Sequoia Ziff

Catching souls

Susan Sontag said that photography is, above all, a way of looking. It is not the “look” itself. As declared by the American novelist, Sequoia Ziff’s snapshots arise as a result of her attraction to timelessness and imperfection and of her desire to convey vulnerability and nostalgia. Her particular way of looking…

She, as well as her passion for photography, was born in Los Angeles. This passion would lead her to cross the ocean and end up in London, where she lives today. She says she finds inspiration in Deborah Turbevielle, Sally Mann and Richard Avedon, who excel amongst their peers in a specialized realm filled with elements such as art, people, the world in general, and everyone who pursues their passion.

Sequoia… One of the largest and longest living organisms on Earth. Is it a typical Californian name?

The truth is, I’ve never met anyone named Sequoia and refuse to. I love my name! 🙂 The only time it’s a pain in the ass is when I go to Starbucks. I used to collect all the cups that misspelled my name… Once I got one that just said “whatever”.

When did you first think of becoming a photographer? How did you get into the Industry?

I am really lucky to have known what I wanted to do since I was 8. Growing up, I took pictures of everyone that I could. Slumber parties turned into America’s Next Top “Brace Face” photo-shoots. I annoyed my family, always making them pose for me. Afterwards, during highschool, I started working with little paid jobs for family and family friends.

You are present and active on almost all social networks and you have more than 10.000 followers on Instagram. How would you say Social Media is changing photography?

Social media is amazing for photographers because our generation is so invested and interested in photography. So, photographers like me have more exposure than ever before. You are able to build a network and self promote your work; whereas before, to get the same reach you would have probably needed representation.

I get a lot of jobs and exposure through Instagram. It’s amazing because it’s a more casual approach to networking. It forms a lot of collaborations in a natural and casual way. I am constantly sharing and getting feedback on my work.

How would you describe your work?

My photographs are precious to me, they are my dreams in visual form, my memories, people that I’ve met and loved, and so each is special for different reasons.

Light, colors, perspective,… what do you think is essential for getting the perfect picture?

Connecting with my subject. In terms of a good portrait, it is essential to make them feel comfortable. On top of that, lighting is key.

I’ve perceived your real essence in your portraits. What makes them so special? What do you like most about shooting portraits?

My favourite thing about shooting portraits is that it’s not often in life that you’re able to stare deeply into someone’s face without being socially awkward. My job is to soul gaze all day long. That kind of vulnerability can be uncomfortable for people, and I enjoy helping people feel beautiful, just through the process of shooting them.

Is it easy to achieve a connection between model and photographer?

Yeah. I love people in general and there are always people no matter what field – models, musicians, family, friends, who feel self conscious in front of the camera. For me, creating the images is definitely a song and dance between model and photographer.

In your website there is a section called ‘daydreams’. What would you say that your dream is nowadays?

My dream has been, and remains to be, to be able to have the means to do what I love: making art, traveling the world, spreading joy and being surrounded by fearless creatives. Literally to capture and spread light in the world is the dream 🙂

Is there any magazine, model or client you have not worked with that you would like to?

Hah! I don’t know! Oprah? Mainly because I just want to hang out with her. To be honest, I’m never really focused on who it is, more so the feeling of the image. I like musicians, social justice campaigns, fashion… I love it all.

And to conclude… what about any projects in the near future?

You’ve caught me during a crazy busy time. I’ve got a few music projects going on, mostly artwork for bands….but my main focus has been prepping for a gallery show that’s coming up in November at Summit At Sea. I just got back from photographing a refugee camp in Greece, the photos from my time there are going to be shown and sold on the boat with proceeds from the show going to World Wide Tribe. The objective is to raise funds and humanize the issue, which I’m really passionate about. Looking forward to sharing the project with you when it’s out!

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