Community spirit has returned. People looking out for each other, talking to their neighbours, checking in on those who haven’t been well, and the real sense of belonging. It has been so powerful, and seeing not only what has been going on my own village, but in countries across the world. It has been very humbling, and I hope it continues.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeanette (Jet) Lendon.
Jet is the founder and Creative Director of Jet Black Squares. Combining her former teaching career in the East End of London with a more recent corporate photography business of 13 years, she has created a hub for everything creative surrounding the smartphone. Her passion is showing people of all ages how to get the best photos from their phone — she believes that photography should be available to everyone and not just those who have a ‘fancy camera’. Jet’s infectious enthusiasm is evident for all to see, whether teaching the CEO of an international company, presenting to a conference of 100+ clients within the travel industry or an 85 year old grandma. She can often be seen whizzing around the streets of Hertfordshire on Basil, her gorgeous Vespa scooter.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I’ve had quite a varied career path, which has included time as a secretary in an accounting firm, a primary school teacher in the East End of London, and a professional photographer shooting everything from boudoir, babies and businesses, culminating in the launch of Jet Black Squares, which has managed to fuse together all my past experiences into one business.
A few years ago, I tentatively dipped my toes into running smartphone photography workshops for friends as an added strand alongside my corporate and commercial photography business. I soon realised that I enjoyed doing this, way more than commercial photography (which I had been shooting for 13 years), as it combined my teaching background and my photography training. I found smartphone photography to be more innovative and spontaneous — and the fact that everyone could do it meant it was a massive opportunity. It also helped that there was far less competition around. Soon after, I took the plunge and decided to solely focus on smartphone photography masterclasses. With a smartphone, people didn’t need to spend a fortune on expensive camera equipment when they could just use what was in their pocket — photography suddenly became available to everyone. Overnight the mindset shifted from having a phone that took pictures, to a camera that made phone calls — and it was exciting. Every advert for mobile phones for the last 3 years or so focusses on the camera capabilities — not the phone. The image quality is just getting better and better with each new camera upgrade, for example, the Shot on iPhone campaigns feature photos that have been shot on an iPhone on giant billboards across the world. Little did I know then that the likes of Vogue would be using their smartphones to shoot international models over FaceTime during lockdown.
Subsequently, I turned my attention to the corporate market, showing companies how to take their own social media images. Businesses quickly discovered that they can not only save a fortune on their marketing budget by training their own staff to provide marketing content, whether it’s for social media, press releases, newsletters, etc, it also has a positive impact on staff morale. By getting the whole company involved from the cleaners, security guards, secretaries, CEOs and the CEOs children, means there is no hierarchy. Everyone can submit their photos, and the marketing team have a bank of royalty-fee images they can use without having to trawl through image libraries (or pay licences for them). Event planners found that instead of hiring a photographer, their own staff could take, edit and share/post the photos online immediately without having to wait for them to be sent over afterwards. My ‘Step Away from the Desk’ sessions in London focus on mental health, and encourage office workers to get out the office during their lunch break for an hour to learn a new skill and see what is on their doorstep.
Jet Black Squares now run smartphone photography masterclasses throughout the country (and hopefully the world soon) for both corporate and personal clients, with space for guest presenters to also give masterclasses on smartphone videography, social media, and anything smartphone related.
I am passionate about the fact that you don’t need an expensive camera to create stunning images. Jamie Oliver isn’t the great chef he is because of what oven he uses — its down to his skill, passion and understanding as to how different flavours work together. The same can be said for photography — understand the story, look for the light and the magic will happen — no matter what camera you are using.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I have two really. The first one is Make a Living Living by Nina Karnikowski. Two years ago, when I niched in smartphone photography, my mindset shifted to be more focussed, and at the start of lockdown, I totally rebranded and my mindset shifted up another yet another gear. I became more focussed on growing my business to be bigger and better. Make a Living Living is all about being “successful doing what you love”. One quote in the book from Pip Jamieson (founder of the creative-network The Dots) resonated with me. “Make your passion your job, and it will never feel like work again”.
