Jonathan Zizzo is a commercial photographer based out of Dallas. His social media bio reads “Conceived in the backseat of a Chevy Nova at the Dinosaur Valley State Park. Mother was a gogo dancer and father was a trucker. I’m a great photographer.” So we sat down with him to find out more.
How did you decide or know photography was what you wanted to do?
I started out as a Fine Art Major at Kilgore College. I was very interested in art, so I studied graphic design. The graphic design program did not inspire me though. I was completing projects before other students and didn’t feel challenged. While at Kilgore, I was required to take a photography class and began to shoot for the student newspaper. I loved the responsibility of creating pictures for a story and fell in love with the program.
Who have been some of the influencing mentors you’ve had?
Rufus Lovett is the reason I got into photography on a deeper level. His sense of humor made it fun to show up to class. Rufus, the photography instructor, is a Texas monthly contributor. Rufus was also a Assistant to Ansel Adams at one time.
I know a lot of people ask you why you don’t move to LA or NYC with the type of portfolio you have. Why Dallas?
Dallas is where it is happening for me. Dallas is home to 18 Fortune 500 companies. We have major advertising agencies here that hold the keys to some of the most extraordinary brands of all time. If I did move to LA or NY, I would be starting over.
For me there is always the opportunity to do work for companies and agencies in both of those cities. By the time I’m 50 or 60 years old I don’t want to be in a city that is for the youthful entrepreneur. I don’t want that midlife crisis to be happily unmarried and be begging for a transition to the simple life. I’m a country boy at heart. Moving to NY or LA is so cliché’ Like this is Texas we are supposed to be the big bad and the ugly. Those places are only “cool” by a popular opinion. There’s a lot of opportunity in this City and I’m proudly an ambassador to change the mentality or preconceived ideas that people have formed about Dallas.
How did you get into photographing celebrities? What do you enjoy most about it
I was a Staff Photographer at Envy Magazine a publication that was here in Dallas for a few years. I don’t think people ever realized all off those celebrity covers were shot here in Dallas.
What are you currently working on? Do you have anything big happening for you in 2013?
I’m working a portrait series for Zodiac Watches. I am shooting professional athletes & celebrity personality’s people who most would consider legendary types. Starting 2013 with a project like this is great!
What inspires you or what do you look for when shooting portraits and fashion?
When I’m shooting a portrait of someone. I’m interested in creating an image that shows a likeness of the person. The moment that I come into contact with this individual I am studying their body language. Looking for nuances, things that might make the picture more interesting. I like saving room for spontaneity. When I’m shooting fashion i’m looking for models that can take direction well & move well. I’m inspired by guys like Lee Clow and George Lois. Life is so inspirational, I’m interested in a broad spectrum of things. I like to wonder around 99 cent only stores and look at everything on the shelves and take a mental image of things I can buy as a prop for only a dollar. I think it’s important to not lose your sense of wonder. Stay as curious about all things as possible.
What is #iamthezizz?
It’s basically just a user name! Coaches and friends growing up started calling me the Zizz, so I embraced it! I’ll eventually have to switch it up as I get older, I am sure. My middle name is Buck. I’m really looking forward to changing my name to that when I’m much older. Buck Zizzo is pretty bold! I don’t think I’m quite there yet.
Do you have any hobbies?
I’ve been riding BMX since I was 14. Unfortunately, all of my friends (my age) have real jobs and I don’t get to spend as much time with those guys scootin’ around the skatepark as I would like.
What are your thoughts on Instagram?
Instagram is a basically digital pollution. That is highly addictive and everyone is contributing to it. I know a lot of photographers who take it really seriously. They are probably out there right now kneeling down pointing and clicking trying to find that artistic angle. It’s even worse when they use the phonto app, throwing typography over their photo like it’s as popular as a Taylor Swift album cover. Shooting pictures with your iPhone, worrying which application or filter to use, is for the consumer you guys. Listen, NO Art Director should give a rat’s ass about what you’re doing with your iPhone. I understand mobile technology is on the rise but I use the internet as a form of dialog to draw people in, form a likeness, and build relationships with people who “like” what I’m interested in. Trying to prove to everyone that you’re such a badass with your iPhone makes no sense. Stop already.
Favorite place for drinks?
Cosmos, I go there because I want to have a drink and be around folks that are there for the same reason. It’s no glitz, no glam. Just a place to divulge into adult beverages!
Peggy Sue’s in Highland Park of all places. It has this mom and pop type vibe to it. They haven’t changed the price of their menu items based on their zip code. I’m a patron and whoever is reading this should be too!
What’s in your camera bag right now?
I’m currently shooting with a Nikon D600 24.3 full frame HDSLR. I’ve had shutters go out on previous bodies, so I don’t see the point in dropping 7 grand on a body. If I was making payments on a camera like that I’d be really ticked off at Nikon and Canon right now. This camera is terrific. It does exactly what I need it to. There are so many rental houses in Dallas, which is very fortunate. It’s easy to get your hands on something with more resolution like a Hasselblad or a Phaseone camera if you need it. I also use Speedotron Lighting equipment. My 2400 packs boss hog electricity and trips breakers watch out.