Steve Zmak captures the essence of California and the West through photography that speaks to the soul. He’s had a camera in his hands and B&W photography in his heart since elementary school. He’s lived in the coastal regions of California throughout his life from San Diego to the Monterey Bay, and is an environmental activist with the same chapter of the Sierra Club that was founded by Ansel Adams.
Once a film shooter, Zmak is almost entirely digital now, and shoots both color and B&W (including infrared) with an emphasis on landscape and nature photography. Zmak’s primary influences come from Ansel Adams, Brett Weston, John Sexton, Richard Garrod, and William Giles for his B&W work, and Galen Rowell, Al Weber, David Gubernick and Andy Goldsworthy for his color. His latest portfolio, Expressions of Infinity, uses photography to tell a science fiction story about Earth’s natural history and the lost galaxy where its life originated. Zmak’s photos have been recognized by the California State Parks Foundation, Center for Photographic Art, International Black & White Spider Awards, International Color Awards, COLOR Magazine, B+W Magazine, Arts Council for Monterey County, and Monterey Museum of Art. Zmak has been a member of the ImageMakers of Monterey since 2004, teaches workshops in the local vineyards and state parks, and founded 2 youth photography camps.
Zmak is the producer and host of the public access TV show, West Coast Focus, a 1-hour monthly panel discussion about photography in the Monterey area. The program includes distinguished guest photographers, recorded interviews and documentaries, and at least 100 photos per episode.
Zmak is also an award-winning commercial advertising photographer and graphic designer specializing in wine and vineyard-themed imagery, conceptual photography, aerial photography, logo design, wine label design, book layout, and website design.
I seek to capture an ideal of California, pristine and untouched by encroaching development. Growing up in Sunnyvale, Huntington Beach and San Diego, I’ve watched the natural world bulldozed in favor of traffic-congested concrete and endless jungles of generic condos. Now I spend as much time as I can documenting scenery on the edge of extinction before it falls victim to profit and over-population.
I want to wake everyone up from their fast-paced techno daze and show them the beauty that surrounds us and the priceless value I place on it. If I can convince enough people to value nature as I do, maybe the gears of human exploitation will grind a bit slower. Although I believe we are all elements of nature, we are crossing a line when we arrogantly believe we can elevate ourselves above nature. We have a place in the greater scheme; we are not the greater scheme. I only hope this can be realized by more than just a few before it’s all lost and our standard of living along with it. I donate 10 percent of the proceeds from every print sale to environmentally-focused, nonprofit organizations that protect and preserve the wild places I photograph. I would like to set an example for other artists to give back to their sources and to use their art for social change.
Our stewardship of the planet is really the stewardship of our quality of life. Whether we live in harmony with nature or destroy the natural resources that keep us alive, our earth will strive on with or without us. I hope for the former, but often wonder if it is too late to avoid the latter. Whether it’s the water that quenches us, the air that sustains us, the food that nourishes us, or the connection we share with all living things, it is imperative that we balance the need for “jobs and growth” with the simple ability for all of us, regardless of economic status, to survive and thrive on this planet.
I am a Lorax. Are you one, too?