A shared love of the arts led local creatives and married couple Jameel Rashad Austin and Shay Ayala to a chance meeting. Ayala elaborated, “I’d just moved back to Danville and was looking for photographers in the area, but there weren’t many on the level that I was hoping to find.” Someone suggested Ayala take a look at some of Austin’s work. “He was definitely what I was looking for. It took us a little while to set up the actual shoot, but when we did, the rest was history.”
Austin added with a smile, “So, on our first photoshoot together, Shay was late. At the time, if you didn’t call and tell me you were running late, I’d leave once 15-20 minutes had passed. Well, Shay had reached that point. I was just about to pack up…that is until I see this little red car speeding into the parking lot. She apologized, we laughed, and got some pretty dope shots. The moral of the story is—Don’t be late, or you might miss out on the love of your life.”
He continued, “Our creative outlets definitely allowed us to cross paths and from there, a beautiful partnership was born.” The couple built a friendship that became the foundation of their relationship.
Since meeting, the couple has added a few collaborative projects in their portfolio. “I honestly would love for us to do more together.” Ayala laughed. “Our most recent collaboration is baby number 2 coming in August.” Austin matched her laughter. “Yes, our latest work-in-progress has been one of my favorite projects.”
Ayala has many outlets to express her artistry. “My favorite medium has always been writing, but lately a lot of my creative energy has been going towards problem solving within the maternal health space.” She never thought this pivot would be a creative endeavor. “But that’s exactly what it has been,” she added. Ayala also uses spoken word as an art-form to create.
Austin shares a love of writing with Ayala, but the camera is his favorite tool. “Whether it’s documenting everyday life or planning and creating a set, photography is my passion.” Recently, he has delved into acting. “I was in a film called Sheltered, which was written, directed, and filmed by a local movie maker by the name of Delinda Kay.” The movie is available on Tubi and Amazon Prime. Along with acting, Austin has improved at Smokestack Theatre. “I guess you can say I’m enjoying being on both sides of the camera nowadays.”
Many of their creative endeavors cross over organically. But for those that don’t, the couple finds a way to make them work together. Austin noted there are challenges such as availability issues or who will take the lead on a project. “There will always be obstacles. I view these blocks as opportunities to problem solve and strengthen our communication skills,” he said. Ayala added, “We share a lot of the same pursuits, so we are able to work together as a team on most things. Of course, this also has its cons because we’ve become so intertwined that sometimes neither of us will make a move unless the other is coming along, too.”
Brainstorming is a part of the creative process that helps to keep their relationship strong and exciting. “Often, it happens at 1 am while we are lying in bed. It’s always so mind-blowing to see how we can bounce ideas off of one another, finish each other’s thoughts, and help one another around a creative block. I love it,” Ayala said. Austin added, “Exactly! It’s like one of us starts a thought or idea, and it’s a great idea, but then the other will add a perspective which makes the idea even better. We make each other better in so many ways. Art just happens to be one of them.”
Visit evincemagazine.com for the full interview with Jameel and Shay.