Zack DeZon is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. Much of his work revolves around actors, comedians, and other performers, including his book, The Field, which captures a cross-section of working actors yet to become 'household names,' and investigates the communities that form between them.
How has the pandemic affected you professionally?
I'm a photographer, and my industry has been completely decimated. There are a few still-life photographers who are able to shoot in their home studios, but those are few and far between.
In the more commercial sphere, a lot of the best jobs are advertising, but those larger companies have had to hit pause for the moment. My alternate side gigs are editing and retouching, which are not as bountiful now that there is no new content to edit.
It is interesting to think about the entertainment industry becoming vulnerable. Even in times of depression, it's something we always value. I think a lot of people have had the same kind of rude awakening about how the industries we never thought could be shaken have all been shaken.
Even in the recession, people need entertainment, but not when it's a manufactured recession (as opposed to a naturally occurring one) like this.
How have you been affected personally?
That's been tricky - I've had to think of ways to keep practicing, so I started a YouTube series aimed at intermediate to advanced photographers. I wanted to talk about the things that I'm passionate about and thought processes that excite me. The web series is called Quarantography, and the concept is about staying home and practicing the craft of photography without leaving the house.
Making these videos has been really helpful to pass the time and give me a sense of purpose. I almost feel more busy than usual right now, but I feel like I am relaxing productively, as opposed to relaxing unproductively, like sitting on the couch scrolling through social media until the day is over. I'd rather make a conscious decision to do something, like watch a movie, or read a book - it's not wasted passive time.
“I think a lot of people have had the same kind of rude awakening about how the industries we never thought could be shaken have all been shaken...."
How do you think it will impact the future of your industry?
There may be some irreversible damage, and it may be hard to get up and running again. The advertising budgets may take some time to come back, which will be challenging. A fair amount of my work came from things like restaurants and events, which were both deeply affected. With less of these businesses, I think there will be a large contraction of the photography industry.
In terms of my personal career arc, I was feeling pretty good this year about how things were going, which fell through all at once. I'm worried that art directors won't have the appetite to try new talent, instead sticking with the tried and true.
On the other hand, there will be some interesting shakeups. With all the layoffs, many art directors will be changing magazines, which could potentially encourage newness as art directors try to establish themselves in new places. It's really impossible to tell how things are going to set back up.
How are you adapting to the changes?
There's one specific thing I was thinking about recently – the fact that photographers really can't take a sick day. Unless you were dying that morning, you have to go into work. Given the new climate, we have to start re-thinking how to navigate contracts. I'm thinking I'm going to have to start putting in a sickness rider in my contracts where I can. If the disease is not fully gone when we start going back, getting it and having to quarantine again would be a huge setback. I've been considering the business of my work in a more practical way.
If you had to identify a silver lining out of this, what would it be?
I think it's brought a lot of great issues to the forefront politically. It got a lot of people thinking about universal basic income, and Medicare for All, and all these things that were written off as too expensive or impossible before there was the sudden political willpower for it. I think one of the reasons Republicans are so afraid of Democratic proposals is how popular they are, and usually impossible to repeal.
I've been weirdly less active on social media since having all this time (being a YouTuber notwithstanding). I feel like my days have been filled with more purpose. There's more productive socialization and more real community vibes lately. There are more people in group chats and Zooms where they're interacting with each other in a real way, rather than choosing the best parts of their lives to post on Instagram. People are sharing their fears and anxieties with each other and forming actual communities rather than fake, overly edited ones. I think we're seeing more of our imperfect selves.
“I think we're seeing more of our imperfect selves..."