If you had told high school Jamaree Woods that someday he’d be taking photos of some of the biggest names in hip-hop, he’d have called you crazy, and for good reason. The Southern California native didn’t even pick up a real camera until halfway through his freshman year at Morehouse College. In fact, life as a creative couldn’t have been further from Jamaree’s life plans. “In high school, I wanted to play basketball for UCLA, USC -- really anywhere in California,” he says. “Pretty much everything I did was centered around basketball. But I wasn’t accepted to any of those schools. I was told about Morehouse, I looked into it, applied, and then they let me in. They were like, ‘Oh yeah, we mess with you.’ So I had no choice. I was like, ‘I’m going to Morehouse.’”
Such open-mindedness and an embrace of adventure are two of Jamaree’s defining qualities. Not only did those traits spur his move cross-country for college at the last second, they also fueled his meteoric rise in Atlanta’s photography and videography ranks. His biggest break so far -- securing a job with legendary hip-hop photographer Cam Kirk -- came after Cam’s studio managers watched Jamaree sneak onstage with his camera to shoot rapper G Herbo at a Morehouse concert. “They stopped me after the show and were like, ‘We saw you doing your thing at the show. We’ve seen your work. The work ethic is dope. We want creators like you with us.’”
That on-the-spot recruitment moment was just the beginning. Read this week’s 10-in-10 interview for more on Jamaree’s unconventional, inspirational ascent from self-taught neophyte to bonafide scene maker, including his views on mental readiness, getting paid, the importance of writing down “weird things,” and, um, that time Flo Milli snuck him into a strip club.
Your photography career took off so fast, we’re wondering, do you ever wonder about the road not taken for you?
Damn, not getting into any of the basketball schools...it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, because photography was eventually able to take the front seat. Not that I knew that or anything. My first year at Morehouse, I was trying to fit in with all the dudes and find my place. It was pretty tough at first. Towards the end of that first semester, my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I was like, “Shit, I don’t know. A camera, yeah, give me a camera.” As soon as I got it on Christmas Day, I started taking photos of my family and friends. I realized, “Yo, I could make money off this.” Second semester started and spring break rolled around and everybody was in Miami except me. I was in my dorm like, “What the hell?” So I went to the library, sat at a computer, and started playing with a bunch of editing apps and threw a quick video together. Came back the next day and did it again. The whole spring break I was the only dude in the library, just sat at that computer by myself, having a blast editing photos and putting videos together. I was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna start doing this for dough.”
And how did you end up doing that?
The summer after my freshman year, one of my buddies told me about Cam Kirk. I checked out his Instagram and loved his work. I DM’ed him something like, “Yo, I go to Morehouse. I want to work with you, I want to work for you. I’m going to go to your studio, I’m trying to be like you.” I never got a reply back. I was like, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”
My sophomore year I started working for the organization that does photography and videos for Morehouse events. I was a hard-headed ass individual, so I really wasn’t listening to that many of the organization’s rules for photographers at events. One of the rules was that interns weren’t allowed to go on stage at concerts. I was like, “F that. I’m going on stage.” G Herbo came to Morehouse for a show and Kodie Shane was opening for him. Kodie is one of my favorite artists, so I was like, “I’m going to sneak up on stage.” I got up there and started recording, and it turns out that a couple of the people in the audience were Cam Kirk’s studio managers. And that was that.
Your hustle mentality surely had a lot to do with your success. Is that what you suggest for other artists trying to break in? Disregard any rules and go for it?
Well, you’ve always got to be on your toes, you’ve got to be mentally ready. You’ve also got to network, talk to people, get to know them. And I would also say, if you have a vision, go for it. Don’t settle for when it’s close to perfect. Make that vision that you have in your mind. So if you have something in your mind, stop what you’re doing, write it down, find the people you want to be involved, and just have a creative mind everywhere you go. That’s just me as a creative, you know, 24/7 thinking creatively, writing things down, even if they’re weird. You know, I think that’s the thing about creating. If you do something weird, you get the most attention.
You’ve photographed a lot of big names with your approach --
Yeah. Both personally and at events. YG, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti, Mike Will Made It, Swae Lee, Gunner Stahl -- which was funny cause I was a photographer taking pictures of another photographer -- Ludacris, Seddy Hendrix, K Camp, Kodie Shane, Flo Milli -- oh, Flo Milli was unforgettable. She snuck me into a strip club. Best time ever.
Whoa, whoa, story please!
