Zachary Chick

Tell me about your path to becoming a photographer. My dad is an oil landscape painter, so I was exposed to art while growing up. My dad took us to museums often and I did my first oil painting when I was seven years old.

Growing up, I wanted to be a fashion designer. My grandparents both thought that was cute, so when I was 10, they got me a subscription to Vogue. So, from a young age, I was exposed to fashion and fashion photographers. I noticed Helmut Newton’s photos early on. Those were the ones that really stuck out to me in the magazine. That’s when I realized that there were people who made that imagery.

Where did you grow up? We moved around. We lived in England for a year before we moved to Sedona, Arizona, for seven years, and then ended up in Northern California. I went to middle school in Mendocino and then went to Cate School, a boarding school near Santa Barbara, which was an interesting little twist.

While at boarding school, I took a photo class on a whim. For most people, it was a slacker class, but I was into it. When the class started, I thought, “Well, maybe I won’t actually become a fashion designer. Maybe I’ll become involved by shooting it.” I still really loved fashion, and thought it was magical to be able to create those scenarios on the pages.

In my sophomore year of high school, my photo teacher sent a photo I took to an international contest. I don’t know how big the contest actually was, but I won. I got a brick of 35mm black and white film and a gift certificate to B&H. This was the first time that I had ever won anything, and it felt good. I became known around school as the photographer girl. It became part of my persona.

I decided that I wanted to be a photographer when I was 16. It was an easy decision because my dad was an artist. I knew there were artists out there who created for a living, so I didn’t feel pressure to do something else.

Jack Sommer