Zeb Andrews interview
Where did you grow up? Can you tell me what it was like for you growing up?
Originally I was born in Seattle and around the age of 4 or so, I moved to Yacolt, Washington. Yacolt is, or was, a pretty small ex-logging town out in what is referred to as “the sticks”. Basically the countryside of southwestern Washington. I lived there until my freshman year of high school before moving to Portland where I still live. So, I have lived in the Pacific Northwest my entire life. I grew up wading through swamps and learning to swim in rivers. I think it definitely had an impact on my appreciation for the outdoors. But I think the move to Portland was also significant, it gave me a second perspective, that of life in the city, even if Portland is a fairly green city. I think the breadth of these experiences growing up has definitely helped to contribute to my preference for embracing a breadth of styles in my photography as well.
When did you start taking photographs?
I started taking photos about 6 years ago. In fact, I can trace it to a single spot, Multnomah Falls. My fiance and I were out there one day and she loaned me her K1000 (all I understood about using it was rotating the various knobs and dials to make sure the needle inside was in the middle) to take a photo. That eventually progressed to her having to bug me to give her camera back so she could actually use it, which was the time I bought my first camera, a Nikon FM2, from Blue Moon Camera, which eventually led to me getting a job there. And if anything has taught me more about photography, it has been working 5 or 6 days a week there, in and around photography and photographers all day.
What inspired you to start shooting pinhole?
When I first started working at Blue Moon there were three of us on staff: me, Jake and Josey. Josey was a pretty creative photographer. She was always trying new and quirky tricks with her photography…The three of us worked together for a couple of years getting Blue Moon through its growing pains. One year Jake and I were trying to decide what to get Josey for her birthday. We wanted something interesting and odd, that she had never tried before. We saw the Zero Image pinhole cameras in Freestyle’s catalog and a bunch of us chipped in to get the Zero 2000 model. Tragically she was killed in a car accident a couple of weeks later and we were never able to give her the camera. So the store adopted it and we all took turns taking it out to use it. That is how I initially got hooked. Now I like pinhole for a couple of reasons. It provides such a unique perspective of the world. It is not something I can physically see without the help of the camera. It records in a way much different from human vision, and this fascinates me. Being able to see something I could not normally see, or at least in a way, I could not normally see. I wear glasses. My eyesight is not really bad, but without glasses, things are just a bit fuzzy. But sometimes I take my glasses off to see the world in just this way. I like technically excellent images, that are sharp throughout. But sometimes I think technicals become almost a bit of a prison for a lot of photographers. We get so caught up in making technically perfect images that we forget that sometimes there are things other than technical qualities that make images resonate.
We get so caught up in making technically perfect images that we forget that sometimes there are things other than technical qualities that make images resonate.
The other reason I like pinhole photography is that it slows me down. I go places to enjoy them, I take photos to serve as a reminder and aid to my memory. But ironically it is so easy to go somewhere beautiful and spend so much time crouched behind the camera that you don’t take the time to just enjoy a scene. Pinhole forces me to do that. With exposures that can take several minutes, I often find myself setting up a shot and then just sitting there and watching or listening or feeling. Or I get up and wander around and explore a bit while waiting for my pinhole. I enjoy this so much more than the hurried scurrying of trying to find that next “great” shot.
Who or what else inspires your artwork?
I am a big fan of Galen Rowell. Of all the photographers who I have gained inspiration from, he is probably the top of the list, not so much for his photography (although it inspires me too) but his passion for writing and sharing his philosophy to go along with his images. This is important to me. Sure a photo is said to be worth a 1000 words, but it is not always the right 1000 words.
Blue Moon also provides a ton of inspiration. I see so much photography and talk with so many photographers on a daily basis. I have learned a ton there. In much the same way as Flickr. I learn best through either experimentation on my own, or exposure to other’s work. Both of these places have taught me more than I can possibly list.
This may be a loaded question but, if film became unavailable, exhausted and obsolete how would your craft continue?
Nah, not really a loaded question. I pretty firmly believe that cameras are tools, they are just a means to an end. They are responsible for the physical act of producing an image, but it is the person behind the camera that creates, that imbues a photo with emotion or soul. To that end, as long as I can put a camera in my hands I will be a photographer and I will continue to do what I do. As new technologies emerge and old ones fade away, I don’t doubt that my vision and application of photographic prowess will change, but it would take more than film disappearing altogether to slow me down. That said, there are things that I feel, that at the least can be done better with film, and at the most, only on film. Take pinhole for example. Sure you can convert a digital SLR into a pinhole camera, but to make pinhole images in the same manner as what my Zero Image 6×9 does? Well getting a hold of a digital sensor that big would be obscenely expensive by itself…
But my photography is more than just what I do with a pinhole camera, and if pinhole became unavailable I am sure I would come up with some other way to scratch that creative photographic itch.
...if pinhole became unavailable I am sure I would come up with some other way to scratch that creative photographic itch.
How did you get your name Zeb?
A drunken game of Boggle… no just kidding. Although that would be a more interesting explanation. My mom just had a thing for names that began with Z (my brothers is Zachary). My full name is actually Zebidiah, but enough people have trouble with the three letter form of it as it is. It is funny, growing up in grade school, it was often a target for teasing, being unique. But once in high school, I was surprised how many people were actually impressed by its uniqueness. A fickle world we live in. On a related note, I actually had a class once with another Zeb (he was a Zebulon), so there are a couple of us running around out there.