So I got a text from the studio one night a couple years ago, asking if any videographers were available for a shoot that night. I was sitting in my room like, “Damn, I ain’t doing nothing, might as well reply.” They didn’t tell me who I was shooting for -- they just gave me the location and the time. I pulled up and it was some hotel in Buckhead with a whole bunch of Suburbans parked outside. I was like, “What the hell is going on?” I saw another guy from Cam Kirk’s studio and he told me, “She’s taking us to a strip club.” Keep in mind, I still didn’t know who I was shooting. He asked me, “You got your ID?” I was like, “Yeah.” He said, “How old are you?” I was like, “20.” He said, “Fuck, I’m going to let her know. We’re gonna see what we can do.” When we got to the club, I walked in, and they asked for my ID. I was like, “Fuck, this the part where I’m gonna be like, ‘I can’t shoot for you.’” Then, all the sudden, Flo Milli just shows up behind me and goes, “You don't need to check no ID. He’s my videographer, he’s with us." They looked at her and said, “Fuck it, go ahead.” So, yeah, it ended being a video for her Instagram highlighting her birthday experience at this strip club. It was pretty cool to see her post it on her IG, I was like, “Damn, she really posted my video.”
What does your family think about all of this?
Man, it’s crazy, because my family is like...I’m not saying they’re regular, but they’re old school. They don’t know none of this stuff. They’re just like, “Oh, you know, he’s just taking photos.” They don't know who Cam Kirk is. They don’t know that a camera is very powerful. Sometimes I’ll tell my mom, like, “I just shot for Seddy Hedrix,” and she’ll kind of understand, like, “Okay, this video, these photos you’re taking are getting you near celebrities.” But still, I don’t think they really understand. They just think I’m out here taking photos just for fun. Maybe if I were to tell them that I shot for Keyshia Cole it would be big for them because she’s more their vibe. They don’t know these new generation rappers. I’m the oldest in my family, though. One of my brothers is 19, and the other is four. The four year-old is so photogenic -- I love to take polaroids of him, even though I’m pretty sure he has no idea what’s going on when I shoot him.
Right, probably not. Do you have some serious gear at this point? Also, we assume you’re getting paid now?
For gear, I got a Sony A6000 Mirrorless. That’s a must. It’s the cheapest in the series but it still does the job. 35mm sigma lens. Then I have my very first camera. I will never sell it. It will forever be the prop. The Canon Rebel 36. That’s what I used to shoot with at first. I got the Nishika, the model Nishika 8000, the 3D photo one. And I have an HD camcorder, the Canon Zoom.
At first I did everything for free and for the fun of it. I still do here and there, but with artists I build relationships with, now that I have experience, payment comes naturally.
What’s been your most memorable shoot so far?
Damn, I shot for G Herbo, that was the most memorable. This wasn’t the Morehouse concert. A guy from the studio was like, “I got a video shoot tomorrow with G Herbo. You in?” I didn’t really believe him at first -- I was thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s see if they send me the address.” At like 2 in the morning, I get texted the address. When I pulled up there were a lot of photographers, videographers there. Seddy Hendrinx was there, too. I shot him before, I told him, “You know, I took pictures of you at Carchella.” He was like, “Oh my God, that’s you!” So they threw the track on and I started taking shots of G Herbo. They brought the Bentley in, I shot him in front of the Bentley. DJ Drama pulled up, I took photos of both of them. It was pretty wild. About a week later I got a text from someone on G Herbo’s team saying, “Yo, we thought that your photos were heavy. We’re thinking about using your style for the video.” Then a couple days after that, I was looking at DJ Drama’s page and I saw one of my photos that he had just posted. I was like, “No way.” Then, boom, it just went up. Everyone was sharing it. G Herbo’s label, Generation Now, shared it. His fan page shared it. I was like, “Damn, my photos went viral without me even knowing.”
What do you want people to feel when they look at your photos?
I want them to put themselves in the photo. Like be like, “Damn. I feel like I was there,” or like, “Where was he at? It looks lit!” Like, the quality looks like it’s the real deal, you know? I want them to feel the vibes, feel the energy, and wish they were there.
I keep all my old photos, so when people go all the way to the bottom of my page, they be like, “Damn, the photos back then weren’t as good as now, I see the come up. He’s really been on this grind. He’s been at these photo shoots, the quality looks better.” I want them to see the improvement.
With all your improvement, after you graduate, do you think you’re going to stay in Atlanta, or go back to LA?
I feel like right now Atlanta is my way of getting my name out. It’s like, once I get paid big time, or work with big, big, big artists, or even the artists I work with now go big time, I could go back to LA. I don’t know, though. Right now, I feel like it’s wherever God takes me.