Two for the price of one! Zinzi Graham is a UK based photographer and alternative model, she has the unique position of seeing things from both sides of the lens, so we were definitely keen to have a have a chat with her!
Zinzi comes from an artistic background her mother being an artist, growing up in a small town in Southwest England, Zinzi perhaps didnt have the best of educational starts, leaving school, due to personal problems, aged just 13. But this she says she has used to her best advantage, taking it as a cue to ensure she learned the skills and gained the knowledge she needed and wanted to know!
We stuck to the script and went for a straight ole question and answer session!
How did you get started in modeling?
“I actually started as a digital artist doing my own photo manipulations. I taught myself both how to take photographs and model by taking self-portraits and from there, as I drifted away from manipulation and started focusing more on the photography side of things, I started getting noticed on both sides of the camera and booked myself by other people.”
Do other styles of modeling interest you, or are you concentrating mainly on the sexy fetish look side?
“I model anything that grabs me, the genre isn't too relevant as far as I'm concerned. My favourite shoots to do are the ones that are a bit different – messy, crazy concepts, etc. For me modeling is more about expressing myself and collaborating with creative people than it is having a pretty shot (although it's always great to have some nice photos of yourself too!).”
Are you signed to an agency or do you look after you own bookings and promotional side of things, becoming a doyenne of self publicity? To a lay person, the competition seems vast in numbers.
“I work completely freelance on both sides of the lens, arrange all of my own bookings, manage all of my online presence, promotion, etc. I'm also quite regularly in charge of the post production side of things when I model for other photographers. It's a lot of work and I invest a huge amount of energy into it but I absolutely love what I do and wouldn't change it for anything and especially not for a 9-5 job with steady income… I'd rather be the starving artist doing something that I love!”
What part do you think the internet and the online world plays in success, it would seem unthinkable to not have a website or an online presence?
“It depends on what you consider to be success, everyone has a different idea. For the kind of thing that I do the internet is pretty much entirely responsible for me being where I am today, if I didn't have an online presence I wouldn't work. It's how I arrange nearly everything that I do!”
What do you think makes a successful model these days, looks, attitude, or does the media play its part?
“Honestly I don't really know. It's a bit of everything depending on the kind of modeling that you want to do. Some successful models don't have a clue what they're doing in front of the camera and have just got by on looks and personality rather than actually knowing how to pose. If lads mags are your thing then often it's got more to do with what your boobs and bum look like than any real modeling ability! Whereas in high fashion you need the full package – looks, personality and a killer body. I'd never be a top model because my body just isn't the right proportions above anything else but like I said before, I model because I enjoy it as a creative practice and not because I want to be a famous model or anything like that.”
How hard is it to make a living being a model these days with so many girls vying for the same kind of exposure? You are blatantly not mainstream, so is there a career to be made, in a somewhat niche market?
“It depends where you are, generally, unless you're successful, you won't get paid a lot. There's a lot of girls who are willing to shoot for free so why would anyone pay you if you don't have something really special? With the rise of social networking there's a new wave of amateur models who don't know what they're doing and care about nothing more than being the sexiest girl on Facebook. They'll shoot whatever you want them to for free a lot of the time purely for the ego boost but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a good photo because half the time they don't have a clue about things like expression and posing. Don't get me wrong, there's some amazing amateur models out there but sadly they don't get the exposure they deserve a lot of the time because the industry, especially when it comes to 'alternative modeling', is full of so many promo whores begging for Facebook likes.”
Have you ever thought branching out in to any other careers such as acting?
“I love video work but I would be an awful actor because I hate talking on camera. I've done some video stuff but nothing where I've ever had to speak, other than the odd interview, and I don't have any interest in doing so either. I'm also starting to get more into shooting my own video work from behind the camera.”
Has the porn industry side of things ever attracted you or are you strictly glamour and fetish?
“I have no problem with girls that do porn, I've photographed it and I know a lot of girls that do it as a job, but I'm happy doing what I do.”
Have you found in the course of your journey any casting couch type scenarios or are all potential photo shoots above board?
“I've worked with some dodgy photographers but I've never let anything happen. You've gotta watch your back, there is sadly a fair few guys in the industry giving male photographers in general a bad name and it's sad to see. An experience when I was younger put me off of modeling for a while because the guy was a total sleaze but the majority of photographers I've worked with have been lovely, you've just got to remember to be careful who you choose to shoot with.”
What's the craziest photo shoot you have had to do?
“Ahh there's been a few, all crazy for different reasons! The first time I worked with Mark Bosley he made me pose with a dead rabbit which, considering I grew up vegetarian (although I no longer am), was a little bit of a weird one. We've since gone on to become really good friends and he's one of my favourite photographers to work with now though so it wasn't enough to put me off! I've had shoots where I've ended up rock climbing in heels, ones where I've played dead, bikini shoots in the middle of winter when it's pouring down with rain (not so much a crazy photo, more a crazy model for agreeing to it), and some of my self portrait work has been a bit on the mad side too. That's the sort of thing I love though! Give me an insane shoot with a bizarre concept over a plain studio shoot any day.”
Has being a model hindered the dating side of things? i.e. A tendency to read things in to how you look from a photo shoot to real life?
“The main problem is people that enter into a relationship with you knowing full well what you do and then all of a sudden decide they have a problem with it and try to stop you doing it, that's happened a couple of times! I'm happy being single though, it'd have to be someone pretty special to get me to settle down.”
Now that we have gone over your modeling when did interest start in getting behind the camera and can you tell us a little bit about that ?
“Well I've kind of already touched on this slightly earlier but I'll elaborate. I started taking photos with an analogue Pentax that my Grandad let me use as a child and it's always been something that I loved but it wasn't until I left school and got a better camera of my own that I started really getting into it, originally so that I could manipulate the shots in photoshop to create fantasy and horror art.”
From your website you are obviously a very creative person does it frustrate you at times that you constantly get the sexual remarks that have nothing to do with your work ?
“Nah, not at all! They can be pretty good entertainment and I don't consider sex to be something to be ashamed of. Sexuality is part of being human, why hide that? More people should be less afraid to embrace that part of themselves in my opinion.”
Where do you hope to be in 10 years time career and creative wise?
“Wherever life takes me, I try not to make major life plans because it only sets you up for disappointment. Life is, as they say, what happens when you're busy making other plans after all!”
….. and now, of course, just a few fun questions to round things off
If you were stuck on and Desert Island by yourself, what one object would must have?
“The SAS Survival Handbook or, if I was allowed, a survival pack that included that and a few key survival essentials!”
Which Cartoon Character best describes you?
“Oh geez, I don't know! Gir, the malfunctioning robot from Invader Zim.”
What’s the first thing you would buy if you were given a million pounds?
“Land, preferably with a large property on that I could move my friends into and turn into a community art space or something of the sort.”
Well that about wraps up our interview thank you so much for spending some time with us and sharing some of your thoughts…..
“No problem, I hope I didn't bore the hell out of you too much ;)”