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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Zack Arias: Master Of The Balancing Act

Zack Arias is utilizing the powerful promotional possibilities of the internet for all that it’s worth


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"I tightened up my belt, and things like workshops helped me fill in the gaps," he says. "I had hit a plateau with my work and going out, and hitting the streets and shooting on the streets has really kind of revitalized me, and kind of put the paddles to my chest and started me back up again.

"A lot of bad decisions were made, and a lot of things went wrong," he adds, "but I look at where I'm going today and where I'm trying to be tomorrow. Your hope is that you make a mistake and you learn from it. You don't do that same stupid mistake over and over again. Everyone is going to screw up and everyone is going to make some mistakes, but looking back, I'm thankful that it all went to hell on me. I'm thankful that I had to walk away from photography, I'm thankful that I had to go get a day job at Kinko's, and I'm thankful that I had to start again from the bottom. It makes me appreciate more. It makes me realize that it could all happen again."

Arias' readership includes photographers attracted to his straightforward, shoot-from-the-hip honesty, his breadth of knowledge, and the fact that he loves and cares about photography. One would think that billable work simply falls from the sky, and while it's true that his social-media presence affords him quite a bit of opportunity, he's also incredibly proactive on generating clients and projects. He still cold calls and sends out mailings. He spends a lot of time pursuing clients that he wants to work with, even going as far as to line up several of them in an area for in-person portfolio meetings when he travels to areas like New York or Chicago. He says that the purpose of these meetings is not to secure commercial campaigns in the big city, but instead to let them know that there's a photographer capable of producing high-quality work for a campaign if it calls for a location near him in the Southeast. It's this business acumen that has kept him afloat over the last few years through very tough times.


Regarding being pulled in so many directions, Arias says, "You're trying to just get a rhythm going of work, and home, and life, and kids, and friends, and social media and blogging...it can burn me out at times. I haven't found a balance, but my wife and my family support me, and they stand by me."
Arias says that many photographers think that editorial is a wash, for example, because the rates are so low and the work so intermittent, but he finds it to be a really good way to get his foot in the door. "I did an editorial shoot for Harvard Business Review," he says, "and I photographed the CEO of Coca-Cola, and then that turned into some introductions at the company, which turned into jobs shooting for Coca-Cola. These were bigger projects with bigger budgets than the initial magazine job that I did there. Editorial is good work, and it's very valuable to me."

He points out that the work of a photographer involves much more than merely clicking the shutter these days, and when he's not shooting, he's generally online.

"Being online all day, it's good and it's bad," says Arias. "It's the yin and the yang, it keeps me busy, and it brings in work, but it's also distracting and keeps me from other work. There are times, usually at the end of the year, where I go on a one- or two-month fast from social media.

 

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