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When dPS first heard about Zack Seckler’s unique style and perspective on photography, we thought you might like to hear about his though process and see some of his work here. So I did an email interview with Zack to ask him a few questions:
Whether it be written, drawn, spoken, or televised I have a deep appreciation for humor. I like to laugh, sure, I mean stating the obvious here. But what I love is that humor can push me to see, or think, differently. Like a camera lens, humor can refocus the way we see the world.
I enjoy showing an amusing version of the ordinary. I try not to take life too seriously, to always see the positives in things, and I want my work to reflect these sentiments.
I shoot humor-based work for clients and I also shoot for myself. When beginning a new personal project it can be a bit overwhelming because it’s not about finding inspiration, but about sifting through the zillion ideas, pictures, thoughts and ideas I’ve had; and trying to select just one. I have a Word doc dozens of pages long, with single line ideas in it. I have folders with hundreds of screenshots, and iPhone snaps that inspired a funny thought. I do this not as a job, but as a passion. When I have time to shoot a new personal piece it’s like trying to pick between my babies.
Eventually, I settle on something that I love, which is unique to what I’ve done so far. I like trying to push my body of work in new directions and to not repeat myself.
Once an idea is in play, I think “Okay, now how am I actually going to shoot this.” I think like a producer – where will I shoot this? Where will I cast the talent? How large a crew will be necessary? What type of gear will I need? What props will I use? Are there permitting and logistical issues I need to consider?
If I’m doing a personal project I’m always on a budget, and that forces me to be creative with my production. I frequently rely on compositing if the locations are exotic in anyway (and by exotic I mean anywhere outside my front door). Oftentimes I’ll shoot the background separately and then shoot the talent in a studio, or in a location that I don’t have to pay for.
I’ve been fortunate to have multiple bodies of work go viral, including my humor and aerial fine art work. I’ve been seriously humbled by the response. It’s a bit surreal to see all these people discussing my work; and it sets the bar high for future projects. That said, having my work out there is fulfilling, but the best part is when I get emails from people saying that my work inspired them in some way. It means so much to me to hear from people who’ve been influenced in some way, great or small, by my imagery.
Doors have opened for me partly because of my style but more importantly doors have opened for me because of hard work. I spend a tremendous amount of time shooting, marketing, working on personal projects and networking. I love what I do so much, and so it doesn’t seem like work. But it’s a helluva a lot of work. The secret to success as a photographer is to work your butt off.
Being a professional photographer is one of those super competitive businesses. I think to be successful you absolutely must have a unique style. This is something that a lot of photographers starting out can have trouble grasping. I didn’t fully understand this at first either. When you pickup a camera and have a certain way of arranging the frame, the composition, the lighting, the mood – all without thinking – then you’re on your way to finding your own personal style. Then, when you combine these aesthetic aspects of photography with the actual content you like to photograph; you most likely already have a style. Ultimately, it’s all about practice.
Shoot, shoot, shoot! It’s common advice, but there’s a good reason for it. Practicing your craft is, bar none, the best way to get better; and to allow your own style to shine through. It’s common sense, sure, but just get out there and do it. That’s the most difficult thing about starting a journey: taking that first step. Then taking the next one and the next, and always looking forward.
I also recommend immersing yourself in the visual arts a much as possible. Go to museums and gallery shows – even if they’re not photography related. If you find yourself drawn to a particular painter, or period, ask yourself what it is that compels you. Look for similarities in your own work.
Be sure to keep up on all the current photography out there in magazines, advertising and the arts. Collect a visual library of things that inspire you. I still do this all the time! Then look back through the library and look for trends. You’ll find that you gravitate towards certain aesthetics. Identify those and see if you find parallels in your own work. If not, try using those as points of inspiration on your next shoot.
I love geeking out over gear as much as the next photographer. “Ooh checkout the pixel pitch on that sensor!” However, I must say that my one indispensable piece of gear is – drumroll please – Photoshop. On any shoot, we photographers are limited by the scene in front of us. But once we take that image into Photoshop, the only limitation is our imagination.
Here’s a behind the scene’s video of Zack at work:
Boston born photographer Zack Seckler took to his craft after graduating from Syracuse University in 2003. He began his career as a photojournalist but in 2008, Seckler found his true passion to be creating imagery from scratch. This transition has been rewarding, resulting in over a dozen major industry awards, a distinguished client list and a budding fine art career. He lives with his wife and two young sons in the suburbs of New York City.
If you have any questions or comments for him, please leave them below and I’ll make sure that he gets them.