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Behind the Lens
of James Bickham

By Cody Moore , Photography submitted by James Bickham

Jonesboro resident James Bickham is known by many for his photography and videography talents, as well as his community efforts, such as Operation Full Bellies, which served the community 3,500 meals in the wake of Jonesboro’s tornado and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, Bickham used his talents to capture breathtaking images during the Black Lives Matter protests that took place within the City of Jonesboro.

Bickham, a native of Southern California, moved to Jonesboro when he was just 14 years old and considers the city his home. He has a degree in education from Arkansas State University and has experience in teaching and working in real estate, though he has always had a passion for photography and videography.

“About two years ago, Eric Burch and Jack Tuner gave me an opportunity to come sell real estate with the team,” said Bickham. “I took the opportunity, and with that came the chance to support myself while creating more time for making videos and photos.”

After countless hours of watching vlog-style videos on YouTube, Bickham bought his first DSLR camera and began to create his own high-quality video content. After posting his videos online, Bickham quickly booked his first video project, a wedding video, without having any experience professionally shooting a wedding.

“After that first wedding was posted, another inquiry came in,” said Bickham. “It was a natural progression to want to start learning to take photos, so I started with watching more YouTube videos and taking portraits of close friends to learn the basics. Literally thousands of hours of watching YouTube tutorials, roughly 150,000 photos and one year later, I felt I was producing images that were good enough to start charging and offering my services professionally.”

James Bickham Visuals, Bickham’s photography and videography business, was officially introduced to the public in 2018, and the rest is history.
“It was a huge leap of faith going full-time into photography, but I'm so glad I took the last leap of faith and did it,” said Bickham. “I still occasionally will sell a home to a friend or family, but photo and video have become my full-time job.”

Though Bickham travels all over the state and beyond for photoshoots, he does a lot of his work out of his loft in Downtown Jonesboro, which doubles as his photo studio.

“I’d lived downtown for about a year when deciding to go full-time in photo and video,” said Bickham. “Once I decided to open a business, it was just a matter of finding a studio that fit my needs. I do quite a bit of my photography work downtown, so it made me a much more efficient photographer and has saved me so much commuting time to and from shoots and projects.”

James Bickham Visuals offers an array of services, including wedding photography and videography, portraits, business headshots, high fashion and modeling shoots, family shoots, real estate shoots, and newborn and birthing photos, as well as event coverage.

“Last year, I was blessed to book and work 30-plus weddings and different types of projects in nine different states and in Europe,” said Bickham.

Aside from his photography and videography gigs, Bickham also has a passion for the Jonesboro community. In April, Bickham, along with several volunteers and donors, introduced Operation Full Bellies as a way for local businesses and restaurants to give out free meals to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic and after Jonesboro’s EF-3 tornado.

“Operation Full Bellies was an incredible opportunity that came up and giving back to the community like that was amazing,” said Bickham. “We ended up giving away nearly 3,500 meals over 16 days using 16 different local restaurants to do so. We took donations from over 100 donors to pay for the meals and averaged around 240 meals given away per night.”

Bickham and other volunteers decided to create a tradition out of the Operation Full Bellies event and plan to host it annually.
“Every March, we’re going to begin fundraising and planning with two to three local restaurants,” said Bickham. “We’re going to continue to give away as many meals as we can afford to give out to the community.”

Bickham has not only given back to the Jonesboro community through Operation Full Bellies; he recently used his profession to make an impact as well. Last month, Black Lives Matter protests occurred all over the world after video evidence of the horrific death of Minneapolis, Minn., resident George Floyd during his arrest by members of the Minneapolis Police Department went viral.
Several protests took place in Jonesboro, and Bickham took it upon himself to capture images that portrayed the peaceful protests within the city.

“The peaceful protests were a major pivot point not just in Northeast Arkansas history, but also American history,” said Bickham. “They’ve been a powerful expression of emotion showcased by a very prominent and important community within our country.

“It was vitally important to me to capture the true emotions as accurately and as clearly as possible so that anyone looking at the images would understand how much emotion and pain the black community was expressing.”

Over the years, Bickham has accumulated a large social media following, so he felt it was his duty to use the platform he has built to showcase how he views Jonesboro.

“I decided to do some unique shoots during the protest to express my view of my community,” said Bickham. “I invited some graduates to come shoot to show the world that the future of the Black community isn't prisons and jails, it's colleges and education.”

“I also did a project with a beautiful, young Black ballerina in the middle of the protest. When asked about why I chose a ballerina, it is because they represent beauty. No matter how much anger or pain we’re going through, the beauty of Black will always shine through.”

With a big social media following comes an opinion from many members of the community, which Bickham says has been mostly positive and uplifting.

“The response has been incredible,” he said. “Jonesboro has always been one of the most supportive communities in Arkansas, and the people here have shown why. The outpouring of love and support through shares, comments, messages and likes on each photo and post has been breathtaking.

“It has completely blown me away. I’ve had countless people stop me on the street or when I’m out and about to say, ‘I saw your pictures on Facebook. They were incredible. Thank you for sharing.’”

To view some of the photos from Bickham’s Black Lives Matter protest photo shoots, view the photo gallery on the following pages. For more information on James Bickham Visuals or to book a photo shoot, find James Bickham Visuals on Facebook or visit jamesbickhamvisuals.com.