September 16, 2019

GAT interview with Eyoälha Baker

Jump for Joy founder fights negatives in life with joyful photos

An interview by James Phu (@jamesphu)

Born in Canada’s West Coast, Eyoälha (Eee-YO-Lah) means “the wind” in the Kwakwa’ka’wakw (Kwakiutl) language. Travelling and living around the world has given her great appreciation for cultural differences and human similarities. She has a BFA from Concordia University, a Diploma in Media Resources, and studied International Business Management. After running a small Interior Decorating business and helping start up a furnished rental business, she decided to follow her passion as photographer. Eyoälha began the Jump for Joy! Photo Project with a desire to share the contagious energy of joy and has created large-scale photo murals with her photos.

James Phu: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Eyoälha. Tell us something about yourself that not many people are aware of.

Eyoälha Baker: I used to be very, very shy. I was not at all comfortable in situations with groups of new people. It would take me a long time to open up and feel comfortable around new people. I’m still more comfortable when I’m interacting one-on-one. I would never have imagined creating a project that requires interacting with hundreds of new people or speaking in front of large groups of people. Public speaking still terrifies me, but I’m working on that.

James Phu: The Jump for Joy project that you started is one of the most beautiful and unique initiatives I have seen in a while. What is the background story behind the Jump for Joy Project?

Eyoälha Baker: We know that images are used as powerful tools of persuasion in business and politics, and I noticed that news and media tend to showcase mainly negative, fear-based images. It got me thinking about how this affects us as a society and how we in turn interact with each other. How does it make us feel as a collective, to see images that depict sad, terrorizing news on a daily basis? In general, it breads fear and distrust. My idea with the Jump for Joy Photo Project is that if societies as whole can be influenced to shut off, and fear each other by negative images, they can also be influenced to open up and be kinder by positive images. I look at it as the group think concept, where people feed off each other’s energy in a group situation, such as a riot, where people who may not normally be destructive get caught up in the situation. The same can be true with an overwhelming sense of joy. If there are mass feelings of joy being felt, people tend to be more open, more helpful, hopeful and want to help each other. So I began taking uplifting, positive images of people jumping for joy, and sharing them around the world. The intention is to help shift some of the negative energy being fed to us.

James Phu: As I understand your background story, at the time when you created the Jump for Joy project, you weren’t feeling very happy about your life. How did you go from those feelings to creating something so large and meaningful?

Eyoälha Baker: I decided to make feeling joy a priority for myself. It has always been important to me to walk my talk so if I was suggesting that we all feel more joyful, then I wanted to make sure that I was feeling joyful myself. The project was a big part of helping me personally shift my own feelings. I did a lot of introspection and personal healing / growth work along the way. I did a lot of research on things that make people feel good and posted positive uplifting quotes and photos every day. It helped me stay focused on my goal of feeling and sharing joy. A lot of change came from being aware of the way I thought about things and myself. Just by shifting my perspective, and always searching for the positive point of view made a big difference for me. I trained myself to think differently in order to feel differently. It was not always easy and I occasionally still have moments where I don’t feel that great, but they pass very quickly now. I am far happier and more joyful than I have been most of my life.

James Phu: What was the original vision of the Jump for Joy Project, and how has the vision changed over the course of time?

Eyoälha Baker: My original goal was to create a book of 1000 people jumping for joy around the world. I still plan to complete this one day, but it’s a long-term goal now. Since beginning the project, I have had a lot of different opportunities and ways to share joy that I hadn’t even considered when I first started the project. One of the most heart-opening and gratifying experiences so far has been creating 2 large-scale paste up photo murals with enlarged photos of people jumping for joy around Vancouver. The murals brought together people from all walks of life and engaged the community, completely opened my heart and made me feel very connected with people in the DTES who were a big part of helping me get the work done. The first mural was removed, and the second will also be removed, so I’m looking into creating a Vancouver Jump for Joy mural book with the images and experiences of creating these murals to keep that special experience alive.

Being open to sharing joyful energy in different ways and formats has made the project much more fun, interesting and effective than I had ever imagined possible. I want to continue to be open to sharing joy in different and unexpected ways, while still working towards the original goal. I’m trying something new again this year. I’m collaborating with artist Ola Volo to create a new painted mural. The new painted mural will present the same joyful, uplifting energy as the original photo mural but depicted through Ola’s storytelling style, and I once again, will be learning a new technique and way to share the joyful energy through art.

