Andrew Zaeh is a leading photographer and director specializing in celebrity portraiture, lifestyle advertising, and motion direction, with a style that empowers his subjects by displaying their authentic essence through stills and moving images. So, when his good friend, Sonia Ives, forwarded him an article on the lack of authentic LGBTQIA representation in the stock photo and video arena, he knew he had to take action.
Andrew set out to create a personal project entitled LGBTQIA Portraits, built around capturing his queer family authentically and with the same eye and quality he brings to his celebrity and advertising work. He then brought the idea to his agents, Christina Dittmar and Lisa Curesky of talent agency The Good Brigade, who were immediately supportive. They subsequently connected him with Senior Creative Content Manager Sarah Foster at Getty Images, and from there, it grew, and shooting commenced in just a few weeks.
Not only did it allow me to capture my queer friends and family authentically as we/they are, but I could also license these images out and really move the needle on representation globally.
Aside from the creative direction and onset production support Andew received from Christina, Lisa, and Sarah, he also leaned on his own production skills to bring the project to life, from craft services to photography and direction.
Photographers and directors always have to wear a lot of hats – but never more than during a personal project!
Our little team works so well together to really focus and fill holes where representation is most needed. The energy on each set was AMAZING. Everyone was so invested in the vision and willing to share their authentic selves.
Everyone knows about pride month, parades, and rainbow flags, but there’s much more to the LGBTQIA community. There’s a whole life lived the other 11 months of the year. And the goal of Andrew’s ongoing project is to provide a different viewpoint of what queer is and how it’s presented in the media.
I set out with the goal in mind to build shoots around my various subjects: shooting people together, going to the beach / a “staycation” in New York / going to the movies. It all seems somewhat basic, but when you look at the imagery out there, there isn’t much happening outside of the stereotypes.
Andrew is fortunate to live in two very supportive communities; Brooklyn and the Jersey Shore. And once he put the word out, the subjects followed, as did the locations.
I am truly humbled that so many friends and businesses stepped up to support the project. Whether it was Barlow’s Flower Farm in Sea Girt, NJ, or the Spring Lake Community Theatre, the local communities really rallied around the project.
Onset, the relationship between Andrew and the talent was completely organic. A strong connection developed with every model. The shoot also marked a significant milestone for a queer photographer creating powerful imagery with queer subjects. All working together to positively change representation with a high level of love and mutual support.
Photographers have a very short amount of time to connect with their subjects to gain their trust and get a great image. This interpersonal aspect of image-making is something I enjoy tremendously. I’ve always felt that photography is half technical/half psychological.
The greatest advantage of a personal project is you can easily deviate from the original direction and work around any obstacles, treating each glitch as an opportunity to learn something new.
A horrendous heat wave gripped the shore during our beach/flower farm and movie theater shoot. It was brutally oppressive. But we persevered, and the pics don’t show too much discomfort…on the subjects. The crew, however, was drenched!
Andrew came away with multiple special moments from this project, with the personal nature allowing for a newfound freeness to his work. He truly found his voice through the portraits, with a poignant message of unity and celebration for queerness.
Working with so many wonderful subjects who are so open to sharing themselves so publicly like this has allowed me to do the same. I’ve been shedding the skin of indoctrinated shame while still feeling the need to apologize to others for my queerness. No more. This is who I am. I no longer diminish my own light to make others comfortable.
See more of Andrew’s work on his website.
Agents: Christina Dittmar & Lisa Curesky
Getty Images Senior Creative Content Manager: Sarah Foster
Producer: Jack Mallett