Shoot the Breeze: Jheyda McGarrell

“The best advice I’ve ever been given was to let pain and hurt teach me instead of making me bitter,” says NYC based photographer, Jheyda M. This astute and simultaneously affable ideology is a distinct thread that runs through her photography as well—intimate moments, snapshots of friends and strangers. Jheyda’s photos are remarkably serene as they document her life and relationships as a young, queer, woman of color, navigating a tumultuous socio-political climate. Balancing extracurriculars and her sophomore year at NYU, Jheyda is also a curator and creative at Art Hoe Collective. – Rebecca Storm

How would you describe your photos?

I would describe my photos as a mix between mostly documentary photography and portraiture, but I’m also into fine art photography. I really love to happen into circumstances that produce a beautiful moment with someone I love, so I’m constantly taking portraits of the people around me. Being able to capture a person’s essence is the dopest thing ever—like saving a person in a little slice of time forever. But also documenting the things that occur in our communities and around us is important for ourselves and cultural development over time. I’m constantly snapping photos of random things that interest me too. Some of my more conceptual projects are a lot more serious and I love surrealism, so I try to incorporate that into my more serious fine art type work.

Do you carry your camera with you everywhere you go?

Yeah, at any given time I have at least one camera on me. Sometimes I go places without my camera and I’ll see a beautiful moment in time and just wish I could’ve taken a photo. The anxiety of missing a perfect moment that I could’ve held onto forever keeps me making sure I have my camera and a roll of film with me at all times.

What celebrity would you like to shoot most?

This is such a hard question but I wanna aim really high and say Beyonce. The video for “Why Don’t You Love Me” by Beyonce is my dream aesthetic for a video/photoshoot. I’m really into the concept of appropriating images from different ages (that are constantly represented by white faces) with black people, and I think it’d be a dream come true to execute something like that with such an amazing artist. To take someone so full of life and beauty and place them into the aesthetics of a different time really makes the situation in the photo come to life, and getting to create that with someone would be so cool.

What animal would you like to be, if not a human?

I think I would probably choose to be a bird. Bird life just seems so tight, like you get to fly around and be so free and just spend your life in simplicity, flying around and getting worms and chirping to other birds in the morning. I’d love to wake up in a nice nest perched in a beautiful tree and fly around all day with my dudes just doing some birdy shenanigans with my bird friends.

What’s your current obsession?

Probably Spotify. I love making Spotify playlists and sending them to people. It’s funny because Spotify isn’t just a music streaming service, but also has social media capabilities, so I like following my friends and listening to their playlists and seeing what they’re listening to.

Would you like to live forever?

I don’t think so, living forever seems great until an immortal person has to see everything they love die. I really value my relationships with people and having to watch multiple generations of people die off and watch life and culture change would probably ruin me. I think I’d just want to live long enough to see a world where people can accept each other and where I can find a level of earthly peace and wholeness.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

The best advice I’ve ever been given was to let pain and hurt teach me instead of making me bitter. I think it’s so important to forgive ourselves and others and this piece of advice really changed me because it really can be applied to so many situations, so many heartbreaks, ends of friendships, and rejections can be used as ignitions to help us grow, but we can only use them if we forgive those who hurt us and forgive ourselves for our occasional self-destruction/mistakes and accept that. Through this pain, we can find the strength to go on, if we simply let it teach us and inspire us to grow.

What do you do in your spare time?

I spend most of my spare time just loitering in different spots but I do a lot of other mediums of art, like trying to make music, writing, drawing, so I love to post up with some friends and just delve into a notebook for a while. I’m also really into style too so I spend a lot of time in thrift/vintage stores looking for solid pieces from different eras to wear/style people in.

Do you like having your photo taken?

I used to hate it and literally run from cameras, but now I’m getting used to it and even starting to like it a bit. I’ve always been more comfortable behind the camera, but I think it’s important for people to develop a sense of looking at things objectively, including ourselves. I think that comes with forcing yourself to enjoy being photographed, because we learn that others do not see our insecurities, but can see our personalities and life force through the photos.

Which photographers do you like right now?

Right now I’m super into the Durimel twins, Campbell Addy, Nadine Ijewere, and WIISSA. I think these photographers all have an extremely distinct style but consistently produce images that are extremely unique and give a special feel in individual image per series. I think the talent to do so proves the overall talent of a photographer/imagemaker, the ability to create so many special moments is not something that everyone has and I think these photographers all do an excellent job of doing that. I also respect their stylistic decisions including editing, styling, etc.