Immune Media's Questions for David Zimmerman
1. Why deserts?
I am primarily interested in altered or impacted landscapes and those that are threatened by natural or manmade events.
It is a great paradox of human existence that we must exploit the resources of the planet to exist. My work in these places is largely an attempt to understand the balance between human need and the consequences of unrelenting depletion of the planet's resources. Vast areas of desert lands are under enormous pressure by development and recreational use.
The sometimes tranquil, sometimes fierce nature of the desert, and my own response and interaction with these environments inspired the first set of photographs. Beyond witnessing the sheer beauty and magnitude of the landscape, I began to feel a sense of the fragile balance of man's presence on the land. The desert can be haunting; in the dark, in the heat or in a storm, I feel my own vulnerability.
Living in cities much of my life, questions of my own exposure in the natural world rarely occurred and the impact of my actions seemed negligible, as I was one of many millions. This is where the second part of the project began, with questions of how we relate to and impact the natural world by our actions. Symbolic of the damage being done, abstract images of tracks and the short film “desert” reveal a very different perspective. Empowered by a sense of entitlement and immunity, untold millions consider their actions to have little or no impact on the land.
The American southwest desert environment is a total ecosystem that is extremely fragile, easily scarred, and slowly healed… and its resources, including certain rare and endangered species of wildlife, plants, and fishes, and numerous archeological and historic sites, are seriously threatened by air pollution, inadequate Federal management authority, and pressures of increased use, particularly recreational use, which are certain to intensify because of the rapidly growing population of the American southwest. My documentation of these remarkable deserts continues in an effort to influence preservation through public awareness, opinion and action
2. Most of your work seems to have something to do with humans and our environment. Do you have environmentatlist intentions?
I'm in Louisiana right now to see and to photograph the Gulf coast landscape and the impact of the disastrous BP Deepwater oil spill. I often spend a month or more at a location and frequently make return trips over a period of years to see the changes that have occurred. While the oil spill remains largely at sea and may remain so, the impact of it will remain for decades.
My studio in Taos is build to LEED certified standards for sustainablility. Both my studio and home are entirely solar powered, use catchment water as they only water source, and passive solar heated.
3. What's the first time you ever got paid for doing photography?
I've been photographing since I was 17. I lived overseas for a few years at that time; France, Spain, Egypt, Israel- photographing people and landscapes. When I returned to the U.S. I did occasional small town newspaper assignments to help pay for my personal work. I also worked in a camera store in my home town of Milwaukee when I was in my early 20's. It was there I met a girl who was doing these outdoor art fairs, showing her artwork and she suggested I try it. It was at one of these fairs where I sold my first 8x10 print of an image I shot in Paris, for $15 (matted). I've now been married to that girl for 31 years.
4. How much Photoshop is too much?
The answer really only applies to my own work, and that is, if I can see it, it's too much. Most of my own digital work is not much more than traditional darkroom work. I enjoy seeing work by others though which may disregard convention entirely and use Photoshop or other tools to create images not previously possible. I think the idea that photography needs to be "straight" is no longer relevant as it once may have been. I also believe that the technique behind a great image is initially invisible.
My own reaction to a great image which has used lots of Photoshop (or pinhole or IR or reversed or....) is, that's a wonderful image; it makes me feel, or think or it taught me something. Whereas, if an image seems to have no soul, just technique, it leaves me flat. No amount of technique, alone, will make a great image.
5. Now that everyone's a photographer, will professionals survive?
In some ways, the proliferation of digital everything is raising the bar. I think professionals will survive not just by making better photographs but also by being smarter about how they market themselves. While it's true that magazines are closing due to lost ad revenue, and many buyers look to micro stock for their images, professionals can rise above it all by creating new images for todays new markets and new markets to come. The fine art photography market for example is comparatively new, and flourishing.
6. Would you rather have a pet gila monster, western diamondback, or scorpion?
I'm set. My Jack Russell Terrier shares traits with all of them.
7. How/why is it that the Desert images are "monochromatic"? Why do they differ in that way from Desert II?
Much of the desert landscape I work in is somewhat monochromatic to begin with; white/yellow sands and frequently night or storm skies. The monochromatic nature of the photographs seems a better representation of what I saw, and felt.
There is an almost other-worldly character to the desert landscape. Walking in to these places, often 5 to 10 miles, I begin to feel quite insignificant in the scheme of things, and vulnerable; disconnected from from my normal world and comfort zone. These things in a way are what directed my decision to reduce the color of the scene, and reducing the color I feel, also reduces the viewer's familiarity (no pretty blue skies or beach sand) and may suggest the mystery which I experience.
My feeling about the desert ll images is quite different. On the surface they may be quite attractive, and viewed only for what they are - tire tracks in the sand, well, that's not so bad and the wind will carry them away. But I feel they're symbolic of a much greater and real problem, and that is the rush to the deserts to build houses and malls and roads and recreational destinations. And so, the colors are as real as the issue.
8. How in the world did you get the often disorienting views we see in Desert II?
The Desert ll series photographs were photographed from the ground, often looking up or down at 100 foot sand dunes. The deserts from both series are from all over the southwest. Tonapah & Amargosa, NV, Imperial Sand Dunes, CA, White Sands, NM, Hot Wells, AZ and others. I travel in a small camper van and try to stay as close as possible to the locations. Much of the land is BLM and I can often stay near the site. It's almost always 5-10 miles of walking, and so beyond the usual gear, water and cover are essential.
| || |