Zachary Zirlin – The Brooklyn Artist

By day, Zachary is a graphic and set designer for big-name films and television series. During his time off, he’s fulfilling his own creative vision through his love for photography. Check ZZ out below.


Say hello to Zachary:

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Where are you from?  Where have you been?

I’m originally from Skokie, IL, right outside Chicago. At 18, I moved to New York to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to study set design for theater and have been here ever since. I bounced around Manhattan for years before settling in Brooklyn a few years ago. Through work, I’ve been able to do location work all over the country for a few months at a time, which has been great!


What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?

I would love to combine my various fields in which I work for a shoot someday soon. I’d love to design and build a set for a shoot. The bigger, the better.


How would you describe your visual style?

I find that I tend to prefer things very clean. I love symmetry, geometry, and balance. Of course, it’s tons of fun to break free from all those things, but I find myself naturally looking for those things in the world around me. I also find that I prefer to do as little retouching and editing as possible. I try to just do basic adjustments in Lightroom and leave it at that whenever possible. Maybe it’s from spending so much time in Photoshop at my day job, but I like things natural for my own personal work.

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Tell us about the other aspect of your career as a graphic and set designer.

I spend my days as a graphic and set designer for film and television. My parents are just now starting to understand what I do for a living. One of the best examples I can think of to describe exactly what I do is, I design everything from the logo of the company the main characters work for, to the newspaper they’re reading, featuring an article about the dastardly exploits of the villain, to the dozens of signs placed around a location to transform it from an old bank to a nautical ferry terminal. I have been lucky enough to work on shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Girls, and House of Cards, and movies like The Avengers, Eat, Pray, Love, and Green Lantern.


What types of photography do you do?

I love travel and portrait photography. I have always loved to travel and found that photography became one of the biggest reasons I wanted to travel. I wanted to try and capture a place, a moment, a culture and record it. I think it will always be my favorite. If I could combine it with portraiture, that would be perfect. Portrait photography came about as a way of facing my fears. I have always loved taking portraits of my friends, but was terrified to take photos of strangers. I decided to face my fears head on and start awkwardly and clumsily to try and take portraits. It’s been quick, the ride so far, but I’ve loved every part of it.

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What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?

At this point, time. Juggling a full-time job while trying to grow a photography business is a bit tough. Evenings and weekends have become photography work time. It’s work I truly love to do, but a few extra hours here and there would be great. Or even better, some time off. I would love to travel more for the sole purpose of photography.

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Photography is competitive.  How do you stand out?

Most definitely still trying to figure that one out and welcoming any and all advice in that regard. I think that I am trying to solidify my own personal aesthetic for myself. I am learning from each shoot, from each model, from each edit, from literally everything I do. I am trying to stay true to what I want to capture and express without compromising.

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What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?

Just keep shooting. Absorb everything you possibly can. Read books. Look at Instagram. Check out the wealth of information online. Find out who you like and why. Try and figure out why you’re drawn to certain artists. Don’t just look at photographers. Look at filmmakers, painters, fashion designers, architects, everyone. Look everywhere. Inspiration can be found anywhere.


How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?

I try to keep things as casual as possible. Especially when it’s the first time working with someone. Everyone should be comfortable and at ease. Meeting someone for the first time is often inherently awkward. By making sure both parties have warmed up, the shoot will go infinitely more smoothly.

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What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?

Be communicative. Make sure everyone is on the same page. ESPECIALLY if you’re going to be late or won’t be able to make it. Seriously. Be open. Everyone is putting themselves out there for the sake of creating something. Be kind. This is the most important.


What kind of gear do you have?

I started with Canon, switched to Nikon, and am now happily with Sony. Current favorite lens would be the 85mm 1.4 G. It’s such a beauty. I have a small strobist lighting kit that works great for my work – really just a few Yongnuo flashes and some Westcott and Rogue FlashBenders modifiers.


What has photography done for you as a person?  How has it changed you?

I went through a rough patch a few years back. I was at a loss creatively. I wasn’t feeling creatively fulfilled in my day job and wasn’t able to find the desire to create anything on my own. In an effort to escape my rut, I tried to focus on the things that I knew made me the happiest. And to try to do those things every day. So I started carrying my camera around with me everyday. I wish I could say that I started taking pictures everyday. But I didn’t. And even so, having the camera with me everyday was a big deal. I didn’t have excuses not to take photos. I couldn’t walk by something on the street and think it would’ve made a great picture. It was my way of holding myself accountable.


Who’s your biggest hero in your life?

My dad. He’s the best. Whether it’s questions about business, personal life, athletic endeavors, or home queries, he’s got all the answers I’d ever need.


What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?

Run the Ice Marathon in Antarctica. And then take photos for a few days.


Feel free to show off some of your work!

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For anyone who wants to get in touch with Zachary, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Website: www.zacharyzirlinphotography.com

MM: Profile

Instagram: @zacharyzirlinphotography

Tumblr: Page


Zachary, thanks so much for taking the time to interview with us!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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