You can’t and shouldn’t lose yourself trying to create another person’s vision that doesn’t align with your creativity.

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New York, New York

Zarita   Zevallos

Upcoming Event
Exhibition in April in New York. Please follow Zarita for further details. 

Tell us about yourself
I was born in New York but raised in Haiti for 16 years; so, I prefer to say that I'm Haitian more than American. I actually studied architecture, but I am mostly known as a photographer. A fun fact about my life is that my siblings and I have almost the same birthday, years apart; I'm born on 4/20 (yes, that 4/20!), my sister also (she's 6 years older than me), and my brother on 4/21 (he's 8 years older than me).

Tell us about your photography
I don't know exactly what makes my photos unique, but I do a lot of handcraft work on them. I spread broken glass, dirt and have sown already on my photos. I think that would be one of the unique details of my photography apart from deep research and my emotional involvement with each subject.

What or who inspired you to become a photographer?
My father. He always took pictures of us when we were kids. He documented our growth and that's what pushed me to go into it. I don't like taking pictures of myself at all, but I do want to document my growth and environment and express myself because those are important to me: growth and expression.

How did you get started?
I started by doing landscape photography; especially long exposures. After a while, it became a repetitive process and I wanted to move on from it. I met with a portrait photographer in Montreal, and he does very interesting portraits. I wanted to head in the same direction of unique portraits but storytelling as well.

Aside from photography, do you have other passions? Do you incorporate them in your work?
I work as an architect full time. I think that because I've been used to crafting for my models in architecture school, I've applied it to photography; definitely.

What challenges have you faced in your career? How have you strategically approached those issues?
Right off the bat, I faced no challenges. It was very easy up until recently where I've been asked to remove an element from my photos to make it look like typical portraits. That was a slap in the face for me because I questioned whether or not my personality in photography isn't ''professional'' enough for high-end platforms. I don't run away from this, I'm appreciative of the opportunity but I will not water down my art to ''fit in''.

What’s integral to your work as a photographer?
My concept, which then becomes research, and then opinion. How I express my opinion has to be in line with how ''good'' it feels. By ''it," I mean from the minute I start taking pictures in a studio/outside to the moment I edit them in Photoshop or by hand. They all have to ''feel'' right by me, no matter how long it takes to edit. There's no rush when you're creating.

What has been your greatest accomplishment, and why is it your proudest moment?
They all mean so much to me because it's only been a little over a year since I've been focused on Portrait photography, but I think being involved in the MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora book is absolutely one of the highest moments for me. To see my photos on the screens of the ICP museum, in a book with legendary women photographers from around the world is a blessing without comparison. I'm so proud of us black women; We work so hard. We deserve this and so much more. I could go on and on, but this book means the world to me.

How creative are you with your work?
Before shooting, I make mood boards, I think about colors in coordination with what I want to express. I also think about what positions haven't been ''seen'' yet and how I could work with said pose with my lighting or post-production. Finally, the post-production is fully design/artistic, I could say. A lot of frustration is involved with that part, lol.

How do you work with clients that may have a different sense of creativity than yours? How do you accommodate to ensure their creativity is captured, as well as yours?
Because I think that my photos are so particular, the people that come to me usually let me create freely but I've had that experience once where the client changed their mind often. What to do in this situation is to make a contract, you explain your flexibility but to a limit. You can't and shouldn't lose yourself trying to create another person's vision that doesn't align with your creativity. The client chose you for a reason, for your eye. It's good to take criticism but if it affects your process/emotions in depth, then there's a small problem.

How is each photo-shoot different? What elements or themes do you work with?
They're not the same because the topic is different. For instance, my first official series was about the stigmatization of Haitian Voodoo; the second about Black people's strength. The emotions I feel towards these two topics may go hand and hand but they're different in movements, in my head. I work with a lot of what's going on in my life/environment. Depending on how I feel, I choose my material carefully. It went from glass to dirt, to thread and currently I'm working with a material difficult to bend and break. Each material is an emotion of its own, echoing the model's movement. Everything is connected.

What goals do you aspire to accomplish in your career?
I've said it many times in interviews, I truly think that art can change the world as it once did before. I want a group of artists (singers/writers/photographers/painters etc.) to create a revolution. We're in desperate need of one, again. A consistent revolution. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To be myself and to pace myself when I create. I felt like I had to release a series every so often to be ''relevant'' but I learned that if your work is deep and in tune with yourself, it'll last.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a photographer?
Oh, the same that I've received. Pace yourself, listen to what YOU have to say and HOW you have to say it. There are a lot of trendy things in photography and that's great but if you're doing it to be trendy, you would have lost the opportunity to know who you really are and that's more important than 5 seconds of fame.

Are there any brands, magazines, models, fashion talents, studios or agencies you’d like to collaborate with?
To be honest, I rarely think about my career going ''that'' far, but if I find a great opportunity and it's interesting, I'm on board! I would LOVE for a chance to work with Kanye West and SZA.