myself cause I just got cut from the basketball team and I didn’t know what else to do with my life. So spring break came up and my aunt invited me and my cousin to go up to Atlanta with her for the week for vacation. One evening my cousin and I were chilling in the dining room and my cousin asked me “Cuzzo, have you heard of Tumblr” I was like “nah” and he turned his computer towards me and showed me his profile and once that happen I was just amazed because he showed me pictures that I’ve never seen before at that time. Now mind you this is 2012-2013. I would see never before images of Michael Jordan playing with his kids, Kobe Bryant at practice, Tupac behind the scenes, etc. and at that moment I was like I got to find a way to get me a camera. When I got back to school that next week it was time to sign up for my Junior year classes for the following year and out of all the selections of the electives the photography class stood out the most! Haha. But to make a Long story short, my grandmother surprised me with a camera for my birthday later that year and since then my journey started and I’ve been taking Photography and Imagery seriously. I would go out and shoot around Miami and shoot random places and things to develop my style and learn as I go to get better. Those were the good eager days man. It’s crazy how time flies!

How important is authenticity in your work? And can a picture still be good, if it doesn’t have any?

From my perspective, I do think it’s very important that I capture or showcase the rawness through my work because that’s honestly what I think separates me from other artists and photographers. But mostly my approach isn’t always really all about trying to have each image or subject being authentic or raw, my ultimate goal is how can I tell a story/narrative with an image or how can I tell my subject’s story whether it’s a 1-minute clip or in a split of a second through imagery, feel me? haha, I hope that makes sense.

I know that you’re also creative directing and directing music videos etc. Talk to me a little bit about that.

Yea man, I’ve been doing all types of direction work majority of my career. I feel like ever since the middle of the pandemic people are starting to notice more and more that I’ve been Creative Directing because around that time I was in school for Commercial Art Technology, which taught me the fundamentals of art. Those two years that I was in school enhanced my creative and art direction skills to another level because now I’m able to communicate with graphic designers, artists, photographers, directors, etc. artistically and technically with potential projects.

As far as directing music videos, in the midst of last year, I was photographing my friend Bushy B’s cover for his project which is called ‘Planet Blue’ which you should definitely check out by the way. He and I were just catching up on life and talking about his upcoming project and while we were shooting the cover and talking he was like “Have you ever shot any music videos before?” and I told him “I was like “a couple when I first started out in photography but nothing really too crazy” and he was like “Why don’t you shoot one of my videos for this project” I was like “I don’t know man, that’s really not my lane”, He was like “I don’t know man, I feel like you got the vision” and while he’s saying all this I was like “Stop being comfortable and get out your shell. You’ll never know you’ll be good or not till you actually try it”. So I told him while photographing him “You know what bro?, I’ll do it”, and after that, I started shooting his videos. But after we shot his first video he called me and was like “What would you call yourself? A Creative Director?”, “I told him “yea, that’s what I really be doing the most, to be honest”, and to this day I’m his Creative Director as well. Also, I just want to say this before we go on to the next question.

A lot of people think creative directing is just coming up with an idea and just posting it on social media but people gotta understand it’s more to that. You really have to make plans, schedule things, build teams, and be in charge of every single task, etc. I really feel that role is a misconception of its title because I truly think a creative director is a project manager. Sorry for the long response Ruben! I’m just too passionate and want the readers to feel this shit! haha.

With that in mind. What makes photography your preferred medium of expressing yourself?

Photography will always be my first love. It’s something about looking through that viewfinder, that gives me chills every time. It’s very therapeutic for me. Without photography, I don’t know what I’ll be doing today. I think about that sometimes because I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I honestly can say photography changed my life, it took me places that I wouldn’t ever imagine foreal. But to answer your question, photography is my preferred medium of expressing myself because the viewer gets to see what I see in my perspective, ya feel me? That’s why I show the rawness in my photos cause I want to make you feel like you were there when I took that picture when you look at my photographs. I want you to get goosebumps when you look at my images. Photography is a powerful tool man. Each photo that I put out to the world is honestly a reflection of myself, that’s why I’m very strategic when I release certain photos. I hope that ain’t too weird! haha

Other than the camera and lens. Are there any essential items that you always bring with you when shooting?

Yes, most definitely. If it’s not the essential things like the camera or lens as you mentioned, I’ll bring a strobe for lighting and a couple of C-stands, or a reflector but it all depends on the look I’m going for in the shoot.

You’ve shot some pretty renowned artists such as: Trippy Red, Trina, Young Dolph (RIP), and Lil Keed (RIP). How did that come about? and what was that experience like?

