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Behind The Lens Part 1 of 3: The Staggering Value in Identity

Photo Courtesy of Jaylyn Begay

The strong yet comforting chemical smell hits her first as she pulls the curtain aside and enters the darkroom. It’s a beautiful place where creativity runs rampant and mistakes are a way of life. A place photographer Jaylyn Begay can lose herself in its magic.  

Red light shines down onto an enlarged photo negative of two children on a table where photography instruments are. To the left of this table are three bins filled with clear liquid.
Darkroom light varies but they are kept dark so as not to overexpose photographs. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons User: Inkaroad via Creative Commons
Photo of Jaylyn Begay she bares her right shoulder to the camera and smiles as her curly hair covers the left side of her face
Photo Courtesy of Jaylyn Begay

Successful photographer and entrepreneur, Jaylyn Begay spoke fondly of her time in the darkroom of her old high school during a phone interview. Her appreciation for the medium came out of the intense emotional energy she felt when magically her photos came to life on treated photo paper. Begay’s creative mind whirled the day her mother handed her a disposable camera and when she visited New Mexico, United States her motivation to pursue photography strengthened. She saw that many people in her extended family had chosen to express themselves creatively through varying artforms and this inspired her to pursue photography full time.

Her Mission:

Through the pursuit of her passion, Jaylyn Begay has created two successful photography businesses: RKIVAL Legacy (a portrait photography website that seeks to capture the comfortable and natural personalities of clients) and Gear&Link (an environmental portrait photography website that aims to capture the raw beauty of diverse work environments in Industry, Lifestyle, and Event categories). Begay said in an interview that she aims to capture people “In their element, to make them feel as important as they are”.

   Begay believes that no matter what career path someone is on, they play an integral part of society’s whole which means they are geniuses in their own right with creativity all their own. When on a shoot, clients tend to apologize to her for the mess of their workplace, but Begay says that this makes the photos that much more authentic and real.

A collective mess turns into a sense of collective beauty”

Jaylyn Begay said this in a direct interview when discussing her mission.

Diverse Representation & Photography

Photographer Jaylyn Begay leaning against a wall with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, some hair is draped over her left shoulder. Her freckles are visible and she isn't smiling.
Photo Courtesy of Jaylyn Begay

When I asked Jaylyn Begay in a phone interview what she thought about the representation and presence of hidden and visual diversity in the field of photography, she launched into her own story of identity and belonging. Being multiracial (Native American, African American, and Caucasian) herself, Begay connects with the creativity that comes from Native American culture and is proud to be a part of a community of artists who like her, seek to capture and represent the world in honest ways. She went on to talk about how despite being proud of her ability to stand out as a multiracial and multiethnic artist, she doesn’t personally know a lot of artists like her. Begay noted that in her time attending The Art Institute of Colorado, white people dominated the industry especially when it came to who taught masterclasses. Begay sees this as a detriment to society because she believes there is an immense benefit in seeing the world from different perspectives.

How To Set Yourself Apart:

Aside from challenges associated with diverse representation in photography, another challenge Begay faces along with other creatives, is how to set oneself apart from the masses. Jaylyn Begay believes that what sets you apart from other is identity. I’ll leave you with what she had to say in the interview:

“Your identity is you and regardless of what you’re shooting, that’s you. Any creative should make sure they aren’t being pulled in a different direction from their own self.”

Jaylyn Begay

Connect With Jaylyn Begay:

Environmental portrait photography website: gearandlink.net Instagram: @gear_n_link_photos

portrait photography website: www.rkivallegacy.com Instagram: @rkivallegacy.com

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