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Meet Venice Photographer: David Zentz

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Zentz.

David, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a master’s degree in mass communications and began my career as a newspaper photojournalist, working as an intern for the Chicago Tribune, the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times and the Orlando Sentinel before landing a staff job at the Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois. I lasted there about 2 years before deciding I no longer wanted to work as a staff photographer and resigned from my position. At that point, in 2008, I made the move to Los Angeles and have worked here as an independent photographer ever since. My work here primarily consists of portrait photography for editorial and commercial clients ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Kyocera to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Between assignments I am generally working on personal projects that I find as close as my backyard and as far away as Haiti. I am also active in the photography community and currently sit on the national board of directors for the American Society of Media Photographers, a trade group dedicated to protecting photographers’ rights and educating them on best business practices.

Has it been a smooth road?
It hasn’t been a smooth road. Making the leap from a staff position to an unknown freelance photographer in a city and market as large as Los Angeles was incredibly difficult. The first two years I saw very little work and went into a fair amount of debt due to the cost of living and the costs of doing business. I also happened to make the move just as the “Great Recession” was setting in, which didn’t help matters. Over time my client list grew and I began to run a sustainable business. Each year has been successively better.

When you look back, what are you most proud of?
It’s hard to pin down a single proudest moment. As a journalist, I covered a variety of difficult subjects that raised awareness about the underprivileged, the mentally disabled and even the truths about animal shelters that I hope shaped people’s opinions on those important matters. While still involved in journalism, today my work is more commercial in nature. But I would say anytime I create an image that I feel captures a moment or someone’s personality or is a perfect composition I get the same satisfaction as I did when I first started making images as a teenager. I am also proud to do charitable work from time to time, donating prints to local arts education programs such as Venice Arts and donating my services to programs such as Flashes of Hope, which provides free portraits to the families of children facing life-threatening medical situations.

Tell us more about the struggles you’ve faced along the way.
There have been many struggles along the way, particularly during the first two years after moving to Los Angeles. This city is full of talented photographers, which makes it hard for newcomers to get noticed. Upon arriving here I had to quickly learn to run my own business, promote myself and make new connections. As you can imagine, I was struggling to make ends meet those first years. The good news is that the struggles eventually paid off.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
There’s incredible creative energy here, which I think makes Los Angeles is a great place for my career. While I frequently work with major corporations and publications, I also do a lot of work with independent artists and businesses and often find those collaborations to be the most rewarding and exciting. That said, it can be a difficult place to work due to the level of competition and the cost of living. But I’ve always felt that it’s best to put yourself in a competitive professional environment. When I see the level of work being created by those around me it only pushes me to try even harder, which I think brings everyone’s work to a higher level. The other great thing about living and working in this area is that when things aren’t going your way you can always go to the beach.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.davidzentz.com
  • Phone: 310-745-9854
  • Email: dz@davidzentz.com
  • Instagram: davidzentz
  • Facebook: DavidZentzPhotography
  • Other: Twitter is @davidzentz

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Image Credit:
Portrait of me by Erinn Zentz

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