Jayscale —

Intersecting Philanthropy and Photography


Jamal Burger, or Jayscale as he’s known in the digital world, has come a long ways as a curious kid in Toronto. Like many of his generation, their first foray into photography came courtesy of a mobile device. The phone would be a cherished tool on a social media ride that would allow him to grow into a sizeable Instagram following. Youthful exuberance and a large following can create a particular sense of invincibility and narcissism. There’s not even a hint of that with Jamal.


It’s often easy to apply social media’s superficial element of judgment before you meet somebody in real life. Afterall, the curated nature of someone’s life on a feed may lead you to believe that it is, in fact, their reality.


I was guilty of this.


My expectations on our first meeting suggested I was linking with a sneaker-loving photographer, looking to capture the next hyped release. It became an embarrassing afterthought minutes into our interview. The fame and accolades that come with a high-profile Instagram account can be used in a wealth of ways. For many photographers, it becomes a conduit of business, shilling one product after another. For Jamal, it’s become merely a tool in his pursuit of something much more.


Up until now, Jamal hasn’t depended on a romantic photographic journey to tell his story. It began with him working in exchange for his first camera at Canadian sneaker institution Livestock. It became clear that this very passion for photography combined with an insatiable hunger to improve, not unlike an athlete’s mentality, is what allowed him to excel. The opportunities to work with brands and charities alike have been a welcome by-product of his grit and determination.


Despite a tenacity and hunger, the words that flow from Jamal are calming and soothing. There’s a sense of peacefulness behind communication. It’s this quiet confidence that emerges. It’s far beyond the hype of street culture. Instead, the work Jamal seeks to create tips into a broader topic of philanthropy and of community. Sneaker drives for the less fortunate, and trips to Africa to teach the less-privileged the world game of basketball are what give Jamal value and excitement. And all this time I thought it was the likes.


Shame on me.


Jamal’s story is a reminder that there is a highly influential generation of creators that are making it their mission to define the future. It’s a future where we can all collectively reap the rewards and invite each other to reap the benefits of experience and learning.

“Even growing up I never had the money or couldn’t ask my mom to buy me something. Livestock actually bought me my camera… I want to help a bunch of kids who have dreams but don’t have access.”

A day in the life of Jamal.

Never not learning.

“I really pride myself on capturing moments versus taking pictures. Those two are totally separate.”

Jamal goes through a bunch of selects for an upcoming print project.

“If I had to pick a trip that was going to help me get better at taking pictures or spending some money to get a new pair of Js, I’d pick the trip. ”

“When I cared about the numbers, I wouldn’t post anything charity related because I know people don’t care about it. Now if I’m going to use social media and I’m going to be myself… I’ll share the charity stuff.”

“You can be really good at something but if you don’t connect with different cultures, your voice is only so big. ”

For the next generation.

David Kenji Chang talks with the founder in his LA studio and new shop to talk about his life’s work and staying weird in a weird world.