Jan 312018

Photojournalism - WSJ Honda

Photojournalism - WSJ Honda

Last month I spent an afternoon going door to door with members of Honda’s Recall Team in Torrance as they attempted to inform car owners that their vehicles are subject to recall due to the famously deadly flaw in Takata airbags that were used between 2001-2015 by Honda and numerous other carmakers. The only problem, they were hard to find! This is largely due to the fact that Honda, whose cars were affected possibly worse than any other company, has spent the past several years reaching out in every way they can to car owners and have already found a high percentage of them. They are also trying to reach 2nd, 3rd and higher-generation owners, whose records are often hard to find or turn out to be inaccurate.

After several hours driving to various residences, which their records indicated were home to Honda owners who had not yet fixed their vehicles, we found exactly zero actual owners. We often missed them because they were at work, in which case they left a flyer on the doorknob, and in one case found someone whose husband owned the car, but had just sold it. I’m sure it’s a frustrating experience for the recall team, but also worth it as there’s supposedly a 50/50 chance that the driver or front seat passenger of an affected Honda could die or be seriously injured by shrapnel should the airbag deploy. Pretty bad. The recall is considered the largest in history, affecting over 42 million vehicles across all manufacturers and killing at least 20 people worldwide. If you own a car you think might be affected by this hopefully you’ve been contacted already and taken care of it! If not, you can get info here. Honda will actually come to your vehicle and fix it for free, so get on it.

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Jun 282017

Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - George Fischer - Paintball

Action - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

Portrait - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

I didn’t need a reminder that I made the right choice early on not to pursue a career in combat photography, but after feeling the sting of a paintball against my skin for the third time in only a couple minutes, despite several layers of protective clothing,  I remembered that it was indeed the right call.

Earlier this year I found myself out in the middle of a field seventy miles east of Los Angeles following around paintball enthusiast Justin Sorenson for Georg Fischer’s Globe magazine. Justin is a field service engineer by weekday, avid competitive paintball player by weekend and a really nice guy to work with. They were featuring him as part of a regular series they publish highlighting employees’ passions and pastimes outside the workplace. I had only played paintball once in my life, with some friends as a teenager. Being the new guy, they put me out front. I was quickly shot and went back to the house to hang out until they were through. So given my limited experience it probably goes without saying that I was unprepared when I suddenly found myself on the edge a battlefield where ten guys were raining hellfire upon one another with paint-filled balls of gelatin.

Justin and I had shot some portraits before things started and, when it was his team’s turn to play, made our way onto the field. He told me more or less where to shoot from to avoid being shot, but once play begins it all happens very fast. Starting at their home base on opposite ends of the field, upon the referee’s signal each of the five members of each team sprint in different directions, simultaneously scrambling for cover behind large bunkers while also shooting rapidly at anything they see moving on the other side of the field. The goal is to eliminate everyone on the opposing team by “marking” them with a splat of colored paint. You’re hit, you’re out. Last team standing wins.

Standing in the mud along the sidelines with nothing but a camera it feels a bit chaotic at first. The bunkers, inflated vinyl balloons, make loud thwaps each time they’re hit. I see Justin take off and immediately move so I can get a clear view of him in action. What I don’t see is one of his teammates crossing in front of me, which immediately draws fire from their opponents. Any shots that miss him, which was more than a few, have a good chance of hitting me.

The first one hits me right in the keister and stings like hell. I try to move along the edge toward the middle of the field where another team is watching. His teammate heads in the same direction and leaps behind a bunker. Paintballs whoosh by my ear. As I turn sideways one hits the side of my camera, ripping through the bag I’ve secured around it for protection as if it was Kleenex. Fortunately it hits a solid part of the camera body causing no harm. But I realize I should have brought a water housing. A moment later the referee yells to stop play and I let down my guard. Another paintball smacks me in the foot, stinging my toe even through the leather cleats I’m wearing for traction. What the &#*@!? The teams exit the field so the next teams can take a turn and, a little frustrated, I assess what I’ve shot. Not much. Besides spending most of the round trying not to get myself shot, Justin had taken a route up the middle of the field keeping him out of view, so I’d essentially taken all that fire for nothing.

