Archive for '• Philosophy':

How Do You Know When You’ve "Made It"? ::

That guy above is hip hop legend 8 Ball. I had the opportunity to photograph him about three years ago. We shot in the studio and then headed out on location in his completely tricked out Hummer. * Ball came up in Memphis with MJG. You may not have heard of 8 Ball. If you like any sort of hip hop coming from the south then you most definitely have heard his influence. Everyone from T.I. to Luda to Andre 3000 all talk about how they were influenced by 8 Ball and MGJ early on in their career.

I was, of all things, folding socks this morning thinking about anything but folding socks. There are some who look at me and say, “Wow. Zack has made it.” From my view point I will say I’ve “made it” when I don’t have to fold socks ever again in my life. That got me thinking about 8 Ball and I thought I would share this interesting personal story…

As I was steaming Ball’s 6XL shirts for this shoot I was asking him about his career. I asked one question and he told me something that has stuck with me ever since.

I asked… “When did you know your career was to the point that this was now your job? Like, you made it.”

Ball stopped rolling his “smoke” and sat back and told me about growing up as a kid in a poor neighborhood in Memphis. He lived with his mom and grandmother in a shotgun shack. He slept in the den. One of his daily chores was going around the house and collecting the mouse traps in the house, take them outside, and get rid of the dead mice. Then he had to reset those traps and put them back around the house. He told me that he knew he had “made it” when he could throw away the whole mouse trap and reset a new one. He was making enough money in hip hop that he could just buy a new bag of traps every week instead of using the old ones.

8 Ball bought his mom a house. He’s doing well. He’s influenced an army of rappers. He knows he made it when he didn’t have to use a used mouse trap.

It doesn’t take a whole lot to make it does it? He made it but still had to set those traps. He still had a long way to go before he could just buy his mom a new house. It’s such a great story. For those of you who just discount hip hop as “crap” you ought to listen beyond the ho’s and rims and hear the stories of people who came out of nothing and into something. There are a lot of stories of redemption that come out of hip hop. Not exactly your Sunday school stories of redemption but redemption all the same. Go watch Hustle & Flow. It’s one of my top three favorite movies of all time. It’s about a small time pimp coming up in hip hop in Memphis. 8 Ball, of course, is on the soundtrack.

Here’s another one…

Cheers, Zack

Listener :: Finding Inspiration Outside The Craft

I get asked a lot about where I get my inspiration. That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many things and people in my life that inspire me. Let me tell you a story about a white guy from Arkansas that raps.

More after the jump ::.

Last night Meg and I were able to get a babysitter and go see our friend Dan Smith play a show. His project is called “Listener“.

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Dan has a schtick. A persona. A presence on stage. He does this “thing” that is amazing. Dan does “talk music” and it is his own thing. Love him or hate him, when Dan takes the stage people get off their phones, stop chatting, and watch. His stage persona is mesmerizing. It never bleeds into background music. His music isn’t ever going to make the top ten on the billboard charts and I think that’s just all right for him. He’s not following. He’s not replicating. He’s not trying to find what is popular and pursue that.

I met Dan about six years ago when he was more of a hip hop artist than folksy/indie/something/talk music artist. I was introduced to him through this cat in Nashville named KC Jones. KC said to me, “You gotta hear the Listener. He’s a white dude from Arkansas that raps.” That introduction was enough to pique my interest. :)

The first song I heard was Train Song (mp3 download).  ”It’s my habits that make my fingers weak…” Listen closely to the story. Pretty amazing.

Decadence (mp3 download) is one of my favorite tracks from his more hip hop centric era. It also features Manchild who has a flow like no other. Yes, I do have permission to link to these files.

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It’s been interesting to watch him change. To watch him find who he is. To start at one place and end up somewhere else and to see he’s not “there” yet. Dan has always been Dan, yet with each new part of his project he is becoming more true to his core. He’s walking through the shit of life and stripping off the non essentials and building back from there. It’s really an amazing process to watch from the outside.

I need to sit down with him sometime and see what it’s like from his perspective because I know for a fact it will be much different than my perspective. Maybe I’m wrong about how I see Dan. Maybe Dan is wrong about how he sees himself. Sometimes people on the outside see the real you. The “you” you can’t see. And sometimes people from the outside have the wrong idea about who you are. Hmmmm. This reminds me of something Meg is working on but that’s not for this post. (Dan, next time you’re back in Atlanta let’s talk it out)

If you listen to his older music you can hear the framework of his newer work. Meaning, you can look back and see the progression but you never see it when you are moving forward. The same thing goes for photography. It’s called personal style and it takes years to develop and you can’t really see your style until you have some years under your belt and can look back.

