Location, Location, Location!” Whether or not it was first said by a British real estate tycoon or local music group The Tin Men, those three words sum up for me what it means to really KNOW New Orleans. For a photographer living in the most visually and culturally unique city in the United States, finding the perfect environment for a portrait is something I take great pride in doing. You can see from my portraits that “environment is everything” when telling the story of someone.
“I was looking to get to know New Orleans better, through the eyes of a local, and I ended up coming across Zack’s photos on Instagram. Then I figured what better way there is to learn more about a place than through the eyes of a photographer? Zack’s work is atmospheric and thoughtful; I love the side of New Orleans that I get to see through his work. Whether you’re local to the area or an out-of-towner, Zack’s insights are just the thing you need to put your finger on the pulse of this city. His comprehensive knowledge of the area, plus his marvelous discerning eye simply makes his work so fun to follow.”
– Helen, Borrowed & Blue’s New Orleans Market Specialist
1. Zack! How did you get started as a photographer?
Since an early age I have loved to hear stories, both true and embellished. I love the art of storytelling, and I am forever enamored with the gift of listening. I was a voracious writer all through high school and college, writing for both my high school newspaper and I was the chief staff writer for my college yearbook. One day I saw something that mere words could not describe or encapsulate and felt a photograph could tell the story better.
2. As a storyteller, what draws you to a particular subject?
The subjects that interest me most have a depth and backstory that peek just above the surface. I listen intently and look for interesting stories in the way people explain a situation, or themselves. I feel as though I am a detective or psychologist – always looking to read between the lines, or asking questions someone never sees coming. I am always trying to get to the heart of the matter, earnestly.
3. Tell us more about Environmental Portraiture and why we should love it.
Environmental Portraiture, to me, is to tell the age old story of humans and their connection to a place or to the land in a visually interesting and appealing way. Our connection with the land on which we feel comfortable, creative and safe in, tells a lot about who we are, where we are from, and why we’re here. If I am to photograph anyone to tell their story, I need to know where they’re from and “where they’re at”. You would naturally love it because don’t you want to know more about yourself and the people around you? If you desire, you can make the world smaller and more connected by knowing more about the people around you.
4. What makes or breaks a collaborative session for you, whether it’s a bridal shoot or a commercial project?
Knowledge of your client’s goals and clear communication about your deliverables as a photographer can make or break any photo shoot. I make it a point to have multiple conversations via email or phone, and meet in person if possible so that I understand fully what the client is looking to get out of this shoot. I want them to know that I care about how they look and the message that gives, and that I am not there pushing buttons. To convey to a client that we are actually collaborating by talking out the ideas in their heads gives a “team” aspect to my shoots and I love that. Meeting in person if they are local is an absolute MUST in my book – so much is gained from one’s perspective on their photographic needs from their attitudes, body language, and questions they ask in person as opposed to emails and phone calls.
5. Describe your ideal day in New Orleans.
My ideal day in New Orleans goes like this: My day would start about thirty minutes before sunrise. I would wake up that early to be able to catch the sun rising above the horizon and watch it warm the homes of the city. (some of the best backgrounds!) If there’s a nice fog rolling off the lake in City Park, I will be there. Breakfast would be at Satsuma Uptown, Ethiopian bean coffee at Coast Roast in St. Roch Market. During the day I’d probably work on some client work, editing, location scouting etc. You did say “ideal day” and it feels so good to get some edits off the docket! One hour before the sunset, I would get ready to shoot again – not sure where, maybe in St. Bernard Parish.
6. What are some of your go-to spots in NOLA to photograph?
I have been photographing the same tree at the Chalmette Battlefield for about 5 months every week at sunrise. It’s a fun meditation on being the rock instead of the stream. I really don’t have any favorite places. Instead, I have favorite “times” so I really always have to have a camera. I like to photograph times of day as they interact with the city, then come back to photograph them with a client, a band, or embellish and toy with some wild ideas.
7. What sets New Orleans apart from other places you’ve lived?
I have not stopped creating unique works of art since I moved here. Since 2000 I have continued to peel back more and more layers of the story that is this City of New Orleans, and I continue to be inspired. I’ve never known or lived anywhere that just kept on giving like this.
I hope you enjoyed my insights on why I love photographing in and with New Orleans. This city is real, it has a pulse and if you take care of her, she takes care of you. Take care, and I hope you check out Borrowed & Blue, a great way to find your next New Orleans wedding photographer – Zack