It was cool man but honestly, I don’t go crazy over celebrities or rappers I be stoked about Photographers, Directors, Cinematographers, and Art/Creative Directors. So I really be treating them like normal people you feel me? I’m from Miami where we see celebrities all the time, haha plus when you shooting client work you gotta focus on getting the picture taken. But I’m not going to even lie I was star strucked when I saw Young Dolph. That shit was like a movie. He was moving so militant and I respected him 10x more for that for sure. Lil Keed was an interesting situation because I would think he would be one way but he was laid back and chill, and for Trina that was spur of the moment because she was in the cut getting ready for this Music Video my homie directed and I caught her in her zone before she started doing her performance scene. That picture of Trina is really an exclusive moment because I feel like not too many people can get close to her like that unless she wants you to.

A couple of years ago, you published the book: “Liberty City Project”, With pictures from Liberty City. Can you tell me about that area? and what made you want to document it?

I wouldn’t say a couple of years but definitely a few long years ago haha. But yea, ‘The Liberty City Project’ was the very first book/project that I ever created. Shit, sometimes I forget I even made that book. I believe I published that book in like 2017. That book opened up so many doors for me to the point that people still come up to me here and there and ask me if they can still get copies of it but honestly, as an artist ‘The Liberty City Project’ is my least favorite. I cringe every time I look at it and that’s because I’ve grown as an artist, I’ve gotten better creatively, and during those times making that book I was still in the beginning stages in my career. I was still learning myself, but one thing that I loved about ‘The Liberty City Project’ is I gave people a real glimpse of where I come from and I got to tell stories of the people that come from where I come from, 4sho.

What got me to even think about even making a book was this one moment when I took a trip to Atlanta and I went to this bookstore somewhere around Marietta and I came across this original 1971 Larry Clark book called ‘Tulsa’ and turns out that was his first published book (don’t quote me) and what gravitated me the most of the book is the rawness in the people he captured so at that moment I was like I gotta do this in my perspective and I would say I kind of did. Like even if you look at ‘The Liberty City Project’ cover and ‘Tulsa’ cover it looks similar.

Shout out to Larry Clark for inspiring me to do that foreal he doesn’t get enough credit. Also, shout out to the homie Adrian from Race Radio, don’t know if he wants to be labeled as that anymore but shout out to that man cause he helped me put a gallery show together for ‘The Liberty City Project’ in 2017 when I didn’t have any financial backing and, shout out to the homie Steve from Lower East Coast in Miami for letting us use his space for the show! Who knows I might do a reissue one of theses days, haha.

What motivates you?

Life, traveling, tasteful European furniture, Architectural stuff, family, nature, and giving people around me opportunities. 

How would you describe a perfect day?

A perfect day for me is when that deposit hit that account haha nah, I’m just playing but a perfect day for me is when I’m getting ready for a trip and don’t have to worry about work or anything. 

Can you tell me about Bajj Studio? When did you get into fashion, what’s your vision for the brand and what has that experience been like?

Of course! Bajj Studio is just another part of me to showcase to the world, and my fans a design and the Creative Direction side of me. I started the brand while I was in college for ‘Commercial Art Technology’ in 2020 during the pandemic. I feel like I’ve always been into fashion since middle school so I was always tapping into what’s been going on. I always gravitated to the old school way of dressing but adding a little new flavor into my style, feel me? Even to this day, but not to digress.

Most people just knew me for photography or video and still do but I want people to get another piece of me through apparel, ya know? The brand is really giving people a tasteful experience of my world, whether it’s from the clothes I design/make, to the campaign photos, or the music I share in a playlist.

My vision for the brand is to cater to individuals who embrace a simplistic and casual sensibility fashion approach and embodying a nostalgic feel to the garments all the way to graphic design. All in all, the experience is fun for me because I’m learning another perspective of art and business. I’m also giving homies that I personally know an easier route to use my brand as their canvas so they can put anything that I hired them to do under bajj on their resume or portfolio. Another reason why I created the brand is to create opportunities for people that I know trying to make it in this art world.

Who do you look up to?

Most of my intimate circle. Shout out to my uncle Slice, and shout out to Rodman aka Rodddzilla, Esdras ‘Phototea’ Thelusma, Jerry Carnation from Filthy, the homie Smitty and my big cuz Craig Allen. If I missed out on anybody forgive me I know a lot of people haha.

Alright Aaron. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?

Damn, that’s a hard one. hmm, as cliché as this might sound but I would say “Belly’ and I chose that movie because cinematically and visually that movie is amazing. 

The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?

haha man these last two questions are way too hard to answer! But nah, I’m listening to the Oncle Jazz album by Men I Trust, the ‘Tokyo Sniper album by Ryusenkei, the Recollection ∈ Echo album by James Mason, and the ‘Introduction’ album by Mr. Fingers. If you know, you know!  

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