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Dan is a huge source of inspiration for me. That inspiration doesn’t change how I look through my viewfinder but it changes how I look through the eye in my brain if that makes any sense at all… Which it doesn’t. I went to public school so trying to flowchart how inspiration works for me is a bit difficult. My brain eyes connect to my face eyes which connect to my viewfinder so maybe he does inspire how I see the world. How “inspiration” like this works for me is the music gets in my head. I listen to the stories in the lyrics. I connect the dots from the songs to the dots of my own life and those thoughts sort of lead me down a path of more thoughts that eventually lead to actions with my camera and with my business. Inspiration for me isn’t seeing one person do something and then I go do something similar to that. I think that’s more like plagiarism than inspiration.

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Dan’s magic really comes through his show. He’s brave. He’s full on. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t care what he looks like. He just lets the f#ck go and pours it all out. I’ve seen him perform to a packed venue and to 8 people in a living room and he brings everything he has to the stage with every performance.

You can find his new album here. Be sure to give “Wooden Heart” a listen. Buy a copy and support an artist. Don’t you want someone to give you some support in your endeavors? Pay it forward.

You can stream his new album. Sorry iPhone/iPad users. These are flash embeds.

This is his last album. It’s called “Return To Struggleville” and it’s about a traveling knife salesman and it’s brilliant.

His songs are stories. They are pulled out of his head and out of his experience. He’s living his story. Are you? Are you aware that you’re walking out your story? Are you keeping your eyes far out ahead and busting your ass to get there or are you sitting around on said ass looking backwards? How’s that working for you? I saw a great quote on Twitter yesterday…

“Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet.”

Dan’s played more than 800 shows and he has 800 more to go. He’s doing it. He’s sharing his life. He’s changing. Growing. He’s moving his feet. Stripping it down to the essentials. He’s inspiring thousands. He’s just a white dude from Arkansas that raps and he is a really important character in my own story. Fun trivia – His 800th show was at a Mexican Restaurant. 800th show.

Where are you getting your inspiration from outside the photography world?

And…

Are you moving your feet or sittin’ on your ass? I’d rather have sores on my feet than on my ass. There’s a t-shirt.

Cheers, Zack

Is It Photography?

May 17, 2010 | • Critique • Philosophy

I’m going to share a story about shooting crappy pictures then share a recent comment from one of y’all regarding our last critique that’s worthy of taking some time and thinking about what we do.

At the turn of the century I was photographer for Apartments.com. The image above is one I shot for them in 2001. It was shot with the then amazing Olympus C-3030. You should have seen the camera we upgraded from. My iPhone takes better pictures.

Ramblings after the jump…

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Zack Arias :: Sucksessful Commercial Photographer

April 9, 2010 | GOYA • Philosophy

Want a sneak peak into the life of a successfull commercial photographer?

I made this for a few reasons. I’ll go into that later.

Want some more?

HQ QT version of the video here.

Cheers, Zack Arias. Sucksessfull Commercial Photographer

PS – In addition to thanking the academy I would also like to recognize Jeremy Cowart, Chase Jarvis, and Joe Effing McNally.

Fear :: And The Winner Is… + Discussion On The Subject

February 6, 2010 | GOYA • Philosophy

The Setup ::

Last week we assembled a crew to help us on a three day shoot in an old abandoned mansion. I set one day aside for everyone on set to have time to grab some gear, grab a model, and shoot for themselves as payment for helping me on the other two days of shooting.  Knowing that competition can bring the best out in a person I decided we should have a shootout. I posted the images here on the blog and had you all vote.

Before shooting we decided to pick one word that we all had to shoot an image for. The first word that came up was “pain” but then someone said “fear” and we decided that would be a good one and off we went.  Each photographer could interpret that any way they wanted and what happened in the comments of the original blog post has been an interesting conversation of whether any of us actually shot an image that communicated fear.  I feel that some of you wanted far too literal of an interpretation. Fear can go a lot of ways. I think we all gravitated toward the “horror’ish” route based on the location we had to use but it doesn’t have to be the ONLY way to interpret it. More in the discussion.

The Results ::

The winner is… (after the jump)

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Cavalia :: Controlling The Work You Show

My dear friend, Marc Climie, often says…

“Let your work determine your clients. Don’t let your clients determine your work.”

In order to live by that philosophy you have to be very careful what work you show to the world through your site, blog, and book.  If you don’t want to shoot family portraits, then don’t show family portraits. If you hate selective color photographs (as you should) then don’t show them.  Here is a good scenario…

You want to shoot portraits of bands and musicians for press kits and promo work. You are a struggling photographer just trying to get started and you get a call from a friend of a friend and they would love for you to shoot their family portraits. You need the work so you agree to it and, hopefully, you do a kick ass job.  You just shot the best family portraits of your life. What do you do with them?

