By Kennedi Combs
December 12, 2019
“Being a photographer means that people trust you to make them look good. It means they trust you to capture what they think they look like.”
Jermaine Jackson, better known as Peja, has had a passion for photography since he first held a camera as a child.
The senior photojournalism major was born and raised in the inner city of Chicago and earned his well known nickname because of his work in photography.
The nickname Peja, pronounced [Pay- ja], is a play on words inspired by former NBA star Peja Stojakovic. With a 40.1 percent average of 3-pointers and a 89.5 free throw percentage, Stojakovic is known for his shooting skills.
Jackson, known for his impressive photographs for friends, family and Kent State students, is also known for his shooting skills. Hence, the nickname Peja.
Every picture Jackson photographs and posts online, and even the ones his models post, are accompanied with the caption #pejashot.
“When I was trying to come up with what I would call my pictures, Jermaine Jackson Photography sounded boring,” he said. “Peja Shot sounded different. It draws people in.”
Jackson contributes his career choice in photography to Kent State.
“If I didn’t go to Kent, I probably wouldn’t be a photographer,” he said. “I’m from Chicago and we have so much stuff to photograph there. The buildings, the lake, the river walk. It’s a big city and a lot of big cities have a lot of photographers. You can just take pictures of the same thing everybody else has been doing since those buildings were created.”
However, coming to Kent State set Jackson apart from other photographers native to Chicago.
“Coming to Kent, it’s nothing but trees and campus,” he said. “Being surrounded by space, I had to start incorporating stuff to put in that space to take up for the fact that I couldn’t photograph buildings all the time. So that’s when I started taking portraits.”
Jackson has returned the favor of impacting Kent State as much as the university has impacted him. With over one thousand pictures captioned #pejashot on Instagram, Jackson’s photography is well known among Kent State students.
“Everybody knows his pictures,” senior human resources management major Aysia Kemp said. “He’s like ‘the’ person to go to for a good picture.”
Jackson started taking pictures with disposable cameras when his mother bought them for him growing up. In 2014, he saved enough money to buy his first serious camera.
“Two months after I bought it, I was going through some stuff and I used my camera as my self expression,” he said. “I’ve been doing it since then. Since 2014.”
One of Jackson’s all time favorite shoots is one he photographed in Chicago with his close friend. The picture consists of Jackson’s friend pointing a gun at the camera with his face blurred out.
“This is how people see Chicago for real,” he said. “Just bullets all the time, but it’s way more than bullets. That was one of the few pictures I actually put in competitions.”
Cici Haith, a sophomore Fashion Merchandising major, has modeled several shoots for Jackson and said she couldn’t feel more relaxed during photoshoots.
“He makes me feel comfortable while shooting,” she said. “His energy is very positive. He works with normal people so it doesn’t make you feel like you have to be professional to shoot with him.”
Haith also said she undoubtedly sees Jackson going big places.
“I see him making it big because his style is very different,” she said. “He just has an eye for what looks good and I feel like that’s something that comes naturally.”
Joshua Jackson, Peja’s brother, sees nothing but success in his sibling’s future.
“I support it 100 percent,” he said. “If he enjoys doing it, I love it because I just want to see him do something he enjoys. He goes crazy with the pictures. He’s gonna be successful, regardless.”
Jackson doesn’t plan on slowing down when it comes to photography any time soon.
“In ten years hopefully I’m photographing stuff for all the biggest fashion companies on Earth, or doing magazine work and getting paid for my pics,” he said. “I want to be an in demand person everyone wants to get photographed by. It’s going to be hard but I have the talent, determination and the will to be able to be on that platform.”