Fortunately round two is better. I quickly learn to watch not only my subject but also to look out for anyone else running anywhere near my direction and to not get behind them. This time Justin runs an outside route toward my corner and I’m able to get a clear shot of him while also staying out of the line of fire. I’m shot only once more over the course of the afternoon and am able to get numerous images of him running, firing and diving for cover. Knowing I have what I need I decide to get myself, and more importantly my gear, out of harms way and call it a day. As for Justin, he intends to play for several more hours. Having watched them play I could see why. It’s a strategic, fast-paced and adrenaline pumping game that I’m sure is addictive once you get started.

As crazy as I may have made it sound, it was actually a great time and a really fun assignment. There are a lot worse ways to spend a Saturday. Even if most of them are less painful.

Here’s a video showing my POV from an iPhone I mounted to my camera. See below for more photos from the shoot!

Paintball Photography POV from David Zentz on Vimeo.

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May 032017

Editorial Photographer Tear Sheet

LACC Jazz Band - Editorial Photography


Late last year I photographed the Los Angeles Community College Studio Jazz Band for the Chronicle of Higher Education as they rehearsed for the following night’s concert. The story was about how the school had just received a $10 million grant from the Herb Alpert Foundation, which would be used to make tuition free for all music majors. Alpert, a jazz musician who founded A&M Records, and his foundation already had a history with donating to the school, but last year decided they wanted to give a legacy donation that would make a big difference in the lives of LACC students. The story reminded me of an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast that I listened to a few months ago in which he discusses a man named Hank Rowan who, in 1992, decided to give a $100 million donation to a local community college in order to create an entire engineering department. The podcast argues that more donors should think this way rather than only giving to the top Ivy League schools, which today have endowments in the multiple billions of dollars, but generally educate people who are starting with a lot of advantages. Thus the money doesn’t really do a lot for them in the way it would for the underserved students attending the small schools. It appears the Herb Alpert Foundation had a similar mindset. It was great to not only meet some of the beneficiaries of the foundation’s generosity, but also sit in on what felt like a private concert put on by a talented group of students.

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Sep 092016


“Want to buy a cookie?” a group of voices asked in unison, startling my wife and me. This was a few months ago and happened just as we were strolling home along Windward Avenue in Venice. Looking just to our right we saw a couple guys smiling through a rectangular hole in a whitewashed fence. On a platform above them, seated in lawn chairs were a couple young women in shorts and tank tops. After living off the boardwalk for so many years and regularly being approached by many random people asking for many random things, our initial instinct was to say no thanks without missing a step. Something about this was different though, and two steps after saying our rote “No, thanks,” we both stopped. “What was that?” I asked as we turned around. A blonde, long-haired surfer-looking guy named Kyle gave us the pitch from behind the counter.

“We’re farmers from Michigan, and we’re selling vegan, organic cookies using the wheat grown on our family farm,” he said, pointing to a display of four, slightly round drop cookies situated in front of him while holding up a glass jar full of whole grain wheat. “This is my apartment, and we do all of the prep and cooking in my kitchen. Want to try a sample?”

“Uh, sure,” we said. Why not? I could think of a couple reasons. However, they also informed us they were operating legally under a recently passed cottage food industry law that allowed the sale of l0w-risk foods, such as baked goods, to be prepared in people’s home kitchens and sold directly to the public. Another blonde, long-haired, surfer-type, who we learned was Kyle’s slightly older brother Wes, dropped back into the darkness and returned a moment later with a plate of small, pie-shaped samples of all of the cookies. We tasted as we talked.

“Where are you from in Michigan?” Erinn inquired. The cookies were good. Not incredibly sweet, but not bad for something described as vegan and organic and cooked by a couple of dudes in a studio apartment. They were from Custer, a small town of less than 300, halfway up the western side of the mitten. We told them Erinn’s brother-in-law was from Hart, only a few miles from there, and that we were going to be visiting her sister in Grand Rapids in just six weeks. “Cool beans,” Kyle said. Wes mentioned that at least one of them was going to go back in a month to help their dad with farming duties. We finished our samples, and they asked if we wanted to buy anything. I felt obliged at this point, but neither of us were carrying cash and the cookies were $3 a piece. “It’s okay. We take cards,” Kyle said with a shrug. I bought an oatmeal raisin and a peanut butter.

