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ZeMotion LA Meetup

On a recommendation from my buddy Efren Beltran, I RSVP’d to head out to the ZeMotion Meetup being held today at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. The group is a photographers / creatives forum managed by Zhang Jingna a renowned commercial / fashion photographer from Singapore. Her client list reads like an A list of top tier companies: Harper’s Bazaar, Wacom, Sony, Mercendes Benz, Mont Blanc, Lancome and Canon to name just a few. She happened to be in town and decided that she’d host a meetup for the group as some of her fans lived in California.

View From The Observatory

View From The Griffith Observatory

So, off I went to Los Angeles hoping that weather would not be bad, as the weatherman stated it would be raining all weekend.  But, as luck would have it the clouds broke and it was a wonderful day to be at the observatory as it turned out.  While there I met up with a group of about 20+ people as we performed introductions then sat to listen to Zhang speak about her career and answer questions. In the process I found a lots of creatives on hand from fellow photographers, videographers, students, physicists, engineers, photo assistants, and CG artists. It was just nice to see the varied talent that enjoyed and followed Zhang’s work.

The most interesting aspects of the meetup was of course the Q&A session where Zhang talked about her background and how she got started. It seems that Zhang was actually on the other side of the lens as a model to start out with and found that she liked to control the creativity of the image but, could not do so to the extent she wanted to as a model and thus moved over to the other side of the lens to be the photographer. She stated that she found she had a great creative vision which helped make photography a good fit for her and the fact that she really loved it made her passionate about her work. Her first real gig was working for a magazine publication while she was in school.  The magazine was soliciting to photographer on campus but, were known for not paying for the photographers work once a job was completed. To that end she took a chance and took a job with them anyway, performed some shoots, never was paid and in the end the magazine eventually went under. The thing though as Zhang puts it, was that the staffers from this magazine spread out to find new opportunities and recalled Zhang and her work, this coupled with Zhang flare for sharing her work online made her stand out and noticeable. Thus with a little luck, vision, creativity and consistency of great work (as Zhang likes to put it) a career was born.

Zhang Answering Q&A

Zhang Answering Q&A

Zhang did discussed the importance of working within a team, in setting mood / tone to provide team direction to fulfill a vision of each shoot and that one must learn to put a self value to their work (i.e. price their work / rate on what they truly believe the work is worth and stick to it). She also stressed the need for photographers to make time to work on personal projects, to branch out and take in other art and to share their work.  I did ask Zhang on how much effort did she feel she focused on marketing and self promotion via social networking.  Although Zhang felt she had really force marketed herself through social media or through the fashion scene (i.e. junkets, functions, after parties), I got the sense through her story that through the sharing of her work through sites like Devianart she in fact was marketing via social networking just indirectly.  This allowed her really to connect with other creatives, editors and fans looking for new inspiring visions but, not really beat the ground to yell “I’m a Great Photographer!”. It’s why I think her popularity continues to grow as well. One note she stated is that she often is approached to do projects by companies or magazine versus having to hustle for the work, which I found interesting as it means her art really has stood on its own merits in drawing the clients in.

Last, I found it interesting that like other photographers Zhang had a passion for her personal work and in particular clients that allowed her some free reign on creative freedoms on vision / direction, two she singled out where Harper’s and Canon. She in fact talked about the fact on her recent Canon work that it was exclusively personal work and that she loved this, which she felt she’d like to do more work in this vein in the future. I got the sense that it was quite liberating for her and provided a lot of artistic growth opportunity. In then end it was an informative session at  great location where I got the chance meeting Zhang and the other creatives on hand. Zhang’s work is refreshing, inspiring and she was just genuinely enjoyable to be around. I can’t wait until the next time we have a chance to meet or to see what her future holds.

On a final note I have to say that the meetup was even more special for me for two other reasons one being the scene was just a landscapers paradise that I will need to go back and shoot again this spring the other reason was that their was another group of creatives I got to meet at the event.  Those that know me know I love art in most of its forms (theater, painting, photography, video / motion and CG) but, in particular I have a soft spot for animation in film and video games. To that end a group of guys on hand where concept artists from Ready at Dawn (God of War fame for all you PS3 fans out there), it was nice meeting them and knowing we shared not just a love of playing vg’s but, in Zhang’s work. I tend to be a sucker when technology and art converge.

Until next time…


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