Toni is a distinguished natural light photographer based in Jacksonville. He captures powerful portrait photography and operates @cre8jax. He recently released his first book, Introducing Jacksonville to Jacksonville, showcasing stylish people in the city and beautifully capturing faces in moments.
“I don’t care what my name looks like after I’m dead, you get to decide what that is. From day-to-day I just want to help the next person, make their life a little bit easier than what mine was when I was their age.”Toni Smailagic
Toni is able to skillfully capture the intricacies of Jacksonville that show people what makes this city great, from those that take pride in where they are from – sometimes affectionately yelling “Duuval,” to those who have yet to discover the beauty.
It should serve as high praise that the well-traveled Smailagić, of Bosnian descent, fancies this often overlooked city. Photosets documenting the varying lifestyles of countries such as Croatia, Kenya, Puerto Rico and Columbia combined with the more familiar images of Jacksonville really exemplify the range and eye for beauty that Toni possesses.
He is capable of capturing perfect snapshots, partly due to his background which includes a powerful selection, Mantis for Glassbook that altogether took roughly six to seven years to craft. It took building up a team of stylists, high pressure and ended up being an impactful series he was proud to showcase.
“It’s finding the hidden gems or the things people don’t usually look for in a person. That’s what I’m usually drawn to.”
When searching for his next project, Toni doesn’t concern himself with the prestige that a prospect may have previously possessed. He’s more interested in the slight intricacies that make every person unique from the other. Toni also seeks out those who use their time to positively impact their environment and the results that they yield.
“When I see they care about certain communities, areas of town, whatever the issues that they care about, if I believe in what they’re doing, I am drawn to documenting them, even just from a photo-journalistic documentarian standpoint.”
Each photo he takes has a story behind it, a purpose, something that has the ability to pique your curiosity. His website ranges from the visual documentation from his international travels to his interests in fashion, lifestyle and even journalistic shoots. Each tab sets a similar trend that lends itself to setting the mood. Another common theme in his pictures is the use of black and white photography. The black and white boldens the features of the muses, whether it be their muscles, or the structure of their facial bones or even the elements of the inanimate objects in the photograph. His method of capturing lifestyles from not only different cities but also Jacksonville leaves you wanting to explore these seemingly unbeknownst locations that you may pass by every day.
CREATING LIVING HISTORY
“I was taking these pictures and I wanted to showcase the rest of the people that I knew, that I grew up with, that there are cool things happening in Jacksonville…so I kind of combined everything together and that’s how Cre8jax was born.”
Since its inception, Cre8Jax has gone above and beyond to support the bountiful of budding talent in the area. It not only highlights the artists in the city but also provides direction to resources that can assist artists in empowering themselves. Smailagić also provides an updated schedule for events such as DuvalFolx, The Longest Table and Jazz Fest to highlight what the city has to offer on a weekly basis. Cre8Jax provides more than just a glimpse into the joy that Jacksonville is consistently capable of creating, it embodies the spirit of artists’ imagination.
Smailagić has spent the past three years documenting all things Jacksonville. His book, Introducing Jacksonville to Jacksonville highlights so much about what makes this city and it’s people great, including activism, street style and nightlife. He takes pleasure in seeing the impact of the book on locals and visitors as the culture continues to grow.
“As old of a city as we are, we are still new, new enough to be able to mold it into whatever we want it to go into, and that’s influential, being able to see a blank canvas in front of you.”