Having looked at her ‘Josephine’ story we are sure you’d like to discover what makes Zoë run. Volt Café asked this very creative photographer some candid questions.
Volt Café: Famous dad, fashion model mom, a childhood spent oscillating between London and Los Angeles – sounds like a recipe for disaster! Yet you’re a hardworking and clearly talented photographer… Was there ever a point where you could potentially have gone down the Lindsay Lohan route or have you always been focused on your work?
Zoë Zimmer: No, I don’t think that was ever a worry, in fact I always feel the need to clarify that that was never an option for me. My childhood was surprisingly normal, and for the most part there was little disastrous about it. Don’t get me wrong, having parents who work in creative industries is anything but usual at times, but I was kept pretty grounded. I was always aware of how hard they worked, nobody handed it to them and I shouldn’t expect any different. If anything, being around that kind of environment my whole life gave me more of a drive to do something, anything, that allowed me to be part of it in my own right rather than relying on my last name and their contacts. Sure there were, and are, nights I didn’t come home until 6am but I always knew I wanted to be doing something that didn’t involve a cliché trip to Betty Ford.
VC: What gets you excited on an average day?
ZZ: The hope that I won’t have an average day, and the possibility of buying new shoes.
VC: I love your aesthetic, your models look kind of ‘other’, interesting, not the usual cookie-cutter clothes hangers. What do you have as a brief when you do your casting? Does the model come first, and then the story or is it the other way round?
ZZ: Thank you. Well, the story always comes first and if modelling taught me anything it’s that, unfortunately, the model comes last. For the most part I try to find models that have enough character to them that they become integral to what I’m shooting as opposed to just a pretty and interchangeable face.
VC: There’s a strong feel of dark sexuality in your work, a definite tension. Is that on purpose or a happy accident?
ZZ: It’d probably sound much cooler if I said I strive to create a feel of dark sexuality and definite tension in my work, but I think it’s accidental. I suppose most of the ideas I come up with have a dark element to them, whether that’s something that (perhaps worryingly?!) comes naturally to me or whether it’s something I’ve cultivated somewhere along the way, I’m not sure.
VC: I know you worked as a model before deciding to become a photographer. Do you feel that experience was useful in your current profession?
ZZ: More than useful, my time modeling was totally indispensable. My career as a model was nothing to write home about, which was mainly my own doing, I got bored and my heart just wasn’t in it after a while… a very short while. However, there is no way I could have started photography as seamlessly as I did without the things I learnt from being around the industry for so long. For the most part, the Fashion Industry is a really weird thing and I was happy to have a heads up.
VC: I read that you decided on becoming a photographer on the back of discovering Catherine Opie’s work. Which other photographers do you find inspiring and why?
ZZ: It wasn’t so much Catherine Opie’s work that I found inspiring, I was reading an article about how she started and it was more the idea of becoming a photographer that was interesting to me. Given the fact that I was modeling at the time, it was, strangely enough, something I hadn’t thought about before then. The first photographers I remember really making an impact on me when I was younger were Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, I would spend unimaginable amounts of time looking at their work. Don’t get me wrong, Opie’s work is great, but I won’t be carving pictures into my own back anytime soon.
VC: If you HAD to change career again, what would you choose?
ZZ: Leader of the Free World.
VC: What catches your eye when you walk down the street? And do you find it is different according to which city you are in?
ZZ: I’m constantly looking at the different aesthetics of different cities, strange things like the colours buildings are painted and the typeface they use for various signs (this makes me sound pretty peculiar, I know). London and LA are great examples of this, the feel of them both is so contrasting. I think that’s why I love going back and forth so much, it rarely gets boring.
VC: What’s your dream project?
ZZ: Shooting in Vegas (with a camera obviously, not a gun).
VC: What would you count as your greatest single source of inspiration?
ZZ: America. In all different eras and for all its good and bad reasons.
Words by Anna Bang