Upon meeting Jay Zhang, I was drawn in by his warm and grounded presence. His company, Jay Zhang Photography, is committed to both outstanding visual representation, as well as community care. As a self identified queer person of color, Jay celebrates a wide spectrum of couples. And, his investment and love of the Capital Region is evident throughout his work. From events by non profits to celebrations of LGBTQIA+ identity, Jay shows what is possible when sincerity meets vision and skill.
Love is Love: Inclusive Wedding Photography
Jay’s engagement and wedding photography cleverly infuses each client’s personality into the documentation of their big day. Just one glance at the “Wedding Blogs” portion of his website shows how he celebrates each couples’ unique chemistry. My favorite examples show elated partners snuggling amidst a backdrop of sun dappled mountain ranges, or blanketed in surrealist fog on the Brooklyn Bridge. Wide smiled nieces affix glistening jewelry onto their auntie’s ready neck; husbands fasten each other’s ties while sharing in an excited kiss. Stop what you’re doing, and take a look at his amazing work!
Community Representation And Healing
Jay is also drawn to local events and projects with a favorable community impact. He has worked for a number of local organizations, including My Brother’s Keeper, Alliance for Positive Health and GLSEN, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
Since 2007, he has documented and celebrated National Coming Out Day (NCOD) through his photos. His 2014 NCOD work, “Color Splash,” features queer community members in animated layered images, their bodies and faces awash in rainbow paint, along with their words of wisdom to fellow queers. His 2015 iteration, “Light The Way,” includes portraits of locals holding sparklers, their faces framed by the text, “You don’t have to come out, but you don’t have to be in the dark alone.”
Jay’s projects celebrate people who embrace being “quirky, weird and full of interesting personality traits.” He believes “everyone is multifaceted, it just depends on how much you want to present.” LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and people of all body types are welcome in front of his camera. “I love the community,” he said, “and I want to provide for it.”
Motivated Living in the Capital Region
Originally from Ridgewood, Queens, Jay arrived in the Capital Region to study architecture at RPI in Troy. School prepared him with strong design skills, which later helped him become a professional photographer. He was first drawn to photography as a financially sustainable career. And, he also enjoyed its potential to show and support people, environments and situations. He draws much inspiration from CapNY’s rich creative ecosystem of fellow artists.
Community based projects, including public statement artwork and grassroots outreach initiatives, have contributed to his ongoing inspiration and experimentation. “There’s a lot of fight here,” he shares. “And a lot of energy for people to do things and participate.” CapNY’s relatively small size and central location also provide opportunity for professional and casual travel. Jay’s leadership extends into local athletics as well. He proudly participates in the city’s LGBTQIA+ soccer organization, Albany Empire Soccer Club, as both player and board member.
Entrepreneurial Advice and Future Visions
As an entrepreneur, Jay encourages others to “keep going, because the hardest part is hitting that wall of doubt.” As for his company’s future plans, Jay sees himself continuing with wedding and event work. He remains especially committed to taking on queer couples as clients. Jay’s passion for nurturing a culture of mutual queer creative support is undeniable. “I can offer a rewarding experience (and) other queer entrepreneurs want to do the same,” he says. “We’re in a similar mindset. We want to build each other up and create community while also offering services for the community.” Jay’s sincere and purposeful application of both skill and talent are a shining example of the creatives who call CapNY their home.
Written by: Rio Riera Arbogast
Rio Riera Arbogast is a freelance writer focused on how creative entrepreneurship impacts the Capital Region’s cultural landscape. You can follow them on Instagram and Twitter at @riorawrites.