Spotlight Interview … Photojournalist Zoriah

Coming from a photojournalism background I am always reviewing the work of today’s photojournalists. Looking for the art in the circumstance. One such artist I discovered on the Flickr site is Zoriah. His images from Iraq help to bring home the seriousness of the conflict and the pain associated with war.

Photojournalist tell their stories with pictures not words. One must be there and yet not be there. The art is in the “seeing” yet the challenge is to remain unaffected by what you see so that you can complete your shoot and the assignment.

JRP: Zoriah thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your passion for photography.

Zoriah: Thank you for the opportunity.

JRP: Where are you from originally? When did you get your start in photography? Do you have any formal training?

Zoriah: I was born in the United States. I started taking photos when I was 15. I took a photography class at my high school, and at the end of that year I had won a spot on a photo exhibition tour which toured the United States.

Soon after that a local artist donated a huge amount of professional camera equipment to me. I had been borrowing equipment up until that point.

My formal training has been minimal. The outpouring of support and assistance form professional photographers and editors has helped me greatly in my journey. I have been truly amazed at the lengths that total strangers have gone through to help me and my work.

JRP: What motivated you to pursue photojournalism?

Zoriah: I diverted from photography for a number of years, studying among other things disaster management and humanitarian aid to developing countries. In the end I felt very disillusioned with the AID sector, with all of its red tape and wasted resources. I decided to pick up my camera again and set out to document critical social issues with the idea that I could affect change by showing these images to the world.

JRP: I became aware of your work on Flickr. Are there other websites that you use to showcase your work?

Zoriah: The web has been my most important tool in disseminating my work internationally without the “ethical” limitations of the main stream media.

I have three websites of my own: http://www.zoriah.com, which showcases my portfolio and links to my archive.

http://www.diariesofashooter.com which hosts my black and white work.

http://www.warphotographer.org which is where I present my color work on war and conflict.

I am often invited to post work on other websites and do everything I can to get these stories seen by as large of an audience as possible.

JRP: Your assignments are independently funded and thus take you all over. Give us an idea of the travel and living arrangements a photojournalist in that position must become accustom to. How can one donate to support your efforts?

Zoriah: I have worked in nearly fifty countries in the last six years, and in that time I have been without an apartment or “home” in the traditional sense. Whenever possible I try to live with the people I am photographing and almost every photo I have ever taken has been within walking distance of where I sleep.

In Iraq I slept in cots and on the floor with infantry soldiers. In Afghanistan I slept outdoors under tanks with US and Afghan troops.When I covered the Tsunami I slept in a refugee camp on the floor.

In Kashmir after the Asian Earthquake I lived in a tent camp.

After the Lebanon – Israel war I stayed in a local house in Southern Lebanon. It was about a fifteen minute walk from where the war began.

Donations of every kind are greatly appreciated. People can pledge money through my website, and if they have any other resources that may help me please email me through my website. Every bit of every donation is used to fund my documentary projects.

JRP: Because of all the travel you must keep things light yet still be well prepared. What camera equipment would I find in your travel case?

Zoriah: I spent years shooting with a 6 megapixel Canon 10D but found that I spent a ton of time and money getting it repaired. I now shoot with a Canon 1DS Mark II, Canon 1DS Mark I, and Canon 10D as a backup body.

My lens collection is a 16-35 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8, and a backup wide and long lens. The Canon 1 series bodies are really excellent and the only bodies I have found that are rugged enough to tolerate the abuse I put them through.

JRP: What type of editing software do you use?

Zoriah: I stick with the Adobe products, whatever is current. Right now I use CS3 and Bridge and I am easing into Lightroom. I stay away from using lots of different photo programs. Learning one really well is the best investment of time.

JRP: What has been your most memorable assignment to date?

Zoriah: Iraq was extremely intense on so many different levels. The Asian Earthquake was also very grueling and difficult. Every project is so unique and presents so many new challenges. It is really a wonderful job. I consider it a gift to witness the full spectrum of the human experience.

JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Zoriah: Ami Vitale (www.amivitale.com) has been a wonderful friend and mentor to me since the beginning of my career.

She taught me how to emotionally connect with my subjects. To really open my heart to people and experience their lives first hand. Until you open yourself up like that you just capture images through your own eyes. Capturing them through someone else’s eyes is when you can really harness the emotional power of the medium.

JRP: What advice would you offer to a photographer starting out in photojournalism?

Zoriah: I see a lot of photographers loosing themselves in the business of photography. It has become so difficult to make a living. I see a lot of people just becoming slaves to their agencies, shooting one corporate assignment after another. It is important to survive. It is also important to tell the stories that need to be told, not just the ones that sell.

Save up enough money to go out and shoot for a couple of months. Come back edit and save money for another project. You just have to put every bit of yourself into it and you cant give up. If you work harder and want it more than anyone else it will happen.

JRP: Zoriah, thanks again for sharing your thoughts and photography with us. It has been a pleasure.

Zoriah: Thank you James!

JRP: To view more of Zoriah’s motivating photography please go to these links:

www.zoriah.com

http://www.zoriah.typepad.com/

www.diariesofashooter.com

www.warphotographer.org

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2 thoughts on “Spotlight Interview … Photojournalist Zoriah

  1. Funny how the web connects us. Zoriah added me as a contact in Flickr – though I haven’t a clue why till this day but am grateful for it. Ever since then, I’ve been a big fan. It took me a good 2 months before I stopped literally peep at his pictures that are so poignant, honest and raw. I’ll flinch, I’ll tear, I’ll have to resettle my tummy that must have sommersaulted a zillion times. Though I still can’t summon enough courage to look at every picture, Zoriah has become more than an inspiration to me. He is my source of humanity. He brings me calmness and a great sense of reality. I am such a big fan… I sometimes feel like I am stalking him merely by being addicted to his pictures. Lastly, he is such a real and genuine person; he takes the time to talk to you. Thanks Zoriah for the great work and courage. And of course, thanks James for such a splendid interview and entry.

  2. Like Penelope Gan, I met Zoriah on flickr when he added me as a contact and, like Penelope, have no idea why. I am though very happy that he did and he has been nothing but kind, informative and helpful ever since I’ve got to know him. I am studying for an HNC in photography and am presenting a talk on Zoriah’s work which he has helped compile lots of information for me, as usual putting himself out to help me. I have taken such inspiration from him, not only as a photographer but also more importantly as a human being. Although when seeing his work, it daunts me at how little i know about so many elements of photography, it also drives me to improve and strive to become even half the photographer that he is. His pictures, although shocking, sad and horrifying, are, at the same time so thoughtfuly and beautifully taken and considered that one can look beyond the subject matter and appreciate their artistic beauty. It is truly a very rare gift. Thank you Zoriah for being you! I would also like to thank James for posting such an informative interview.

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