Photographer Zack Arias is the accidental “Dear Abby” of the photo industry. He started a Tumblr blog last year called Photography Q&A, inviting readers to “ask me anything about photography.” He has since fielded more than 1,000 “Hi Zack” e-mails with questions about gear, technique, art and creativity, and business.
The blog is popular not only for the information Arias provides, but because of his honesty, good humor, and horse sense. He often recounts his own mistakes to instruct and encourage his readers, and isn’t afraid to cajole them, or challenge the industry’s conventional wisdom and egos.
Arias, who is also a popular workshop instructor, recently compiled some of the blog’s best installments into a book called Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers, published by New Riders. An excerpt of the book appears in the August issue of PDN, and is now available on our web site. We asked Arias how his blog got started, and he replied with his usual candor.
“It was because I got pissed off at another photographer [who] came out with a web site that was this ‘Top Ten Steps’–like a system to help get you started becoming a photographer. There was just a lot of bad information in it. A lot of people were in an uproar. I was staying out of the fray, but people kept asking me, ‘Zack, what do you think of it?’
“Finally I said, ‘The hell with it. Here’s what I think of it: I think it’s a bunch of trash, and nobody should listen to it for these reasons.’ Then I was in the fray, and then I was pissed off, and it was just one of those things: OK, you’re going to do a top ten? I’m going to do a top 100–no, I’m going to do a top 1000. There’s a lot of noise in our industry right now. There’s a lot of top ten lists, and ‘get this going quick’ [schemes] and people just walking all over the craft and people not preaching that you have to be patient, you have to work hard, and this is going to take a long time and it’s not easy. If you think it’s just about taking pictures, you’re missing the other 90 percent of what it means to be a professional photographer. And I wanted to create something that had more signal, and wasn’t noise, and wasn’t just an affiliate link aggregator, like hey, we’re going to bring a lot of people to our blog, and hope they click on our links so we can monetize it.
“So it [the blog] started because I wanted to create something that had a more honest look [at the profession] than have a shiny, happy infomercial that was getting a lot of traction.”
Meanwhile, Arias is taking a break from teaching workshops, but that’s another story.
School of Hard Knocks: Zack Arias, Lost and Found (subscription required)
PDN Reader Survey: The Best Workshop Instructors