© DAVID ZAITZ
Los-Angeles based advertising and editorial photographer David Zaitz is exhibiting his first solo show at the iWitness Gallery in Portland, Oregon. “View Finder,” which opened on January 6th, takes a look at Zaitz’s humorous side through a collection of both personal and commissioned work.
As Zaitz has generally been an assignment-driven photographer, many of the “View Finder” images were shot as self-promotion to attract potential clients. These are the photos that led to his list of top customers such as Nestle, Ford, Playstation and Wells Fargo Bank. Zaitz comments, “Carving out a niche as a humor and conceptual photographer has also been a way to distinguish myself in the commercial world. Many potential clients discover me through my humor work and then find that my scope is much broader.”
Zaitz has worked on several personal projects over the years, including a body of work based on vanishing Americana. But he never considered that his commissioned works could also be viewed in a fine art context until he was approached by iWitness curator George Olson, who he has had a business relationship with for several years. “It was Olson who tapped me on my shoulder and suggested that I had another body of work – my humor and conceptual images – which would make an entertaining gallery exhibit,” Zaitz explains.
The collection comes from a wide variety of projects but they work as a single element, thanks to Zaitz’s strong personal voice and the same dry, observational wit that he says “has a touch of smart-ass.” In both his personal and commissioned works, he conveys the same sense of spontaneity and realism due to the blurred lines that his creative process has formed over the years. “In my assignment work, I try to bring the looseness and serendipity that I use in my personal projects. At the same time, I apply a lot of my pre-production experience to my personal conceptual work,” he says.
Whatever he is working on, Zaitz draws inspiration for his humor from the world around him. His ideas are rooted in observation, and depending the on the idea or the source, will embellish the idea. What is most challenging is translating humor into a single photograph. Like all comedy, timing is key. But how do you have timing in a still image? Zaitz credits his delivery to his compositions. He looks back to painters like Norman Rockwell, who created strong narrative structures that led the viewer’s eye from point to point to allow the story to unfold. In Zaitz’s work, certain elements have to be seen in a specific order, and he executes his narration in a similar way.
Among the collected works is a favorite of the photographer’s, his image “Night at the Museum.” A “perfect meeting of assignment and personal work,” Zaitz was commissioned to illustrate camping in the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum to promote a sleepover program for members. In the photo, he chooses to show the members literally camping out in a brightly lit tent in front of an elephant exhibit. Sharing the same world in “View Finder,” a man mows his front lawn with a gas mask next to the neighboring factories, and a boy jumps high on his trampoline to scope out the nudist resort behind the hedges. “I’d like to continue to find and document the ironies and hypocrisies of every day life,” Zaitz says. “If I can help the viewer see the world in a slightly different way, I’m thrilled. But I’ll settle for a smile.”
“View Finder” will run through February 25th, 2012 at the iWitness Gallery. To see more of David Zaitz’s work, visit his Web site.