We had the good fortune of connecting with Zachary Blake and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zachary, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
The only way to explain the “why” is to go back and give a little backstory and a peek into my personal life. It was December 2017 and I was just getting back from my second tour in Afghanistan with the US Army Special Forces. I was a Special Forces Communications Sergeant with SFOD-A 0222 Once I was back and had some time off with my family, I realize that I was not the same. I didn’t know exactly what had changed, but I can now see that I was descending into substance and alcohol abuse. For my own sake, I needed to fill time without filling a glass.
So I chose photography. Film photography is actually what I truly fell in love with. There was something so…tangible? Something about the process of working with film. Developing, scanning, ….it was a labor of love.
So now armed with my trusty Pentax K1000, I hit the streets of Colorado Springs to see what I could see. Looking back at my earliest work, I can see the sadness in how I captured the most ordinary things. It was my lens then, it remains my lens today. It’s my story in each exact moment in time.
My love affair had started with photography but has since blossomed into telling stories with cinematography. It felt like such a natural progression of medium that I took to it instantly. Cinematography is a more involved process because I want to ensure that every frame could be taken from a roll and stand on its own. Every aspect of filmmaking has its own rewards and challenges. From lighting to the perfect dolly zoom, it is all in order to properly serve the narrative and elicit emotion from an audience. Pieces of my lens goes into everything I captu
So to answer why? Well…how could I turn away from such a thing.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think the only thing that could possibly set me apart from any other photographer/filmmaker could be experiences, how I perceived those experiences, and how I interpret the world around me. Film can’t be created in a void therefore I feel that we all tend to draw from what inspires us. I remember the first time I saw William Eggleston’s “Red Ceiling” and the profound effect it had on me, and I think it’s because of how that photograph was received. Reactions are very polarized across the art community. People either love it or they hate it without much room in between. Regardless, he continued to create. That is exactly how I feel about my art. Take it or leave it but I won’t stop. I don’t want to explain myself or my work. It’s up to the viewer to make up their own mind. I understand that I am not for everyone and nor would I want to be.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I am to be completely honest, I do not think that I am the best ambassador to the exciting night life of Coloardo Springs. I prefer quiet pub style atmospheres where I can engage in conversation. One of my favorite neighborhood brewery/pubs is Storybook Brewing. However, I love exploring the back roads of Colorado by off-road motorcycle. I have found that if properly outfitted, you can get almost anywhere in this beautiful state without having to touch more than a few miles of pavement. The Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route is absolutely stunning route that begins at Four Corners and takes you through the heart of Colorado and into Wyoming. My wife and I regularly enjoy travelling throughout this gorgeous state and have a deep connection with Telluride. So much so that its where we decided to marry. Whether off-roading or skiing or just wanting to visit a place for its incredible views, Telluride will not disappoint.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My beautiful wife, Mischa. She has been the most influential and supportive person on this filmmaking journey that we are taking together. I always joke that she is the brains and talent of “Upper Russell Productions” and I just hold the camera, but she is so much more. As a creative, I feel that my biggest opponent is self-doubt. Living and working in an age of an over-saturation of visual content, I constantly question the innovation and relevance of what I am creating.
But together we can work through that doubt, determine what needs adjustment, and continue forward. I’ve found that filmmaking can put us in an incredibly vulnerable state because our overarching ambition is to convey our soul’s deepest poetry. That said, I think it’s essential that your collaborators are not only up to the technical and physical challenges presented on set, but are also empathetic to the narrative’s emotions at play. We trust each other implicitly on each one of these delicate levels.
This would have stayed a hobby without her support and belief in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.
Instagram: @UpperRussellPro or @zacks_pentax
Zachary Ian Blake Mischa Cantu Blake