Hi! Thanks for having me. My name is Zach Leon, and I’m a 27 year old photographer from the United States. I’ve spent the past few years traveling the world with my wife, working on a variety of photography projects along the way.
What is the Finite Project, and what inspired you to start it?
The Finite Project was started because I didn’t want Instagram to be the motivation and/or final stop for my photography. I think social media can be a powerful tool, but I eventually found myself treating it like a medium instead of a platform; It became a monster that I had to feed. The Finite Project was originally a monthly series of volumes, but it’s evolved into a big blank slate for me to do whatever I want with. I still make those volumes, and they are the heart of the project, but I’m starting to include smaller projects and photo essays.
How would you describe your photography style?
Color and composition are important to me, but my style as a whole isn’t something I think about. I know what it feels like to me, on the inside, but aesthetically it just depends on so many things. More than anything, I want to be known for my adaptability.
When did you first fall in love with photography?
I fell in love with photography on weekend hiking trips about five years ago. For a long time, it was a byproduct of my love for the outdoors. Eventually the pictures just became more important.
What is your go-to camera setup?
I use a Fujifilm X-Pro2, and right now I’m really loving my cheap little 35 f1.2 lens. It’s wildly imperfect in all sorts of ways, but that’s part of the appeal for me. The setup is tiny, so taking it with me every day is a breeze. Sometimes I also steal my wife’s x100F.
Top 3 places you've traveled to? Why?
Cuba: The place that changed the way I traveled, changed the way I looked at the world, and changed the way I thought about photography. My family was forced to flee Cuba, so getting a glimpse into what was once their world was surreal. It’s a place that, with a heavy-hand, shifted my perspective on a lot of things. Iceland: In 2014, my wife and I got married there, then spent a week or so on a big road trip. It’s a magical place, regardless of how popular it’s become. Lisbon: It’s perfect.
Top 3 places you want to travel to?
Argentina, Japan, and Greenland.
What and/or who inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who care more about their work than what people will think of it. The unapologetic drive to follow one’s passion is moving.
Any advice for aspiring photographers/creatives?
Oh my god, practice! Art is a skill that needs to be honed just like anything else, so go out and hone it. Also, do your best to build the passion before the business. God forbid you gain success from something you don’t even like.
Besides photography, what else do you love to do?
Lately, a lot of reading. It’s something I never really appreciated, but it’s a major source of insight and inspiration. I’ve also taken up sketching, which I’m awful at, but the process is therapeutic, and the visible progress is exciting. Other passions include motorcycling, writing music, and rock climbing.
Who are some of your favorite photographers/creators?
Vivian Maier for her unparalleled eye for color, Steve McCurry for his story-telling, and Jason Lee for his contagious passion.
Are there any photographers/creators on Instagram that you wish more people knew about?
Willem Verbeeck. That guy deserves to be a household name. His photos are fantastic, and the videos he makes about his process are just as exciting. He’s someone who shows me how much is possible if you’re willing to put the work in.
Are there any tips you would give anyone out there interested in creating similar style photos as yours?
I’d tell them not to, haha. I’d tell them to muster up as much intrinsic motivation as they can, and make things that personally fulfill them. Style is something that chases us, not the other way around. I make what feels right to me, and I think everyone else should do the same.
Goals for this next year? What's next? Any future projects in the making?
One of my goals for 2019 is to pay more attention to pre-production. I want to go into projects with a bit more vision. Right now I’m working on a portraiture project in Bristol, England. I’m hoping to make a zine out of it, but we’ll see what happens.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Go check out The Finite Project! I have a bunch of new work coming soon, and that’s where you’ll find it. Also, I’m always happy to meet new people to shoot with, so don’t hesitate to reach out if I’m in your area. Thanks for having me!
Huge thanks to Zach for taking the time to do this! Do yourself a favor and be sure to check out his website to stay up to date with his latest projects, as well as give him a follow on Instagram to see more of his work.