Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Jeff Zielinksi Interview

Back in the days you had a meaning of an artist coming out...a lot of people now don't come from anywhere, they just pop up like microwave- Kool Keith




Jeff Zielinski via 


to me

Hey Chris,

I'm flying to Japan tomorrow, so I kind of rushed this just a bit. I would've liked to elaborate a little more here and there, but I think this will have to do. 


When did you start getting into photography? What did you start out shooting?
I took an introductory to photography class when I was a sophomore in high school. I didn't really shoot BMX photos back then because I just wanted to ride my bike and not carry a bag, so shooting photos was something I did when not riding. The New Jersey/NYC area has a big music scene and I used to go to a lot of punk and hardcore shows and shoot photos. Of course I did mess with shooting BMX from time to time, but I first really got into when I was about 18 or 19 when I got hurt and couldn’t ride, but I still wanted to go out with my friends when they were riding, so I tagged along and shot photos.

Has shooting BMX always been your main interest in photography?
Already answered that above…

Did you finish college at SVA?
No. During my short stint at SVA I was commuting from Jersey and during my first semester I dislocated my foot and had to miss the rest of the semester since I couldn’t really get to school with crutches and all. I tried to finish my first year during some summer courses and I just wasn’t into it, I wanted to be out riding, so I dropped out.

Has school helped get you where you are today?
Not at all. I think I’m in a great place. But who knows? Maybe if I finished school I would’ve gotten into a different field of photography that pays way better, or on the flipside, maybe I’d be a struggling artist with debt from tuition fees. I’m rally happy with how things turned out considering I’m a collage dropout.
Why did you choose to focus more on shooting BMX than actually riding?
It wasn’t always that way. But I actually remember the turning point. I was at the Arlington diner in North Arlington, NJ with Bob Scerbo, Ralph Sinisi, and Adam Weber, amongst others, and the latest Transworld Skateboarding Photo Issue had just come out and I remember being so blown away by the photos and Adam said something to the effect of how those dudes try to go and shoot photos everyday and get better at their craft—same as we did with riding. I knew right then that if I really wanted to get dialed at shooting photos I had to really focus on it. My riding took a pretty big dive for a few years after that. I always rode, but I didn’t really stress about progressing or pushing myself for like the next ten years.
When did you know you could make a career out of photography?
I’m petty sure I got my first check for a photo that ran in BMX Action (Faction) magazine when I was 20. At that time I didn’t know if I'd be able to make it into a career, but it felt great to get a check for doing something I fully enjoyed and I was pretty determined to keep it going.
What was your first major accomplishment (career-wise) in your eyes?
Probably my first full article in a magazine—which I believe was either an article about street riding in New York city or the first Sombra Tour in Ride issue 50. Following that, getting my job at RideBMX magazine as a photographer and editor 13 years ago.
How did you go from photographer to now also managing editor of RideBMX?
Up until recently, the RideBMX magazine staff has always been three people for as long as I can remember, we’re all editors and photographers (now it’s just Ryan Fudger and I, with Zach Krejmas as Online Content Director, but he also helps with some aspects of the magazine as well). I wish I could focus all my time on just shooting photos, but the magazine portion of my job also entails a lot of writing, coming up with article ideas, proofing, communicating with contributors, and I’m also the unofficial photo editor.

Have you always had a knack for writing?
Looking back, I think I might have. But I’ve steadily progressed at it. Although, I honestly don’t enjoy writing all that much, it has always been the necessary evil—if I want to get photos in the magazine, I need to write articles, intros, captions, etc…

What is a typical day on the job like?
Way too much time on the computer, followed by the phone. I also drive a lot.
How has producing content for print magazines changed over the years?
It’s hard to put as much effort into a magazine piece, and I feel like it’s hard to be as a creative as I used to be because so much more is expected of us on a daily basis with the insatiable Internet. Nowadays I find myself holding a video camera filming a web video far too often for me to be happy about. But that’s just part of the changing media landscape.
I read that Ride UK has gone out of print and is completely digital now -- with Ride BMX slimming down pages and pages each month do you think it will have the same fate?
Not necessarily. But print will obviously never make some sort of grand comeback, either. But I think (hope) there will always be an interest in tangible printed BMX media. And for the record, we've rebounded slightly with page count, so we’re not “slimming down pages and pages” at the moment.

What would this mean for you? 
Regardless of the format or platform, there will always be a need for BMX photos—both from a media aspect and for brands. And I plan to continue shooting BMX photos (whether for work or passion) for as long I still enjoy riding BMX—which I foresee being a while.

As an insider in the field with ties to an even larger magazine, (Transworld Skateboarding) what are your thoughts on the future of print?
We share an office with Transworld Skate as well as TW Surf, Moto, and more, but honestly, I harldy ever see any of those dudes nor do I really even know them, so I don’t gain any industry insider info from being a part of Transworld. If anything, I think RideBMX is the redheaded stepchild of Transworld—and I like it that way. As for the future of print, I already answered that.
How many clips from your part in Doorstep were filmed in low income areas?
Interesting question. Pretty much my entire part (and most of the video) has been filmed in industrial areas (which are surrounded by or near lower income residential areas). But yes, by and large, lower income areas—either because the spots are more plentiful and better, and frankly, you can get away with more in lower income areas that have higher crime rates and “bigger problems” to deal with than some dudes messing around on bikes. 


Jeff Zielinski DQYDJ from ryan howard on Vimeo.