Continue reading and seeing after the jump ::

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Street Portraits :: NYC 09/2009 :: Video + Stills

I’ve been talking with some folks and the topic of street portraits came up. Some are scared to death to approach strangers on the street. I understand the feeling completely but there are times you have to get over your anxiety about talking to strangers and pursue what it is you want to do. While I was in NYC a few weeks ago I decided to practice what I preach. I gave myself the assignment of shooting 10 portraits of 10 strangers in 10 hours. I had to sandwich these in between other shoots I had on the books while I was there. I approached 15 people and 9 accepted my request.

For those of you who have expressed your concerns about approaching strangers lemme give you some advice.

1) Read David duChemin’s book Within The Frame. David talks in depth about pursuing and expressing your vision where people, places, and culture are concerned. It’s a fantastic book with lots of technical and philosophical meat to dig your teeth into.

2) Get over talking to strangers. I know your mom told you not to but seriously, it’s ok. You will be amazed at how many people open themselves up to you. It’s a great experience for them and for you.

3) Don’t try to approach people who are on their way somewhere. Find someone just hanging out. You won’t be interrupting their schedule.

4) Guys, know your limit with approaching females. Some of you are suave and can do it with style. Dorks like me look like we are just trying a bad pick-up line. Know your limit. Ladies, well, y’all have it easy. Talk to anyone you want. :)

4) As David writes in his book, be kind, smile, and extend warmth and friendship to the folks you meet.

5) Many will tell you “no”. Many will say yes. Listen to what Janet said in the video above. She had not had a portrait made of her in 35 years! She wouldn’t have one getting shipped to her if someone had not simply asked to take a portrait of her.Anyway, here are my portraits. They aren’t the most amazing portraits I’ve ever shot but I’m glad I put myself out there. I met some great people I would have otherwise never talked to.

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NYC street portrait half_spacer.jpg Cheers, Zack

Call To Action :: Who's flyin'? Who's sittin'? :: Send Me Your Links!

September 14, 2009 | • Philosophy

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If you have been following the call to action posts lately, then you know this is the week to get your service projects wrapped up and delivered.  I would love to hear your stories. Email your stories and/or links about your service project to me at service @ zackarias [dot] com and I will compile them into one blog post to share with everyone else.

I know some have already shared your stories or links in the comments of other blog entries. Can you send them again to the email address above so I can sort them out quickly? Thank you!!!If you’ve been sittin’… Don’t beat yourself up. You have 365 days a year to serve. Maybe tomorrow is your day.  

Cheers, Zack 

Call To Action :: Are You Hitting The Streets?

September 8, 2009 | • Philosophy

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I’m just checking in with those of you who are taking the call to action challenge.  If you are new to the blog then check out this post to figure out what I’m talking about.

This is the week to be getting a service job on the books and scheduled. By reading comments some of you have seen this through to completion by now. I know some of us are still draggin’ ass on it.  

On my front I have been working with Derrick. He’s set up with email, online banking, and he has his own PayPal account now! We are moving him toward a blog.  I have to hook up with him this week to see how the eWorld is treating him and make further steps toward the blog.  I also went to a networking event last week and connected with an organization that works with kids and mentors them from 8th grade through 12 grade. They commit five years to each child. It’s an organization that has an amazing heart and amazing statistics. I’m hoping to meet with them in the next week or two to figure out how I plug in with them. 

What’s up? How are things going? Any of you still sitting around wanting to do this but still making excuses as to why you can’t? Fess up as an anonymous commenter and let’s see if we can’t find a boot to plant up your rear!!! :P

No seriously. This community of folks are here to help. Speak up! This project will be a good primer for many of us to get off our butts and help out in December for the Help-Portrait project.

Cheers, Zack 

Help-Portrait :: By Jeremy Cowart

August 26, 2009 | News • Philosophy

From following Jeremy Cowart’s twitter feed, I knew that this video was in the making and now it is up! Jeremy is today’s guest blogger on Scott Kelby’s site. This is a great idea. A few photographers here in Atlanta are already on the ball with getting this organized locally and our crew is ready to jump in and do whatever we need to do to help. Be thinking about it for your town as well.

More info should be up later today on the Help-Portrait site according to a statement on Kelby’s blog. 

http://www.help-portrait.com

http://www.twitter.com/help_portrait

Help spread the word!

Cheers, Zack 


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