Malcolm Jackson, a Jacksonville native, is a self-taught photographer who works under the moniker Malc Jax. During his adolescent years Malcolm spent the majority of his time in neighborhoods on the north and east side of Jacksonville. At the age of five Malcolm started running track and field with the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU). He continued to compete in the sport until the age of 15 when injuries prevented him from further competition.
It was around this time when Malcolm set his track shoes aside and picked up his first camera. Malcolm explored the world of photography as a coping mechanism for depression. Being behind the camera and getting lost in the world he was shooting was an escape for Malcolm. For the most part, Malcolm’s battle with depression is behind him but photography is still a therapeutic release.
Malcolm’s introduction to the world of photography occurred through his uncle, who worked part-time as a freelance photographer during the 1990s and 2000s. Malcolm would join his uncle when out shooting. At shoots, Malcolm would hold his uncle’s camera in his hands and familiarize himself with the feel of it. Malcolm and his uncle shared a love for cars, and car meetings is where Malcolm first began shooting and learning the fundamentals of photography.
10 Questions with Malcolm Jackson
Describe the world that you set out to capture through the use of photography.
I look to capture life in the 21st century in its purest state. There’s a certain beauty in street photography that allows you to freeze frame people’s stories. I spend most of my time shooting in the Springfield and Northwest Jacksonville because I was raised in both of those areas. When I shoot, I aim to showcase areas and subjects in a way that others are able to relate. Often I look for things that strike a chord of nostalgia within me personally because the image reminds me of something I saw while growing up.
What tools and resources have you used to learn about photography as an art and using cameras and equipment as a skill? How did these resources influence your thinking and photographing?
I am a self taught photographer but I have gained most of my knowledge about photography through networking with fellow photographers. I was always taught to learn first hand, so meeting up with another photographer, in their environment, allowed me to understand the idea of “it’s not the camera, it’s the person.” It wasn’t until a few years later that I began to study the work of other street photographers via books, digital collections, etc. Studying the work of others allows me to compare and contrast and pushes me to become more introspective. I try to form an understanding of the photographer in the moment in which the shutter was released.
Do you find yourself viewing the world around you through the perspective of a viewfinder even when you do not have your camera in hand? If yes, how do you strike a balance between experiencing a moment first hand and trying to frame up a potential image?
There are photographs to be taken everywhere and my mind is always on taking those photos. The one issue with photographers is that we get so caught up in capturing the moment that we can’t truly experience that exact moment when it happens. If I see an image and I don’t have my camera I simply keep on walking. I approach it as though I wasn’t meant to take that photo. That said, I try to always keep a camera on me at all times.
What technology/software/camera gear did you use when you first started to dabble in photography? What equipment do you presently use?
My first camera was a Kodak EasyShare z812IS digital camera. A high school friend gave me the camera and showed me the basics of how to use it. My first DSLR was a Nikon D70. I currently shoot with a Leica M6, Nikon F100, and Nikon D7100. I use Adobe Lightroom for post production editing.
You released a book of photography titled “Best Served with Tea.” What led you to that title and what did you learn about yourself through that project?
Coffee table photography books are some of my favorite things to look at. I always wanted to create a coffee table book, so I made one. After I put the book together I was able to reflect on how important authenticity is to my work. I titled the book “Best Served With Tea” because I personally prefer hot tea over coffee.
Your portfolio consists of a number of candid moments. How do your subjects typically respond when you bring out your camera to capture an image? What do you say or do so a subject appears natural and at ease in the moment?
Reactions vary. Usually, I get a weird stare that is followed by the subject saying, “take another one I wasn’t ready.” I’m mostly shooting film when I’m on the street. The camera is more compact than a giant DSLR so it isn’t as intimidating.
I have had a couple of rough run-ins with strangers, but no real threats. People in the south have a different reaction to a camera than people in northern cities, like New York, due to the nature of what’s going on in those environments. In NYC, a photographer when shooting can go completely unnoticed in a sea of 8 million people. In southern cities, and Jacksonville in particular, there’s a high likelihood that your subject knows that you are there photographing, so you are either going to take the shot or you aren’t.
I believe that southern street photographers, when compared to northern street photographers, are more intimate with their subjects and scenes.
How does black and white vs color play into your work? How do you select which format to shoot in?
I enjoy shooting both black and white and color. I think both formats are equally important. It’s tough for me to explain exactly why I enjoy black and white, but it’s such a timeless concept that allows the audience’s imagination to just soar.
Color photography requires an understanding of tones. A street photographer has to be mindful of the time of day and take advantage of natural lighting. With color photography I want my audience to really contemplate the colors and question how such colors were captured.
I shoot most of my work in black and white. Normally I don’t shoot during the hours when light is the harshest. But if I do, black and white holds up better than color. I usually shoot color during the golden hour, which is the period of time shortly after sunrise or before sunset. During these times, daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is high in the sky.
What do you think makes a photograph memorable?
If you provoke any type of emotion from the photograph then it holds value and can be memorable.
When you are out shooting, how much of your process is instinctual versus planned?
The only thing that’s really planned when I’m shooting is what film I load into the camera. I allow the world to progress at its normal pace and I fit in where I can. I try to orchestrate or interfere as little as possible when I’m out shooting.
What role has social media played in your photography? What are some Instagram profiles that you follow for inspiration?
Social media has been my guiding light in photography. I am able to take a photo and instantly get feedback/advice from people who share my interests. You can’t beat that.
Flickr and Instagram opened the door for me to meet and form relationships with other photographers. Instagram specifically has had a big impact on me. I’ve formed relationships within my community and I have built a following for my work.
In 2013, I became a Suggested User on Instagram. Suggested Users are the first 15 accounts that a new Instagram user sees when they log in for the first time. I received 30,000 new followers by the end of my two week tenure as a Suggested User. A lot of the friends that I have made through the app have gone on to become full-time freelance photographers shooting for big clients and have even become brand ambassadors for camera brands like Leica and Canon. Some of my favorite accounts right now are @photodre, @kingtexas, @trashhand, @travisjensen, @andrewhektor, and @iampatrickchin.