By Nicole Mitchell
Jada Hester is a photographer and small business co-owner of Film and Jpegs Studio located in Olathe, Kansas. Starting early on in photography, she has had plenty of time to create a style of art that is recognizable as hers—colorful, fun, and human-centered
Hester first got into photography when she was a child, following in her dad’s footsteps. “He had a cool camera when I was kid that I would play with,” she said. But it wasn’t until high school that she really considered photography as a potential career path. After graduating high school, she went to a local community college and took her first photography class. “It was fun to be around other photographers, but the class wasn’t 100% needed,” Hester said. “I thought, ‘Why didn’t I just teach myself all of this?’”
During the beginning of the pandemic, Hester and her boyfriend talked about creating a studio out of a shed in the backyard of her boyfriend’s parents’ house. With this, the two started a small business together (her boyfriend’s idea), offering Hester’s photography as a side job. “He’s more on the business side, and I’m on the art side,” she said. “Working together has been tough—as it would be in any relationship where they work together—but I’m really proud of it.” She shares that getting the shed started and creating their business together is what she’s most proud of in regards to her art.
Hester has been creating art photography nonstop since the opening of her studio, trying out new ways of creating art. “It sounds pretentious, but I’d describe my work as art photography,” she said. “I really like playing with lighting and gels.”
In the future, she’d like to create a series of different people in their homes. “I love working in the studio, but I really want to do at-home portraits,” she said. “I want to get to know people and show who they are.” Hester has previously had her art shown at an open mic event in 2021.
Her biggest inspirations when it comes to her photography are Tyler Mitchell and Petra Collins. “I love how Tyler captures Black bodies, Black life, and Black love with it being effortless but intentional,” she explained. Petra Collins is well-known in the photography world, with over a million followers on Instagram and multiple published books. “I also am a big fan of people who don’t think they’re photographers and just share great work on Instagram,” she said, noting that she liked the playfulness of not taking it seriously and just having fun with photography.
Last year, Hester went to a local high school and took free senior portraits for graduating students. “It was so nice, and I wish I could do more like that,” she said. “They don’t even get yearbooks, so it was nice getting to help them out like that.”
In the future, Hester hopes to continue working on her photography in terms of art and helping her community. In the next five years, her goal is to rent the studio her and her boyfriend made to other creatives. “Everybody knows what it’s like when you can’t find the resources,” she said. “I want to rent it out to help them.” If anything, she wants to continue creating. “I love seeing people happy once they get those photos,” she explained.
Her advice to those considering entering the world of photography? “Find an artist that you like and try to work on mastering those tools,” she said. “But use your own sense of flavor and who you are.” She also noted that, especially today, photographers have to be confident in their work. “All people post on Instagram is photography,” she said. “It’s a lot to make a presence on the internet.” She also said that it’s important to take time for yourself. “When you realize that you have bills to pay and you lean on social media, it can be difficult,” she said. She recommends setting a limit for social media for those who use it to promote their business.
What’s your favorite camera to shoot with?
My favorite camera I like to shoot with is my Mamiya RB67. I had waited and saved a long time for it. It’s a bit surreal sometimes when I take it out of my bag to shoot; I still fangirl at the camera.
What is something you’re passionate about outside of photography?
I’m really passionate about nature and being outside in general. My boyfriend really introduced me to the outdoors and took me camping for the first time last year. I saw bear tracks biking to our remote campsite—I was a tad scared, but the family of deer sleeping right next to us assured me that everything was okay.
What’s your go-to date night food?
We actually make Korean food. I grew up eating it and found a bibimbap recipe on TikTok that tastes similar to what I had as a kid. I’ve been making it ever since.
At the moment, it’s Plastic Beach by The Gorillaz. It’s a nice fusion of techno, hip hop, and alternative.
The last book you read and your thoughts on it?
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. It was a quick read because it was so good. Reading it in the eyes of a modern piece of work, it could feel somewhat overdone, but at the time it was revolutionary. It’s inspired so much in the realm of sci-fi, like the movie Blade Runner.
Hester is available for hire. Reach out to her on Instagram @filmandjpegs_studios or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Mitchell (she/they) is a writer and social media manager who graduated December 2020 with a degree in strategic communication. A few of her favorite things include cuddling with cats, listening to Bon Iver, making lattes, and running her book club (even though sometimes she forgets to read the books.)