Dustin Zachary's Passion Project

  • by Jenny Bahn

If there’s a way to give nature a narrative, Canada-born/California-based photographer Dustin Zachary has totally nailed it. Bringing some much-needed drama to the majesty that is the West Coast, Zachary (never trust a guy with two first names, right?) creates images that tell stories, no matter if anyone is actually in the frame. From the steep cliffs of Yosemite to the churning Pacific, Zachary’s work encapsulates the essence of why so many people move to the state to begin with: expansive skies, unbridled freedom, all that stuff cowboys probably waxed philosophical about when they moved westward during the development of this fine country. 

Anyone interested in learning more about Zachary won’t garner much from his website. While the images speak for themselves, his bio amounts to lines from American Psycho. You won’t find a brag sheet of past work, but you will certainly learn about Patrick Bateman’s skincare routine.

Entertained but unsatisfied with the seeming little knowledge Zachary was willing to provide himself, ISAORA ventured to delve deeper. We sat down to talk to the photographer about why he shoots, Chuck Palahniuk’s perfect wealth of useless knowledge, and his love/hate relationship with a mountain in California. 

Why do you shoot?

That's an awfully expansive question. My father put a camera in my hands and introduced me to the many beauties of the wilderness at a young age. My passion to shoot has ebbed and flowed ever since. Later in life, I picked the camera up for practical reasons, and for a minute tried to make a go of the West-Coast-swimsuit-hot-babe-on-the-beach thing, realizing in time that it just wasn't for me. In all honesty, it sapped my passion to shoot for years to follow. Now… well, now I shoot simply to tell a story, attempting to bring the beauty of the moments I'm fortunate enough to experience and the places I’m able to see, to the screens of those that dream to do the same.   so for now… taking photos is purely a passion project. 

You seem pretty interested in writing yourself... any favorite authors?

Chuck Palahniuk—simply because of his staggering wealth of relatively useless knowledge—and Jon Krakauer. He breaks my heart time and time again.

Favorite place in California:

I have a love/hate relationship with Mt. Whitney.


It's beautiful… and agonizing. It has some of the most dramatic features of any place I've seen [in CA]. But it's turned my legs and lungs to mush, filled my heart… made me scream, cry and laugh. Every five minutes. And it does so unrelentingly until you've long since left. 

What drives you in work and in life:

That's ever-changing it seems, but of late… adventure. I want to bear witness to all the beauty that this planet has to offer, in an effort to satisfy my unwavering curiosity of the unknown. This obviously is a grand plan, but I live in a reality where working hard affords me the ability to do, in time, the things that I love. Directing my aim for the foreseeable future towards a life that brings everything together in a kind of utopian work, travel, documentarian life of awesome. 

Travel essentials:

Headlamp. A flashlight, even. I mean... life without light is... well, it's just really difficult. And a camera, obviously.  

Best place to see the stars:

I was up in Grand Lake, Colorado over the holidays and on a clear night the stars were like a dream. The entire Milky Way was perfectly visible in great contrast. But I think my favorite is still Joshua Tree.

Where you'd retire if you could retire anywhere and how would you spend your days:

Some remote Southern Indonesian island. Diving… surfing… and building a little minion army of beach babies… but, no, really.


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