Zachary Scott, The New York Times Magazine, and a Traveling Cactus
Zachary Scott has been shooting editorial the majority of his career. In fact, his oldest client is The New York Times Magazine, who began hiring him in 2005. He has always loved working with the magazine as it has introduced him to incredible creatives, allowed him to work with a-list celebrities and has given him opportunities to travel around the world. His most recent cover for the magazine is with comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk.
Odenkirk, whose most recent credits include Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico so creatives and Zachary crafted a desert look for this shoot. Zachary sees photography as his way of illustrating the world around him. Using nature as a resource library, he views the world as a plethora of raw materials with which to work, so traveling from California's Central Coast to Albuquerque with cacti from his own personal garden was a no brainer. It’s this commitment to do what it takes to get a project done that has cemented Zachary’s nearly 20 year relationship with the Magazine.
We sat down with Zachary to learn a little bit more about this project. Read on to hear about how Zachary experimented to create the perfect background to illustrate Odenkirk’s personality and career.
What was a memorable moment from the shoot?
As we were shooting and chit chatting with Bob, the subject matter turned toward his recent heart attack. The studio went quiet. He told the story with detail and emotion, as you would expect from an actor of his caliber, except he wasn’t acting at all. You could see that this experience has affected him deeply. It explained his demeanor on set, and he said he wasn’t always like this on shoots. He was gracious, sought to connect with everyone, did his own styling, he was happy to be there, trusting, wasn’t sweating the details, and I think more than anything just happy to be alive.
What did you learned on shoot?
I’ve been exploring the look and feel of dioramas throughout my career. The attraction is real…I want my work to look like the displays at the Natural History Museum. The true constraint with this approach is finding the perfect background for a studio “diorama” set. On this shoot, I experimented with a technique where I shot a solid color, textured canvas in the place of a “painted scenic backdrop”. The surface texture and shadow detail that was naturally occurring, through studio lighting, on the plain backdrop was merged with a desert landscape photograph I took in New Mexico. This approach gave me flexibility to use my own photographs as backgrounds, while maintaining the painterly look I find desirable for these projects. My goal was to create a seamless image that didn’t follow the hard and fast visual rules of nature, but instead those of a diorama in the Natural History Museum.
What do want people to take away about you and your work after seeing this project?
I always aim to make memorable images. I hope the fun and humor presented on the surface level of the project was enough to engage the viewer and draw them in to discovering more about the depth of Bob Odenkirk. He’s a special actor, and It was an honor to work with him and the New York Times Magazine on this Assignment.