James Phu: What was the reason behind choosing a “jump” to feature versus other things such as a smile or a wave?

Eyoälha Baker: Jumping is an innate response to celebrating and excitement. It is something only we can do ourselves: we use our own power and strength to lift ourselves up, which I think is very empowering. Jumping is a metaphor for life and a symbol for expressing and sharing joy. Jumping is fun. Jumping is silly, freeing and energizing. Jumping is good for your health. Jumping gets your blood pumping and gives you an adrenaline rush. Jumping for joy celebrates all that is good and positive in the world.

This quote sums jumping photos up quite well:

“When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.” – Philippe Halsman

James Phu: How have you changed as a person since beginning this project?

Eyoälha Baker: I have become more open, more approachable and more outgoing. I have way more confidence and belief that anything is possible. I want to find more ways to have a positive effect in the world. And I feel more grounded and joyful than I have most of my life.

James Phu: The Jump for Joy is a small part of your portfolio. Above all, you are an amazing artist. What is the process you go through in order to capture the perfect picture?

Eyoälha Baker: I look for moments when people are not aware of the camera or for different ways and perspectives of seeing things. I also really love to capture images that hold emotion or tell a story without words. I’m kind of a fluke photographer; I’m not at all technically inclined, nor have great equipment or skills. I tend to just play around and take a lot of photos just to see what I get, and pick what I like from there. After several hundred jumping pics, you get pretty good at guesstimating and timing!

James Phu: Throughout your journey, you must have met some amazing people that have changed your outlook on life.  What is the most memorable story you have that really impacted your life?

Eyoälha Baker: I am always meeting people and having experiences that change my outlook. I think a big change came when I began working on my first mural which was located in a grungy ally in Vancouver’s DTES. There are lot of people in that area struggling with addiction, abuse, hunger, mental illness and homelessness. I met a lot of people with whom I may never have interacted, had I not been working on the mural. These people became the biggest fans and supporters of the mural. A lot of people from the ally were generous, kind and helpful with me and it really changed my perception of the people in this neighborhood and opened my heart. They made me feel welcomed and cared for, and it inspires me to want to make them feel the same.

James Phu: I can see that you are truly passionate about what you do and your work. There are many people in the world today who dislike their jobs and would love to try something new but are too afraid to make the change.  What advice could you provide someone who is in that position?

Eyoälha Baker: Trust and have faith in what brings you joy. Following your passion is not always the easiest path, but it’s the most gratifying and life-affirming way to live. Once you commit to living the life you want, the most amazing opportunities and experiences open up. Trust your gut and say “Yes” to things that light you up and/or scare you a bit. You will have to take some risks, will likely make a lot of mistakes, and may need to give up some comforts to make the change, but it’s worth it. You can accomplish far more than you imagine possible if you trust your gut, take action and be persistent.

James Phu: If you could change just one thing in the world, what would it be and why?

Eyoälha Baker: There are an awful lot of things I would love to see changed… it would be amazing to have all the basic survival needs of people met, stop all wars, end famine and abuse…. I would love all people to feel amazing about themselves, be kind and respect each other. But on a very simple and personal level, wouldn’t it be great if we all just felt joyful and did the things that we love? Maybe if we all felt amazing and joyful in our own lives all these sad and terrible things would not exist. When we feel joyful, we are kinder, more open and we want to help each other… so it’s a start in the right direction.

James Phu: What do you want the Global Asian Times audience to take away from this interview?

Eyoälha Baker: We have a choice in the images we share and support in the media and online. We also have a choice in the way we approach, feel and interact with ourselves and others. The way we feel emotionally has ripple effects on those around us, and the images we support and share influence the way we feel. Each of us has the power to effect positive changes in the world simply by being mindful, self-reflective and aware of the images we share / support, of our own feelings and how we interact with others.


About the interviewer:

James PhuJames Phu is a Vancouver-based motivational blogger and speaker who is on a personal mission to share the knowledge he has accumulated over the past few years on the subject of self-mastery. His goal is to help motivate and inspire others to improve their lives. His blog and YouTube channel focus on personal development topics such as building an amazing legacy, finding happiness, and creating and maintaining good daily habits. James Phu also works full-time as a people manager at one of the most prestigious software companies in the world.

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