Zack Smith: The States Project: Louisiana
Back in 1998 when Jeff and I moved to New Orleans, one of the first people I met was Zack Smith. We were both working in different camera shops at the time trying to break into the photographic scene. Eighteen years later, Zack is one of the best known photographers documenting all things Louisiana. His work not only documents the rich heritage and traditions that make up the people of this state but all things that epitomize what makes Louisiana uniquely its own.
In this series, Zack is combining his photographic talents with the artists he is representing. What makes the images stand out is the fact that each artist is giving their self over to Zack’s vision, and all artists have a difficult time with that on some level, I think. Which only speaks to the level of imagination and integrity Zack brings to the making of these portraits and the trust each artist has for how they will be represented.
I asked Zack “Why Louisiana?”
Love is complex sometimes, but when it feels right you just gotta trust…
Louisiana is complex. She’s both a part of the United States, France and the Caribbean. We’re not white, black, Indian, or Islenos because we’re all of it. Where I’m from, they tried to take French out of the schools, my father was scolded for speaking his first language and was only allowed to speak English. That backwoods societal move didn’t work. That move only set the stage for a glorious resurgence of self-love that made us want to be ourselves even more. Im proud of where I am from, and since I have learned this I am then only able to mark a path of who I am and where I am going. Im a part of this state, I feel as If the trees are mine, the soil is mine, and the bayou sun makes me grow. I am not the only one who feels this way and my passion is to be with those that grow too from the cypress knees and red clay of this complex and wonderful state.
Zack Smith is a fine art and commercial portrait photographer that has been documenting the social, musical and cultural landscapes of Louisiana for the past 15 years. As both a musician, artist, and storyteller, Smith believes that the world gets smaller as we celebrate our similarities and connect through our traditions and stories. Zack also leads his own photography workshop series, empowering and inspiring the next generation of visual storytellers.
“I see myself as a visual storyteller perpetually learning how to listen with honesty and photograph with intent. I see no difference in how I relate the vision of my commercial clients and my fine art portraits to their audience. We all have a story to tell and I find my creative muse in being the photographic bridge that brings idea to reality.”
Zack’s work has appeared in numerous ad campaigns and has done work for The Louisiana Public Health Institute, New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Commission, Getty Images, NIKE, Russell Simmons, YAMAHA, St. Charles Vision, Krewe du Optic, Dirty Coast and SOPO. Smith is very involved in the local music scene and is the Chief Staff Photographer French Quarter Fest.
Smith has been awarded “Best Music Photographer” from Offbeat Magazine in 2009, and has twice been voted one of “New Orleans Best Photographers” by Gambit Magazine readers in 2013/2014. Smith was also awarded “40 under 40″ in 2008 by Gambit Weekly for his involvement in the local photography community as both a photographer and educator. He has been an avid supporter and volunteer for the New Orleans Photo Alliance since 2006.
Zack’s popular photography workshops are taught throughout the year and his 13 year teaching career continues at The New Orleans Academy of Fine Art. Zack’s “How To Tuesday” photography techniques and tips premier every Tuesday and offer his followers practical advice and tips to photographers of all levels. Zack’s fine artwork is collected worldwide and is consistently featured in advertising and editorial media in both print and web.
My Louisiana Muse
My Louisiana Muse is a trans-media visual story documenting multidisciplinary Louisiana artists from various backgrounds that all derive their inspiration from the terrain, layered ecosystems, and environmental landscapes surrounding them. Smith explores a deeper connection between the art of creative self expression, the driving force of inspiration, and the one powerful muse connecting them all : Louisiana and its magical landscapes. This portrait series is printed as one of a kind Bromoil photographs, one of the rarest and the most permanent of the photographic printing processes. The project also includes a website that features Zack’s interviews, audio, and digital photographs from his moments and memories with each artist.
As artists we tend to “live in our own heads” and this holds true for many of the artists of My Louisiana Muse. We work hard at honing our craft, sharpening our tools of the trade so that we may express the message to the ones that will listen. This ongoing project is benefitting the community by strengthening the connections artists have to each other and to a wider audience. The community is aware that these artists are writing dance pieces about Gentrification in the Bywater, writing poetry about fallen Louisiana heroes, and making amazing performance about the vanishing coastline. Some people watch the news and read the paper…but we can’t get all the important information at once source all the time. We need to turn to our creatives to give us the deeper meanings of our world, and My Louisiana Muse has brought them one step closer to the community that is listening.
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