Zak Waters was awarded Bronze in the single image category. He almost missed the cut-off for entering but is glad he snuck in before the deadline!
“I have entered a few competitions over the last year or so as I think it is important to support ventures like the LPA,” Zak says. “I actually nearly missed this one. I knew it was running and I think late on in the evening just before i was about to go to bed an LPA email popped up in my inbox to say the competition was about to close. I had just been placing the image on my website, so I thought “why not enter it?”
Zak explains that the shot was a from a shoot he did for The Guardian. “The focus was on a family of four who were living on the breadline and finding it difficult to make ends meet,” he says. “The brief was to shoot the family at the breakfast table which was an important part of their day. The younger son refused and was very camera shy and Zak decided to continue without him. After a few minutes both the parents left the table to briefly tend to their younger son. In the few minutes they were gone the older son just put this false nose and glasses on and I took one shot as I knew it looked quite odd but a strong editorial image. the image went into the final edit for the picture desk even though it had nothing really to do with the narrative of the shoot, but I very rarely hold back images especially strong ones as you never know how the final spread will look.”
Zak likes the fact that he’s been acknowledged in two portraiture competitions for the LPA. “I have always wanted to be a recognised as a portrait photographer,” he says. “I do shoot a lot of portraits for newspapers and in the corporate sector, but my style is very reportage and people don’t often associate us reportage photographers as portrait photographers. I think being a reportage photographer in the editorial world you have to be able to do bit of everything.”
Zak fell into photography by accident. “I borrowed a camera from a friend to prove I could shoot some images better than the ones I criticised in an exhibition,” he explains. “I never gave him his camera back - sorry Colin! From there I just fell in love with taking pictures. I decided to do a photography degree in Newcastle and, on leaving University, I luckily found myself as an assistant to Peter Marlow, Ian Berry, Burt Glinn and Phillip Jones Griffiths at Magnum. From there I have just tried to develop my style of shooting, met a lot of amazing people and I feel after 20 years I am just about getting it right. I love working basically. I just love being out there with my camera.”
Zak tells us about some of his favourite and most rewarding commissions. “A few years ago I worked with a number of aid agencies and produced quite a bit of work in the field like famines in Ethiopia and refugees in Kosovo. I met some amazing people on my travels. The greatest experience was meeting some Khmer Rouge soldiers who were hiding away in the forests on the Thai/Cambodian border. They offered to let me hang out with them for a few days if I left my camera behind. After some thought, I ventured off with them for a few days. It was an insight into a group of people from whom I could learn. I stopped shooting the aid work due to the fact that I became a father twice, but my kids are a little older now and I am in the process of going back into the NGO world as there is so much more I want to photograph with charities.”
Zak works for a number of organisations who are associated with the Royals, and does a number of Royal PR shoots. He has worked with and met a lot of top chefs over the years and says he found nearly all of them very down to earth away. “I met Gordon Ramsey recently and thought he was a nice guy,” he says. “I am often surprised when I meet people in the public eye who are renowned for being a bit off beat in their ways but when you actually take them away from the public spot light they are more often than not pretty cool people. Like Chris Eubank, who I thought was a humble guy as well as extremely nice. Cherie Blair an absolutely lovely lady, very respectful and professional. Ainsley Harriot is a cool geezer.
Zak has just finished the first part of a long term project he is working on about British culture in the UK. The first part - “Birdmen” is finished in book form and Zak hopes to launch it at the IPG gallery this year and take it around the UK. He has already shot a small section of the second part of the project which will also be a book, and is am researching the third part. He is also developing a radio show for BBC Radio 4.
Zak would love to secure an agent. “I would love to develop a working relationship with a photographers agent who likes my style of work and can see a place for it in an Annual report,” he explains.