Interview with Zack Ahern, Photographer.

Or… The Guy Behind The Shoulders.

I know you might be wondering why I’m interviewing a photographer on my blog today.
“Um… isn’t this a book review blog?”  I hear you ask.
And yes it is.
“So what’s with the photographer? Oh god, you’re not trying to be arty and cool again are you, Jo? You know how that worked out last time.” I hear you despair.
No no, don’t worry. I’m still as ridiculously lame and uncool as I always have been.

This interview definitely, definitely has something to do with books.

Do you know of an author named Melina Marchetta?
Yeah… she’s not that well known.
She’s only written seven books.
Critically acclaimed books.
Oh and she won the Michael. L. Printz Award.
No biggie.
Well this year she released the second book of her brilliant Lumetere Chronicles, Froi of the Exiles.
You may remember the cover.
No?

Yes, that’s right.
Now you remember.
Those shoulders.

Well, Mr Ahern is indeed the man behind those shoulders for he is the photographer of the picture that was used on the Australian cover of Froi of the Exiles. He has kindly agreed to answer my questions on his passion for photography, what inspires him and how his photograph came to grace almost every YA blog  on the internet.

Oh and yeah, did I mention he’s the model too?

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I have Froi on my blog today.
But let’s call him Zack, shall we?

How did you come about being the face of Froi of the Exiles?
Well, that picture was originally taken during a personal project in which I took a picture a day for an entire year from May 2009 to May 2010. Late last Spring I was contacted by Penguin Publishing about using the photograph on the cover of Froi of the Exiles.

Is it strange to see one of your pictures on a book cover?
The first time I saw the design for the cover of the book I was blown away. Seeing my photo with all of the text, graphics, colors, was very surreal and humbling to say the very least.

Did you know that there are loads of people buying the Froi from Australian websites (Fishpond, guys!) and having it shipped overseas because they love your cover so much?
I did not know that, but that’s exciting to hear!

The original photo.

How different is the original photo to the one that ended up on the cover?
The photo you see on the cover is just the portrait of me. The background in the original photo was black, so the graphic designer added all of the colors, tattoo, and background you see on the cover.



What are your thoughts on the final cover?
Well, seeing as how red is one of my favorite colors, I absolutely love the final cover. It’s amazing to see my photo used as a part of another artist’s vision for the cover and I’m just grateful I could play a role in the final product.

Would you be interested in doing more covers in the future? And are there any books in particular that you’d love one of your photographs to be used for?

I would love to be commissioned to do some book covers in the future! I will say that I never really gave much thought to the photographs behind book covers until I was on one. That being said, I think that producing a single image/cover to summarize an entire story would be a fantastic and rewarding challenge. I can’t name any particular books, but most of the photos that I enjoy creating are based around fantasy, so I think that would be a genre I would love to create for.

I’ve spent a good few hours staring at your pictures on your website and I couldn’t help but notice the diversity in your subjects. Do you have a favourite type of subject you like to photograph most? 
My favorite type of subject to photograph are conceptual portraits. Not just photographs of people, but photographs of ideas and stories. In my perfect world, I would build sets for all of my photos and treat them much like small movie sets. I love creating props, lighting creatively, and controlling everything from the location to the color of the clothes. To me, it’s as much about the creative direction and storytelling as it is about taking the actual photograph.

Squirm a bit? Mission accomplished…

A lot of your portraits are extremely haunting and intense. What inspires you to create these kinds of photographs?
I won’t lie, I like to make art that makes people squirm a little bit. To me, if I can draw some kind of emotion out of you through a still photograph, then I have truly achieved my goal as an artist. Just the idea that one of my haunting photos is making somebody squirm on the other side of the world is about as cool as it gets.

As both a photographer and model, do you prefer being strictly behind the camera or do you love being in front of it too?

Honestly, I never had a strong desire to take self-portraits when I first started as a portrait photographer. I took self-portraits more out of necessity to generate a picture a day during my 365 project than out of love for seeing myself as a model. That being said, self-portraits will always hold a special place in my heart because I’ve created some of my favorite pieces to date by modeling in front of my own camera. In the future, I would prefer to use models for more of my concepts because self-portraits can make creating much more difficult and end up being more of a hindrance to executing a concept than anything else.

A couple of years ago you took part in a 365 day challenge and more recently your 52 week one, have you got any new projects planned for 2012? 

As of this moment, I do not have any more yearly projects planned for 2012. Anybody who has done a yearly project of any kind can attest to how draining they can be. Doing two, almost consecutively was extremely draining. Right now my focus is on gaining more experience working models, makeup artists, hair stylists, and perfecting my lighting style. Perhaps my most exciting plan for 2012 is to travel to Vietnam for a month this February on a mission trip. There I will be documenting people on the streets, children in orphanages, and anything else I come across. My goal is to bring back stories and tell them to those who can make a difference in that part of the world.

(A note: That sounds absolutely fascinating and I can’t wait to find out more about that trip!)

So when I told some of my friends that I had Froi Zack on Wear the Old Coat and I asked them if they had any questions for him.
And of course they did.
I feel I should say that, as a professional *cough* book reviewer who always posts high-brow and intellectual posts, *cough* I in no way condone the silliness that is about to ensue….
Nor did I come up with any of the following questions.

*shifty look*

Seeing as you are already the face of one, if you could be any other literary character who would it be and why?
I would be Bilbo in the Hobbit. One because I’m short and two because The Hobbit was one of my favorite books as a child; I can’t wait until the movie comes out this summer.

Have you ever felt like a lost young man without a family, who must rise above all odds to save a damaged girl and bring peace to a cursed kingdom?
As dramatic as that sounds, I would have to say probably not. I have quite an awesome family, and don’t live near any cursed kingdoms at this time, though I’m always open to new experiences.

What is your secret to such defined shoulders?
I work a couple different jobs and stay pretty active. I’ve really just been blessed with an athletic body, which I suppose I can thank my parents for as they were both gymnasts when they were younger.

Can you use a sword? (If not, would you be willing to learn?)
Funny you should ask. I actually got to use a real sword the other day. I work at a graphic design shop and somebody brought in thirteen real swords to have engraving work done on them. Of course I had to take them for a test spin, but I can’t say I’d be very good in a fight.

Can you speak any other languages? (Fictional ones count too.)
I can speak a tiny bit of Spanish, but that’s about it.

And finally….

After seeing Froi and his tattoo, are you tempted to get a similar one on your back too? 
I don’t have any tattoos yet, but if I get one in the future, I will have to take that one into consideration.

I would like to offer a huge thank you to Zack for answering my questions and giving such a fascinating interview!
(And also a thank you for being such a good sport by answering the questions *cough* my immature friends *cough* asked.)

If you want to find out more about Mr Ahern, you can find him in lots of different places:

(All pictures used are owned by Zack Ahern, please contact him for permission if you wish to use any of them.) 

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15 thoughts on “Interview with Zack Ahern, Photographer.

  1. JO this post is amamzing! Thank you for finding our Froi !!
    Zack is so cool, and a very talented artist.
    (..tho a picture of him with a sword would have been amazing..after Vietnam maybe ??! *winks*)

  2. Loved reading this. The original photo is just as classy and broody as Froi on the cover. And he does actually kind of look like what I'd picture Froi to be. Well done for finding him. He's a brilliant photographer and model.

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