Cariboo-Chilcotin photographer Jesaja Class is only 24 years old, but he has achieved something many photographers aspire towards for their entire career.
A National Geographic travel article is featuring photographs Class took of the Great Bear Rainforest in the Bella Coola area.
“It’s amazing, it’s really inspirational to have something like that happen to inspire you to keep going and keep pursuing something that you really love,” the soft-spoken Class told Black Press Media.
The story by Chloe Berge is about Indigenous conservation and the potential benefits of these practices on tourism and features photos Class took in his work with the Tweedsmuir Park Lodge.
The article’s main photograph is an aerial image encompassing the winding river and coastal mountains and forests in a stunning panoramic landscape. Other photos in the article include grizzly bears and petroglyphs, things integral to the Bella Coola Valley’s ecology, history and tourism.
Class’ path to this place in his young photography career has been one of good connections.
He grew up in Nemaiah Valley, and was already well known in the Cariboo-Chilcotin area as a skilled young magician and illusionist, a business he began as a teen.
Class has only been doing photography as a business for about four years, and took up photography about six years ago, after it sparked his interest while he was doing videos to promote his work as a magician.
He made some key contacts, starting with becoming friends with a well-known photographer from the region.
“Kind of a big turning point for that was meeting a local photographer … Chris Harris,” recalled Class. When Harris was in the Nemaiah Valley area working on a book of photography, Class and his father took Harris out on a four-day boat trip on Chilko Lake.
For Harris, the respect was mutual.
“From the instant I met him, I knew I was in the presence of a very magical, charismatic, creative, and talented individual,” recalled Harris, of meeting Jesaja. “I marvel at his accomplishments, and he is now, indeed an inspiration to myself. I am truly excited for him and his future as an artist.”
Harris’ connection to the outdoors and the landscape was something Class said he identified with and getting to see Harris’ process really got him interested in doing something in photography himself.
He then began to teach himself more by watching another known photographer’s videos on You Tube.
“That’s the point where it started for me to see it as a profession, more than just a hobby,” explained Class. Peter McKinnon’s videos helped him refine his skills and then Class went even deeper and began to find his personal style by looking at others whose work he likes.
When Class started putting his work out to pursue it as a business, he connected with the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism office in Williams Lake who then passed his name on to the Tweedsmuir Lake Lodge in Bella Coola.
His work for the lodge gained attention from British Columbia Magazine, which featured one of his grizzly bear images on the front cover as part of a contest, which gained him even more attention.
This all led him down the road to now being featured by National Geographic,
“I’ve tried really hard to produce some great images for (Tweedsmuir Park Lodge) and they’ve been really pushing those images and they’ve gone out there and gotten noticed,” said Class.
Currently, Class finds his photography is about capturing the outdoors and people interacting with the outdoors as he works largely with tourism-focused businesses.
Class said he will continue to try and improve and develop his craft and his style, which he describes as “vibrant” and “authentic” in trying to convey “atmosphere and the moment.”
“With photography you just have that one frame to capture the entire story,” explained Class.
His advice to other new photographers is to pick someone who inspires you and reach out to them and just try to be inspired by their work to find your own style.