‘You don’t have to be a basketball player or a rapper or a drug dealer to take care of your family’: Jayscale

Regent Park native Jamal Burger now a globetrotting street photographer, with advice on how to succeed

on stage interview
Jamal Burger AKA Jayscale speaking to Centennial Journalism students Giorgio Lee, Tiara Chuktan and Yvano Antonio, March 27, 2017. (Toronto Observer Staff photo)

On a day before his next adventure to India, one of Toronto’s top photographers came by Centennial College to shed a little light on what it’s like building a brand as an entrepreneur.

Jamal Burger, better known as Jayscale, is most famous for his captivating cityscape photographs from the tops of Toronto’s high rises.

Since blowing up on online in 2015, Burger has proven himself to be more than just an Instagrammer. He’s moved onto bigger things and doesn’t plan on stopping.

Burger’s following on Instagram is massive, over 200,000 and counting, but he says it doesn’t bother him. In fact, he doesn’t even keep the app on his phone. He said he admits that having such an extensive following helps build his brand but said he refuses to let it get to him.

“I delete the app… I don’t see anything,” Burger told the journalism students during an interview at the East York campus March 27, 2017. “I don’t feel like it’s a lot of attention… I try to put myself in a bigger pool. If I were to let that get to me or think about it too much it would blow my head up.”

Burger was a kinesiology student at the University of Toronto before he took up photography. He said student life was different than that of an entrepreneur’s and that the switch to entrepreneurship was difficult at first but totally worth it.

“Being a student you’re given the work; when you’re independent no one’s giving you anything, you have to figure out what it is you need to work on,” he said.

Now that his photography has taken him around the world he said he’s motivated to stay consistent.

“Once you figure it out you keep working at it and give it 100 per cent everyday. “

When goal setting, Burger said consistency is key but it’s important to take risks.

“It’s the times where you take risks that you learn the most,” he said.

He also said it’s just as important to think big and think long term.

“Ask yourself what your purpose is and what you want to do and what your life looks like 20 years from now,” Burger said.

Now a few years removed from school and with his career flourishing, Burger plans to use his talents to uplift the next generation of young people, including those in the public housing complex where he grew up.

“My purpose is to teach kids that grew up similar to me that you don’t have to try to becoming a basketball player, or a rapper or a drug dealer to take care of your family,” Burger said.  “I do think that the biggest thing is figuring out what you hope your purpose is in life and what you want to do. Think about ways you can accomplish that, whether it’s being a big leader in front of a bunch of people, or a more local leader genuine leader where you can really have an impact.”