United States. Rochester, New York. Twenty-three-year old Zach Brown found himself with an arts degree and an uncertain future.
An unexpected break
Nearly six months passed. Zach was working at a coffee house and creating art in his spare time. In Jan 2020, Zach was informed about an upcoming call for work through the national CaFÉ, “a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to artists in their quest to serve diverse audiences, enrich the lives of local communities, and provide access to the arts for all.” Zach submitted 3 pieces and hoped that just submitting would get his works seen by professional artists who could give him support and feedback. “It was totally unexpected that all 3 submissions were accepted,” Zach shared with Transcontinental Times, “and a complete shock that one of my pieces won ‘Best In Show’.”
Unity through juxtaposition
The winning piece is called a diptych and it’s the magnificent composition of two pieces that become one through the juxtaposition. In this piece, Zach “connected human nature with the natural world.” Though the monetary benefit was small, the boost in Zach’s confidence was priceless.
“I am committed to help represent others, especially those who go unseen. I would much rather stay behind the camera. I’m more comfortable there,” Zach said. He feels especially passionate about those living on the margins of mainstream culture, namely people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ.
While he was formally studying art and photography, he knew that he wanted to work in magazines and have his photos tell a powerful story. He thought that winning ‘Best In Show’ would bring him the attention he needed to land a job with a magazine.
Photography as activism
Zach noticed that professional photographers were very active at the local Pride Parade last June, and he sent an email with one of his photos and asked if he could volunteer for the upcoming parade. Their main photographer had to back out due to other responsibilities and Zach was hired as the official photographer.
His photos were so powerful that he was asked to do the cover photo for the November issue of The Empty Closet, a local LGBTQ publication. His cover received such acclaim that he was then offered the cover for December, February, and May. He was hired as a freelancer by the publication and was on his way to permanent staff with the magazine, until the publication folded in June 2020, unable to survive through COVID-19.
He maintained his part time job and again faced an uncertain future.
The Black Lives Matter movement exploded in the United States after the murder of George Floyd, and brought Zach onto the streets. He wanted to show his support for black people in the Rochester community, and he felt a responsibility to capture this historical event the best way he knew how: through the lens of his camera.
An activist was being interviewed by a local paper and knew that Zach took some photos. Zach’s photograph was featured in Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle and within 2 weeks was picked up by national media.
Though he is still waiting for that offer from a publication where he can showcase his work and tell people’s stories through the circle of his lens, he is excited that another and most unexpected dream came true.
Recognition by those he admires
Zach grew up with the music of Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus, Hanna Montana, and others made famous by Disney. Rock Mafia is the primary songwriting and production group for Disney, and two weeks ago, Rock Mafia discovered Zach’s photographs and are now following him on Instagram.
He hopes that this recent attention will help him tell stories that really matter, through the three dimensional lens that creates a two dimensional image that connect us to one another: a spectacular diptych in its own right, a unified message through a magnificent juxtaposition.