Zack Smith maintains a kindness and modesty that many people in his position quite possibly could have lost at this point, considering his success as a photographer, a musician, and a teacher. As I enter 2109 Decatur, Scott Edward’s wonderful gallery on the “quieter” side of Frenchman, Zack is saying his casual goodbyes to a WWLTV news crew. His transition from one interview to another is seamless -- in fact, his deference and respect towards me remains the same as it always has, as both a colleague and a subject of his photography myself. This ability to always be affable, casual and well-spoken in any setting must be part of what has brought him this success -- not to mention his ability to capture the unique nature of his subjects with such honesty. But his photography speaks for itself. In his upcoming exhibition “One Foot in the Swamp: Portraits and Daydreams as Photographs” Zack will be showcasing sixteen portraits, both commercial and creative, of New Orleans musicians in an array of gorgeous settings. The exhibition opens on April 12th at 7 pm and will be on display through August.
What is your favorite word?
“Collaboration. It’s one word that can describe so many things on a creative level, where two people get together and create something new. Collaboration equals open doors, equals opportunity. You’ve got me thinking about this show; collaboration is the only thing that made any of these photographs possible.”
The best song you’ve heard recently?
“I was very into this record by Pink Floyd called The Division Bell. The song is called ‘Take It Back’. I drive in from Chalmette to come teach or work - I have a lot of time, I’ve got twenty minutes to listen to music and ‘Take It Back’ reminds me of an important time in my life. Twenty years ago this year when this record came out, I think about who I was then and what I thought life was about, what I thought I was about. At that point I wasn’t even taking pictures yet. That nostalgia can be relayed to be through this album and just brings me back and makes me happy to know where I’m at now. It goes by so fast -- faster and faster every day.”
What is your favorite place?
“Behind a drum set. It’s different than being behind a camera because the immediate gratification of creation is there. You hit something, it makes a sound. You create a pattern, it becomes a motif. To be able to collaborate musically with other people is something beautiful.”
The last time you did something outside of your comfort zone.
“Buying a house took me out of my comfort zone because it’s nice to rent. It’s nice to not have as much responsibility. What ended up happening is that it grew contagious. Responsibility equalled greater reward. I proposed to my girlfriend a few months later. One thing started another. It’s been a big year.”
What do you think about when you’re brushing your teeth?
“If I’m brushing too hard, if I’m digging into my gums too hard. My dentist tells me I need to use a softer bristle. Oh, and I think about flossing and then I usually forget about flossing by the time I finish brushing my teeth.”
Tell me a joke:
“Man who fart in church sit in pew.”
What’s a major guilty pleasure for you?
“Cigars. My favorite one right now is a Regius Cigar. It’s a robusto size and they sell it at the Mayan Import. I’m a daily cigar smoker so if something isn’t good for me and I do it every day I’ll feel guilty about it. I smoke them when I have time -- the thing is, you don’t want to rush a cigar because it is something special, it’s about reflection. The intricacies of a cigar should be enjoyed. You should only smoke a cigar by the time you have. I could have one right now.”
The last time you couldn’t stop smiling:
“I’m a hopeless optimist. I see the silver lining in some of the worst situations. Being alive in the sun, feeling the wind and being outside. One thing I think of every day is who I am. Every day, owning my own business, creating my own day makes me happy and makes me smile.”
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
“Our dog, Biscuit, coming in to sleep in between us. That’ll get me out. But mostly stuff I have to do, especially when it gets busy like right now. I’ll wake up at seven or six-forty five in the morning thinking about things I’ve got to get done, no matter what time I went to sleep. Work.”
Who is your KREWE?
“I have my photo krewe -- people that I trust with my work and my clients and my gear. I have my bandmates, who have honestly been some of my best friends for over ten years time, during my worst times and my best times. My family, my friends, my camera, my toys. I consider my equipment my krewe, man, those are my boys. I haven’t gone to far as to name them, but almost.”
[Photograph by Zack Smith]