SO TRUE and so clearly demonstrated by Troy-based portrait photographer and entrepreneur JAYANA LAFOUNTAINE…and a perfect excuse for celebrating INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!
“I have always loved photos,” Jayana shared when we sat down to talk. “They do something for my heart and soul!…But it was not until March 2018 that I considered starting a business!”
“ I tried many different jobs – the last one, as a photographer with a car dealership. I was asked to train a new employee…and then told I was no longer needed. I knew that I wanted my future to be in my hands…The very next day, I went down to City Hall, applied for my dba….and Jayana LaFotos was founded!”
At 27, this Afro-Latina photographer and doula is thriving. Jayana has been featured in the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy newsletter and twice in the Collaborative Magazine. She was invited last year to jury the Opalka Gallery’s Regional Photography Exhibit and her work has been spotlighted in the Times Union.
“And while recognition is great,” Jayana elaborated, “sometimes, we have to dig out our talents! I was given affirming messages from my four maternal pillars – my Grandmother Elisa, my Mom Diana, my Foster Mom Jackie and my Aunt Yoly. But I had to work at recovering them!” When Jayana turned 22, she found herself within a caring community of friends. “They encouraged and pushed me to pursue my passion for photography. I left an unhealthy relationship and began to see the value that I bring to the world!”
“Other than attending Schenectady High School’s fine arts program, I am totally self-taught! When I was 12, I got my first camera through Schenectady Boys and Girls Club. And I just walked around and started taking pictures. When I was 15, a friend asked me to take pictures of her newborn. I agreed and the baby became my model! Other friends began to approach me…and I’ve never stopped taking pictures!
When I’m working on a particular skill, I go to Youtube videos. And when I moved to Troy, I would watch how other photographers that I admired did their work…and I asked lots of questions.
With one exception…About three years ago, Jayana sought out and attended a DOULA training class offered to 25 black and brown women. “It felt so natural, like I was truly in my path! And not surprisingly, I learned that my great – great – grandma Abuelita Faustina was the midwife for her entire village in our country (Honduras)!”
“My business is much more than a photo shooting service. I would describe it as an experience,” Jayana explained. “I’m not just capturing the person’s shape or size or hair color. I’m capturing their soul, their spirit.”
“How do you do this?” I asked. “By making the person feel comfortable,” Jayana explained. “I consider myself an introvert. Even so, I’m my most bubbly self when photo-shooting…And share some very corny jokes!”
Prior to every photo shoot, Jayana sits down with her client. “I want the person to get an idea of who I am… And I want to know who they are and what they want! My job is to create a space for being vulnerable, for being seen. I welcome this because it makes for better photos!”
Jayana’s vision continues: to bring the images and stories of black and brown folks to the forefront…”and document our joys, the peace that we’ve fostered, the laughter in our families…There’s so much more to Black, Brown and Indigenous people besides trauma.”
“And I know for myself, I feel most valued when I am seen! Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing a photo.”
To learn more about Jayana’s work, visit www.jaylafotos.com, Instagram @jayanalafotos & @jayanaladoula, Facebook Jayana LaFotos.