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Meet Sherman Oaks Photographer: Zachary Tristen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zachary Tristen.

Zachary, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where I was training to become a professional ballet dancer. I was attending an arts school and needed an additional art credit. There was a choice between pottery and photography, and I remember honestly feeling indifferent. My counselor encouraged me to choose photography. She was someone that I respected, so I took her advice and signed up. This class ended up being my favorite class! Yes – even more than my dance classes. My teacher, Mr. Adams was an incredible photographer and teacher. His work inspired me and made me want to dive deeper into photography. He would daily come and get me from the darkroom, as I was constantly losing track of time and missing my bus. I started photographing my friends, siblings, animals, nature, including my great grandmother’s beautiful garden. One day I was developing a headshot I took of a fellow dancer. While processing the film, I encountered challenges clearing up her skin. I walked into Mr. Adam’s office and he was eating some chips from a plastic sandwich bag. I told him my dilemma, he paused, looked at his bag, dumped the chips on a paper towel, gave me the sandwich bag and told me to use it as a filter. I walked away not knowing what to expect but guess what – it worked!

I loved photography so much that I told Mr. Adams that I wanted to change my major. He chuckled and said “You’re funny – do you know what your ballet teachers would do to me if I took you from them? It wouldn’t be pretty! How about you dance first – then focus on photography”. I didn’t want to see Mr. Adams harmed as my ballet teachers were ladies you didn’t want to cross…so I took his advice and I am happy that I did.

I retired from dancing professionally and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. I was ready to really hone in on my passion for photography. The camera I was using was a Canon Rebel, one of the most basic SLR’s on the market. I used that camera for two years and learned to use it well until it literally started smoking during a photo-shoot. Some of my favorite work has been photographed with this very basic camera. As I have evolved I do have more sophisticated equipment, and it does help make creating a little more convenient. One thing I have learned though is that you can create a lot…with very little.

Has it been a smooth road?
Smooth is not exactly the word I would use – every adventure has its bumps and turns. This one has thankfully been no different! One of my greatest struggles during this process was finding my niche within photography. It is very easy to become overwhelmed living in a city with so many different opportunities. There have been times within this journey that I have allowed myself to be pulled in too many directions. As I grown I have become very clear on my direction and the type of work I am most passionate about.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up I was very creative and determined. In my teens, besides photography I took roughly fifteen dance classes a week and danced for two dance companies. My crafts were my life and I loved every moment of it! From a very young age, I knew how important it was to do what you love, to follow and develop your passion.

Is there a specific memory from when you were younger that you really miss?
After starting photography I became very fascinated with our local camera store. My dad would always take me after school when I needed more photography paper. I would always stare at the SLR cameras and get so excited for the day I would have my own. That day unexpectedly came when my parents called me into their room and gave me a very early birthday present. I opened the box and it was a Canon SLR. I still get chills thinking about that moment!

What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future include more travel, more photography, and getting my yoga teacher certification! That pretty much sums up my dream life.

Contact Info:

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Image Credit:
In order from the top left – Leo Lam, Anne-Tyler Harshbarger, Brandon Pohl, Jordan Hinson, Maygen Nicholson, George Todd McLachlan, Rafael Melo, Terrianne Butac


  1. Dayanara

    November 13, 2016 at 03:40

    Love your photography, and such a loving soul, inspirational spin instructor,

  2. danni kelly

    November 14, 2016 at 21:41

    Beautiful work! Thanks for staying in touch. If you are ever in OK let me know would love to see you. Happy you are doing so well and followed your passion for photography. Probably wouldn’t have done any bodily harm to Mr Adams He was such a dear.

    Your Mean Ballet Teacher
    Danni Kelly

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