Lifers: Jackie Ellison

Meet a Memphian who is in it for the long haul. In this series of "Lifers," see the city from the perspective of a native who chooses to keep calling Memphis home.
Jackie Ellison, 31, has been a Memphian his whole life. He's committed to fostering homegrown creativity, because for him, the city's greatest asset is its rich culture. As a onetime banker and sometime mechanic, he's worked in a variety of fields, but his most passionate work is as a photographer. As co-founder of the Memphis Soul Collective, he surrounds himself with other artists who are committed to the city and capturing its unique spirit.

How long have you been taking photos? I got serious with photography around 5 years ago.

What type of photographer do you consider yourself? Fine art with heavy photojournalistic tones.

How long has Memphis Soul Collective been around, and why did you and Brandon Marshall start it? We started MSC in 2013. Brandon and I had been admirers of one another's work and work ethic for a while at that point. It was a piece of his that initially got me into the world of street art, which has been a huge influence on my work and mentality. We met up one day for lunch, and the rest is history.

What does Memphis Soul Collective do? Our focus is primarily to get raw, soulful art in positions of high visibility and impact. Whether it's walls or print, we want those who see our work to experience something unfiltered and full of passion. The collective as a whole has several murals under our belt, but there's still plenty more work to be done.

What is your favorite project that Memphis Soul Collective has been a part of? I'm forever partial to our first mural as MSC, located at the Greenlaw Community Center. We logged many long summer nights, and when it was done I felt a sense of accomplishment that, up until that point, I'd never felt before.

What has kept you in Memphis? My daughter, MSC, and hope. 

What has surprised you in Memphis? Nothing really. And that's not meant in a negative way. 

What has challenged you about Memphis? Getting people to think about the "greater good." I think there are some great things happening in the city. Some great things that are common sense, some great things that are long overdue, but most of these great things are fueled by maximum profitability rather than "Let's just make Memphis a better place." That, for me, is frustrating. I think we'd be a much better city if the "powers that be" used more brain and heart rather than accountants and ledgers in decision-making.

What unique opportunities exist for you here? Being an artist in such a culturally rich place as Memphis makes every outing with my camera a unique opportunity.

What local organizations or initiatives here do you like? Pretty big fan of the UrbanArt Commission.

What would you like to see in the future Memphis art scene?  More soul, more inclusion, genuine interest. More opportunity. And of course, more MSC.

Read more articles by Elle Perry.

A native of Memphis, Elle Perry serves as coordinator of the Teen Appeal, the Scripps Howard city-wide high school newspaper program. 
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