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Bil Zelman

Photographer + Director

San Diego, CA


Campaign - Bushmills


Q: What song do you play on repeat?

A: "Independence Day" by Elliott Smith.

Q: What's the best way to start the day?

A: In a hotel in a place I've never been to before.

Q: What is the most impactful project you've worked on and why.

A: I recently published a book titled And Here We Are concerning the current Holocene extinction crisis and the myriad of human-caused issues. The project took three years and deeply opened my eyes to how much we've changed this planet in only one century. The headlines couldn't scream loud enough.

Q: Which art/photo exhibit that you've seen has impacted you the most?

A: Martin Parr's The Last Resort taught me that you could be voyeuristic and temporarily insensitive while still making powerful and vital work. That work, along with Larry Fink and a few of the Magnum photographers, inspired me to photograph people before they could recompose themselves. To try and create a new genre of street photography and a way to photograph people.

Q: What are the first 3 chapters of your autobiography titled?

A: 1. You Probably Shouldn't Climb That. 2. You Probably Shouldn't Drink That. 3. You Probably Shouldn't Fly That.

Q: Best and worst advice you've ever received.

A: Skip med-school and become a photographer, and "No. Yes. There are no alligators there".

Q: How has your work evolved over the past few years?

A: We've all had to simplify our narratives due to the size of social media. Gone are the subtle hints in photographs we used to view in large prints; instead, we have to use more prominent, more theatrical body language. Instagram and others have dominated our consumption of imagery, and it's a massive change for everyone.

Q: One thing you can't show up to a shoot without - Besides a camera ;)

A: My bag of ping-pong balls and small potatoes to throw at people. Oh...and a great playlist!


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