From serving as Dave East’s personal photographer and capturing the likes of Beyoncé, Kanye West, and A$AP Rocky, Jamaal Devore is making major moves to establish himself as a prominent celebrity photographer in NYC. We caught up with the self-proclaimed “Don Like Cheadle” (whose name derives from a Joey Bada$$ lyric) to gain some insight to his career beginnings, photography style, and his upcoming ventures.
Tell me about your background. How did you get into photography?
I used to do graphic design and basically what everyone else was doing – the cartoons and the little headshots for people on Instagram. And I started doing mixtape covers for certain people, some celebrities, some not. That’s basically how it started. Then I figured I’d start doing photography so I could get out.
What was it about photography lured you in?
I was taking pictures on my phone and people liked them. And on top of that, I just needed to get out of the house to meet more people because I have entrepreneurial things that I want to do and get done. It was really to make money for my other ideas but it turned out bigger than what it was supposed to be. So yeah, I just really wanted to get out of the house and use the camera as a tool to meet people and network. And I thought I would be good at it because I wouldn’t start anything if I didn’t think that I would be above average at that.
How would you describe your photography style? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I would describe it as candid and natural. As far as inspiration, I try to find something dope to capture and try my best to not click the button for no reason. It’s like if I could just summarize a book or something, I’d want to summarize the moment real quick for the purpose of social media with my photographs. So that people could be like “Oh damn, it looked fun to be there” or at least know what it was like in that moment.
How did you cross paths with Dave East and becoming his personal photographer?
My homeboy hit me like “I’m trying to get some pictures for this tour.” Someone paid him to put this tour together, a little quick tour. And it was early on so it wasn’t a tour tour but just a local type of thing. So, I was like “Alright, I’ll do it.” But then by the time the day came, I wasn’t really feeling up to it. They actually needed to get a rental because Dave was too tall for the car he got and I was the only person with the hookup on a van rental at such a last minute since I had a homegirl who worked at Enterprise or whatever. So I got the rental and couldn’t even turn the opportunity down anymore because I was about to not go. And I didn’t know who Dave was so I’m chilling. But that just happened to go so I hopped on the tour and pretty much was just capturing pictures of them having fun and smiling. And they could tell the change on Instagram, at least Wayno [Dave’s manager] could. When Wayno came to drop off the rental, we was just chopping it up and I was like “I’m just tryna push this brand” because they needed photos. And that was pretty much it and I just stuck with it.
As some creatives have writers or artists’ block, do you ever have days where you have “photography” block? Especially considering that you draw some of your inspiration from the people you’re capturing in the moment?
I’m really candid so I’ll just do whatever to adapt. I might have a sucky day because there’s a little room with a billion dudes or whatever it may be. But with my photography block, I have a healthy amount of envy when I see other photographers with really dope work or something I don’t have in my arsenal of things I can do. Whether it’s equipment I may need or an upgrade or I got to figure out how they edit, I just like to build things up as weapons. So, sometimes I’m not posting for a while because I’m trying to figure out how to make images look a certain way.
Does your knowledge in your field come from self-teaching or did you get any outside help like any photography programs?
It was just basically me and YouTube. If I have any questions, I go to YouTube and that’s pretty much for everything. Even Photoshop. I self-taught myself that because I was supposed to be using Illustrator for the things I was doing like everybody else. But yeah, I just self-taught myself everything. YouTube is like college or something.
Do you think that learning about art in school is an outdated concept? Especially since we now have the ability to learn a lot by ourselves or at least have someone on the Internet quickly teach us without having to pay all of this money just to go to school to learn about it?
Yeah, I feel like a lot of that stuff puts you in boxes, you know. I was on a tour with jazz musician Marcus Miller and he was telling me that a lot of things puts you in boxes, like this category of jazz or another. So, I feel like school is even outdated because everyone is being taught the same thing at the same time and I may not be interested in that type of art at the moment. It can be good to a certain extent but I definitely think people should learn on the outside because that’s where all of the information really is. And you can actually start to shape some of your interests because you’re being exposed to so much.
You’ve captured a range of celebrities from Dave East to Beyoncé and Kanye and ASAP among others. What would you say is one of your personal favorite pictures that you have captured so far?
I definitely like taking pictures more of females than males. [laughs] With Dave, he’s tall so it’s easy to get girls and see another side of him because if I wanted to paint a picture of him looking cool, it’d be easy to capture him either smiling or this and that. The only struggle is that he may not always get it but I already see the vision so I gotta work back and forth with that. But if it was up to me, I’d run his whole Instagram but I don’t. But yeah, definitely women. Beyoncé was just crazy cool. I think that Hov had walked right by me and I picked up my camera to shoot him and Blue Ivy because she was giving out high fives but my camera wasn’t even on. But Beyoncé was trailing right behind and I just turned around really quick and caught her.
You’ve done graphic design and photography so would you ever considering venturing into videography?
Yeah, I’d do some videography. I want to direct. Actual videography and editing? Never. It’s so much work. Time-consuming. That’s part of the reason I left graphics. I was pretty satisfied with the level of skill I had with graphics so if I ever had to it again myself, I could just knock it out. But yeah, it’s just another way of building up tools but I’d probably do something with videography to a certain extent. If not, I’ll just reach out because that’s a lot of work. Too much for me.
In ten years, what would you hope to have accomplished? What do you want your legacy to be?
Well, my name is “A Don Like Cheadle” and I got that from a Joey Bada$$ lyric. And I choose that because I was acting at the time. Celebrity acting coach and all. Which I still plan on diving back into but it’s crazy because when you leave something, you can get closer to your ultimate goal by leaving it alone for a bit or finding another route. The camera has brought me so close to the acting and everything else. Had I been chasing the acting still, I’d be nowhere near here. With that being said, I do want to act and just hope to be like Lance Gross. He just casually takes his pictures, has his money, beautiful women, and doing what he does. Him and DJ D-Nice. He’s also friends with Marcus Miller and even toured with Dave Chappelle and captured some of those moments. So, I plan to have a casual paying hobby and also have two other projects I’d like to put. One alongside Inspire or Retire. But yeah, I want to be a successful entrepreneur and casually get paid.
Be sure to check out some Jamaal Devore’s work on Instagram and his personal website.