Jhadé Benitez was born and raised in Rochester, New York where he graduated from Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School in 2014. He is a fourth-year advertising photography student at the Rochester Institute of Technology and began working with photography in middle school, where he joined the Photo Club. It was all about teaching students the beauty of analog photography. This was when he began to realize his passion of capturing images. When it was time to decide what he wanted to study in college, photography was one of his top choices. Jhadé’s interests are to combine fashion and beauty portraiture. He loves to experiment with expression, color, and styling to create a portrait that celebrates something new in his subjects.
Why did you choose RIT?
When I was applying to colleges, I was very set on getting out of Rochester, just so I would be able to experience new places, and new people. I didn’t apply to many universities, but RIT was suggested to me by one of my high school counselors. I wasn’t sure on what I wanted to do at the time, so I just browsed the majors list, until I found that RIT offered artistic fields. I applied to the Interior Design department as my first choice of program, and photography was the second. I submitted a portfolio, which was full of drawings, paintings, and photographs taken on film. Since it was heavily focused on photography, I was accepted for the photography department along with many scholarships and grants. Being from Rochester, I did not know much about RIT and its prestigious reputation. When I was accepted, I didn’t think anything of it until I found out RIT was one of the top universities to study photography. While I did have to end up staying local, I still get to experience new people and their experiences. I have met so many people from all around the world. I am happy I made the decision to attend such a well-respected university.
Can you share a reason why the photo program at RIT attracted you?
When I sent in my letter of acceptance to RIT, I had no clue what I was getting into. I knew I was interested in pursuing photography but I didn’t know what to expect from the university. This was when I decided to attend Accepted Student’s Day in April of 2014. It was a day filled with information about the photography program and a tour of the building. I remember just thinking to myself “I want to do that. I want to make images”. Seeing how photography worked, and the endless possibilities that it possessed, I was sold. I also met amazing people that day, that have been a part of my college experience to this day. I couldn’t walk away from the opportunity from joining the Tiger family.
How is this community helping to shape your goals
RIT, as a university has so many opportunities for students to be successful. Knowledge is the largest piece of power that you can have when trying to develop a brand for yourself. The community, specifically in the photography department, is incredibly supportive of each other’s endeavors. We work together to make sure everyone’s work is the best that it can be, which is something I am going to miss when I graduate next Spring. The importance of collaboration among professors and students has really helped to teach me how I should be working when I am in the real world. Everything is treated as a professional job, which encourages a professional environment within the department.
What has been your most challenging assignment as a photography student?
There have been so many challenging assignments and professors that have pushed me into visualizing a concept that I’m thinking. The most challenging assignment for me was the junior year AD Group Project. We were given the task to create a mock ad campaign for a company of our choosing, over the span of about 6 weeks. My group chose to take on Urban Outfitters, a trendy clothing store primarily targeted to the millennial audience. My role in this project was to produce, film behind the scenes, and design. We photographed in seven different locations, using over 12 models, and presented six images as our final product. It was one of the largest produced shoots that I have done while being here at RIT. I learned so much from that project, because we endured so many obstacles and challenges, but it all became worth it in the end.
Have you won any awards?
During my time at RIT, I have had the opportunity to be recognized for work in various ways. I was fortunate enough to meet Brandon Stanton, the author and blogger for Humans of New York. This was based off a student government contest showcasing RIT students and their stories. I have also been interviewed for Rochester POST magazine where I shared my experiences being a part of Photo Club during middle and high school, and how that inspired me to pursue photography at RIT. Lastly, I am a primary subject in the documentary titled, “Photo City”, showcasing Rochester photographers and Rochester’s history in relation to Eastman Kodak. There have been so many unique opportunities where I have been able to share my work with others, which is just as rewarding as being recognized with an award.
A favorite class or teacher story
Another tough question! While I don’t want to cause a war within the Advertising Photography program, I think my favorite professor is Rachel Ferraro. I chose to take many her classes which included Photographing People, People Illustration, and Advertising Photography. She is full of so much energy, and so resourceful for her students. She always gave us great locations to shoot at, lighting techniques, and just always made herself available for our benefit. Compared to all my other professors, Rachel provided the best critique on my work. There have been a lot of times during my education, where I walked away from critique confused and concerned that I wasn’t conveying what I wanted in my images. This is still something I struggle with today, but Rachel always gave me feedback based upon the concepts I presented, and she just understood my photography. Her classes were always fun to be in, filled with laughter and compassion for our photography. My favorite memory of Rachel was when she asked me to model for an open portrait session. It was a first-hand look on how she worked in the studio, and what she did when photographing people. It was a very inspiring shoot, because it taught me more on how to direct, and how to make your subject feel the photograph before it is even taken. I am very grateful to have Rachel as a mentor in my development as a photographer.
What are you plans after School?
This question is probably the most common one I get asked when sharing my story. I have tossed and turned about what I want to do when I graduate. I want to relocate from Rochester within six months after graduation, but I am not completely sure where to. My goal is to start in production, so I can get on my feet in a new place. While working there, I want to assist and offer my services when I can to get prepared to start my own business. The main goal is to start my own business offering five-star photography and production services. I also really love fashion and beauty photography, so being able to dive into that industry is also a goal for myself. Jhadé
You can see more of Jhadés work at: https://www.jhadebenitez.com/