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Aug 142016

1966 Shelby Mustang GT350

1966 Shelby Mustang GT350 Editorial Portrait Palos Verdes

“Let me know if I’m making you uncomfortable!” John Saia said over the roar of the engine as we careened around a bend above the Palos Verdes cliffs. I was having so much fun and was so focused on getting the shot that it hadn’t even occurred to me that we were in any danger. And really I don’t think we were, given that Saia has been taking his 1966 Shelby Mustang GT350 on spins like this at least once a week since he purchased the classic vehicle in 2002. Still, it was nice of him to ask.

I had met up with Saia to spend a couple hours photographing him and his classics, the other being a 1965 Daytona Cobra Coupe replica, at what he has coined “The Shelby Garage,” named after legendary car designer Carroll Shelby, at Saia’s home in Rolling Hills Estates for the Wall Street Journal’s “My Ride” series. Saia, a retired technical training manager for Toyota, is a lifelong lover of Shelby designed cars and related artifacts, which he loves to share with the public at weekend car shows and on his website, ShelbyGuy.net. We spent some time there shooting the car and some of his large collection of memorabilia before taking it out for a spin and stopping by his favorite overlook facing south over San Pedro to shoot some more. Between the beautiful lines of the car and the stunning scenery it was almost too easy making beautiful images.

It’s safe to say I’m not a “car guy,” (I drive a Hyundai), but I always love these opportunities to ride along with someone who is. Not only is it a fun way to spend the day, but I always come away with an appreciation for what it is they see that I’ve been missing. In addition to the photos here and below, I took a moment to shoot some footage as we drove along Palos Verdes Drive. The rumble of the engine is hardly picked up, but hopefully this gives you some sense of the experience.


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Oct 212015

The Amber Rose Slut Walk in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 3, 2015.

The Amber Rose Slut Walk in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 3, 2015.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received the assignment to cover the Amber Rose SlutWalk for Cosmopolitan a few weeks ago. I had no idea what a SlutWalk was, nor did I really know who Amber Rose was. A little research turned up that Rose is a hip-hop model and entrepreneur who is probably most widely known for the tabloid attention her romances with Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa have brought her. SlutWalks, I learned, are actually a widespread movement started in Toronto in 2011 in response to an officer’s response that women shouldn’t dress like sluts to avoid being assaulted by men. Since then there have been organized rallies throughout the world and in numerous U.S. cities where people – mostly young women, but a few men – have gathered to protest the ideas that society should dictate what people wear and that what people wear can be used as a valid excuse for matters such as sexual assault and rape. Rose had decided to organize this walk in part as a reaction to the slut-shaming she has endured from Kanye and Khloe Kardashian.

Though the event at first appeared poorly organized and the turnout was far less than the 15,000 organizers had promoted, by most accounts it turned out to be a success. By my estimates around 1,000 people, many of them dressed as provocatively as current laws permit, gathered that Saturday morning at downtown’s Pershing Square. From there they moved a block or two south on Olive Street where they made signs and officially kicked off the with a greeting and rallying cry from Rose and a couple of guest speakers. Following that they made short walk back to the square, chanting and hoisting their signs. I joked that it wasn’t much of a “walk,” but was also thankful, as we were still in the middle of a heatwave. The rest of the afternoon was spent in front of a much larger stage where a series of speeches, performances and a fashion show kept the crowd engaged.

Over the course of the day I covered the general event and also collaborated with the writer to create a portrait series of individuals who were willing to share their stories. Many of them had experiences being slut shamed at some point in their lives, either for how they dressed or for their own sexual activities, rumored or not. It surprised us though – and really drove home the importance of this event – how many had been victims of assault and rape. I was impressed that so many of them were willing to come out to directly confront the matter in such a public way.

In the end I was glad I was there and that Cosmopolitan decided to cover this story. Though the events are not without critics, I hope we can all agree that the central point of this – that no one “deserves” to be attacked or raped – is as valid as they come. Hopefully these events will have a positive effect on public attitudes.

Check out the general coverage here and the portrait series and profiles here. And click below to see many more photos from the day!

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