This week’s featured influencer is street photographer @dleeezy, or Don JL.
Meet Don, a Toronto photographer who has a knack for nighttime photography and capturing the city’s eye-catching purple sunsets. We catch up with him to find out his strategies to build a following online, and the one thing makes him want to collaborate with some brands over others.
Where are you from?
I moved around quite a bit when I was younger but ultimately settled in the east end of Toronto for most of my adolescence.
How did you get started in photography?
I got started the minute I got my hands on a camera. I was really young (6 or 7) when I got my first 35mm pocket camera. Nine times out of ten, there was no film in it but it ignited a passion for photography that just kept following me around.
When did you start really investing time into your Instagram page?
Once I got a few thousand followers, I knew there was some potential. I obviously had no idea that Instagram and influencer marketing would become a thing, but I was just happy to have a platform to share my passion. Before that, I had a defunct Tumblr page and posted a few photos on Facebook here and there.
What were some strategies you used to build your page?
Posting quality and unique content. That’s the key. Also, genuinely engaging with your followers goes a long way. Like almost anything in life, there’s no real secret or formula. Just be you.
What’s the most memorable shoot you’ve been on?
One time my client locked their keys in their car and all the wardrobe for the part of the shoot was in there. We had to wait a few hours until we got the door open (at this point, it was night time). I had to improvise the entire shoot, but in the end some of my favourite shots came from that session.
What are some of your favourite spots to shoot in the city?
I love shooting in Chinatown for some reason. There’s always so much going on and I seem to get some gems every time I shoot there. I also like shooting the Financial District during rush hour (I know, so original).
What are your creative goals?
From a photography perspective, my goal is to always capture a singular moment that cannot be recaptured. It’s definitely a tall task but some of my favourite photos come from those moments that can never be replicated. Ultimately, I want to create timeless work that I can be proud of, and if i can get paid in the process, that’s a bonus. There’s a quote I often refer to, “if you do it right, it will live forever.”
What are the key things you look for when working with a brand?
I like to make sure brands are somewhat socially responsible and give back to the community in some way. I won’t just work with anyone. If Monsanto came knocking on my door, they’d get the boot, real quick.
What are some of your favourite accounts to follow?
View more of Don’s work here!