The second book is Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor Garcia and Francesc Miralles. “The people of Japan believe that everyone has an Ikigai — a reason to jump out of bed each morning”. After a couple of really tough years (my father died very suddenly in 2018), reading the chapter on Resilience really helped. “One thing that everyone with a clearly defined Ikigai has in common is that they pursue their passion no matter what.” Never once did I think of giving up, and in fact it only made me more determined to create a business and brand that will grow bigger and better.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
1. I think the biggest reason to be hopeful is that the world has almost rebooted. It was like we were all put on the ‘naughty step’ and told to think about our actions. I have loved how during lockdown the wildlife has almost reclaimed the land in pretty much every country across the world. The stars have shone more brightly due to less pollution and no planes, and the world has slowly had time to heal. I hope that people will keep this in mind when things start to ‘go back to normal’.
2. More and more people have reconnected to their local community and have relied on local businesses during lockdown. Businesses have pivoted and been creative in order to serve the local community, and also to simply stay afloat. I admit that large companies such as Amazon have had their place (as my credit card will testify), but now things are opening up more, we need to rally round the small, independents and show our loyalty and support where we can.
3. Community spirit has returned. People looking out for each other, talking to their neighbours, checking in on those who haven’t been well, and the real sense of belonging. It has been so powerful, and seeing not only what has been going on my own village, but in countries across the world. It has been very humbling, and I hope it continues.
4. Hopefully during this time you have had time to reflect. Reflect on you, on your life and your business and you can assess where your priorities lie. If you don’t like what you are doing — change it. If you want to do more of something — do it. If you want to do less of something — don’t do it!!!
5. Lastly, (and slightly controversially) is that companies have realised that you don’t need to commute hours a day to work. In a lot of cases, working from home has shone a light on just how much money was being spent on commercial rent, commuting, as well as loss of productivity. I would also hope that people with disabilities, who previously couldn’t physically get into an office but were desperate to work, can now be considered for employment. Yes, team spirit still needs to be maintained, but even if this is on a weekly or monthly basis, hiring spaces as and when a team meeting is needed, it will reduce the need for the office environment that we have been familiar with.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
1. Mute the scaremongers on social media. It seems that everyone has become an ‘expert’ in politics, medicine — in fact everything!
2. Switch off the news.
3. Stop. Breathe, and notice the little things. A bee on a flower, an ant carrying a leaf, a bird on a bird feeder.
4. Make time to sit down with a cup of tea and either a good book, a magazine, or a maybe a cheeky game of Candy Crush. Even if it’s for only 10 minutes, it makes all the difference. Make time for Me.
5. Go for a good walk or a cycle. I’m so lucky that we have two dogs that have needed exercise throughout lockdown, and we have used this time to really explore our local area. We have discovered areas of our village we didn’t even know existed before — and we’ve lived here for 15 years!
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
I would say the best resource would be your local community — even after lockdown ends. Get involved if you can. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but just connecting with the people who are on your doorstep is so powerful. If you need to, reach out and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and with more and more people from all walks of life shining the spotlight on mental health and the importance to talk, it really is so important to take that first step. Lastly, smile at strangers. It’s amazing how a simple smile can make not only the other person feel good, but also you.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“It is a privilege to grow old, not a right”. When my dad died, it really brought it home just how fragile life is. He was 83, had never had a thing wrong with him, and lived life to the full. There are a lot of people who don’t have the luxury of growing old which is why you have to live every day like it’s your best day. Drink champagne on a Monday, don’t save things for ‘best’, and laugh often. Life really is too short.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to hold an exhibition of ‘The United Kingdom — Here and Now’, through the lens of a smartphone. To encourage people from all walks of life to submit their photos from all over the UK showcasing what their ‘Here and Now’ looks like. Whether that’s luxury or poverty, adult or child, white privilege or ethnic minority. A photo that represents how they see their life right now. I would then love the images to do a touring exhibition across the UK.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!