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 white condos. Now I spend as much time as I can documenting scenery on the edge of extinction before it falls victim to profit.
I want to wake everyone up from their fast paced techno daze and show them the beauty that surrounds them 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 photography sale to environmentally-focused, nonprofit organizations. I would like to set an example for other artists to give back to their sources and to use their art for social change.
I shoot primarily in black & white because I’m drawn to the raw essence of nature, its skeletal form without its glitter coating. I capture the natural world through time exposure, glowing chlorophyll, and impressionist grain because I’m often so caught up in a fleeting scene that my own perception and interpretation become surreal.
I am a Lorax. Are you one, too?
Steve Zmak captures the essence of California and the West through black & white photography that speaks to the soul.
A native Californian, Zmak’s love of the outdoors inspired him to begin capturing the awesome beauty of the Golden State on film. Today, he continues to find inspiration in California’s wild places. Traversing beaches, deserts, mountains and valleys, Zmak takes viewers through some of California’s most breathtaking scenes. Images of rugged coastal bluffs, sun-drenched valleys, blossoming vineyards, and rushing mountain streams engage the senses and the spirit. One can almost taste the Pacific Ocean’s salty spray, feel the sunlight’s warmth, or smell the crisp scent of Monterey pines emanating from his images.
Zmak’s photographs capture an ideal of California, pristine and untouched by encroaching concrete. From a lone surfer on a desolate beach to a sunrise breaking through oak trees, his pictures invite viewers to revel in the moment and make it their own.
In addition to preserving California’s natural beauty on film, Zmak works to protect the environment through his contributions. He donates 10 percent of the proceeds from every photography sale to nonprofits working for the environment.
In May 2010, Zmak released his first book and fourth portfolio of fine art photography, both titled “A Year in the Vineyard.” The portfolio includes color and black & white photographs Zmak shot each month from January to December 2009 in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County. Through more than 100 photographs, the book takes readers on a visual journey through four seasons in four vineyards. Zmak explores life on the vines, from microscopic dewdrops to aerial views of the vineyard landscape, from dawn to twilight.
Zmak also has published three fine art black & white photography portfolios.
- Black & White Whispers” (2005) explores the questions, “What does quiet look like, sound like and feel like?” It includes 31 photographs from California and Montana. The photographs illustrate the stillness of the natural world — from an isolated moonlit beach to a star-streaked desert sky to a little boy mesmerized by the tide’s ebb and flow.
- California Black & White”(2003) features 23 black & white photographs from the Russian River Valley to Malibu, including 17 from Monterey County. The portfolio showcases California’s dramatic landscapes and surreal beauty, including a lightning storm striking the Monterey Peninsula, a silken stream rushing beneath fallen trees in the Ventana wilderness, and sweeping vistas of the Big Sur coast.
- “The Lonely Coast” (2000) was shot along the wintery landscape of the Central California Coast. It features 23 black & white photographs spanning from Zmudowski State Beach and the rugged Big Sur coastline in Monterey County to the rocky shores of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County.
Zmak’s photographs have been exhibited at locations throughout Monterey County, including the National Steinbeck Center, Center for Photographic Art, and Monterey Museum of Art. His work has also been displayed in exhibitions throughout Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Fresno counties.
Zmak bridges film and digital photography using a variety of cameras and formats. Since 2007, he has predominately shot 35mm digital. Since 2001, he has performed his darkroom work digitally, using the traditional techniques of dodging, burning, masking, tonal adjustments and spotting. Nothing in the compositions is removed or added, and any distortion in his work is done in-camera. Zmak believes that photography is as much about accurate documentation as artistic expression. The final prints are output from the highest quality Epson printers using only the finest Epson archival media.
All photographs from “A Year in the Vineyard” and “Black & White Whispers” are available as numbered, open edition prints. Color photographs from “A Year in the Vineyard” are also available as canvas prints, stretched on wooden frames.
Photographs from Zmak’s first two portfolios and the “The Pajaro River Watershed Experience” series are available as numbered, limited edition prints. Selected photographs are available as open edition lithograph reproductions and notecards. Zmak’s entire photography collection may be viewed at SteveZmak.com.