B E H I N D T H E L E N S
I remember living in L.A. from 1989 to 1991. I remember walking into Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard and coming face to face with Bette Midler. I remember walking from my apartment on Wilcox Avenue in the heart of Hollywood, crossing the street during a traffic jam and finding myself at Barry White's car window. I remember all the male and female adult film stars who lived in my complex, the Hollywood Studio Club. I remember when the building started going to pot and moving to Cynthia (Ave? St.?) in West Hollywood, across from the famed Larabee Sound Studio, and sitting on my first floor balcony and watching all the 80's and 90's recording stars like Paula Abdul, Prince, Tony Toni Tone and too many others to list come and go. I remember when Pia, the woman who lived above me, said her boyfriend was coming home after a long trip, and then bumping into him in the stairwell, only to realize that it was the actor Judd Nelson. I even remember the weekly visits from his good friend Lenny Kravitz, who would knock on my balcony door to ask me if Judd was home. I'd had lunch at the Greenery with Joey Stefano and even met Jeff Styker, but what I remember most is how normal all of this seemed at the time. L.A. is littered with the famous so running into them becomes commonplace, but it made me realize that I was not overly taken with celebrity.
Well, maybe not those celebrities.
I had my own personal heroes, a few singers, a few writers, and quite a few photographers. Had I run into Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Tom Bianchi or Richard Avedon, then perhaps I would have turned into a screaming, teary eyed teenager. Those visionaries, along with the ones who have come along since then account for my hero worship, and I count myself among the fans of quite a few. It is difficult to describe the feeling of being inspired by individuals whose talent you have studied to refine your own craft. The idea of these personal heroes becoming accessable to me is the closest I've come to being a star fucker. It is another emotion all together to have your phone ring, pick it up, and discover that one of them is on the other line.
The first impression I had of Desi Arnaz (the photographer behind Zedneram, not the actor) was that his voice sounded like a smile. There is a warmth in his rich baritone that comes through and without even realizing it, you are smiling too. He speaks candidly, is upbeat and free of negativity, offering nothing but praise and support for all his fellow artists. When discussing his many accomplishments, he is quick to point out the photographers whom he has admiration for, like Justin Monroe and Scott Marrs, and making sure to mention which image he loves in your own portfolio. His speach and manner of conversation puts him in a grey zone if you're trying to figure him out in the sense of ethnicity. Here is a man who champions the people of all races, origins, ethnic backgrounds and creeds, who doesn't seem to fit within any one category, but is more akin to being a child of the world.
There are many different dimensions not only in terms of the talent, but in terms of the man himself, so I decided to split his interview into three parts. In the first part, I wanted to explore the person behind the lens in an attempt to gain some insight into the mind that creates the magic.
PT I - The Man
BLISS: When did you know that you wanted to be a photographer?
ZEDNERAM: As a professional dancer (not stripper..lol), I've worked all over the country. I would see so many amazing, beautiful and unique looking people. I've always felt there was a lack of representation of more ethnic people in popular media. I decided to start photographing people to showcase the beauty and uniqueness in all people. I remember running up to people and saying "I'm going to be a photographer and once I start I'm going to make you a famous model." I think people thought I was crazy but usually if I say I'm going to do something I follow through. Very driven that way.
B: Do you remember the first camera you ever used?
Z: Huumm, it was a Canon something..lol I don't remember it's been a few.
B: Did you have artistic leanings as a youth?
Z: Not really. My older brother was an AMAZING artist. He would draw very interesting cartoon characters and I would try to copy him.
B: Many of the photographers that I meet, especially the ones who take provocative images, are actually rather shy and introverted. Are you the same way or do you have a more outgoing personality?
Z: Yes, I’m very shy. But usually if I have to work, I’m very outgoing. I would never walk up to someone in a club that I was interested in and hit on them...
OMG NO WAY!
B: Who were the biggest influences in your life?
Z: Music was always a big influence growing up. I remember seeing Prince in the late 70's wearing thigh high boots and G-string underwear. I remember being attracted to his sense of freedom. He was just himself and it was AMAZING. He was able to do all types of music, Funk, R & B, Rock and it was great. No limitations. I was also in love with Donna Summer. Her voice was and still is AMAZING. I used to sit in front of the stereo system and listen to her albums over and over as a child. Very interesting, if any of us remember in the 70's recording artists would have double albums and some would have posters on the inside. I would just look at the images for hours. The Rock group KISS was pretty phenomenal to me as well. The make up, costumes, live shows and all. I know I still pull inspiration for a lot of my work from this era. Oh yeah and Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter was so HOT and beautiful....just WOW!
©2010 - Sean Dibble
photo: Mark Grantham
All other photos by Zedneram