Interview with LA Street Photographer Brett Ziegler

  1. Hi Brett, please introduce yourself

I am a freelance photographer currently based out of Los Angeles. I was born and raised in Southern California and attended photo school for visual journalism. After graduating, I moved to Washington, DC in 2009 to work as a staff photographer for U.S. News & World Report. I was with the magazine for over 10 years before moving back out west in 2019 with my partner as she began law school.

  1. How did you get started in street photography

    I began dabbling in street photography while I was in school. I was influenced by the work of quite a few street photographers at the time, and it was an easy way to get out and practice the various skills I was learning and make images for assignments. In the years since, it is just something that I really enjoy and it has definitely become a part of my creative process. It is nice to be able to wander, see new things, appreciate light, and just make images for myself. It has the added benefit of keeping my skills sharp and enabling me to experiment with new ideas that I might not want to try while on assignment.
  1. Has covid changed your shooting style at all. What have you learned

Aside from more PPE and a little more caution than normal times, I still take a similar approach. I have always shot a little wider, so needing to get close is usually not a big issue. When I am photographing I try to be hyper aware of everything that is going on and I think I have learned to amp that awareness up a little bit more just to make sure I am keeping distance from people and not getting myself into a situation that I might not be super comfortable with.

Washington, DC
  1. Who are some of your favorite street photographers and why

Alex Webb’s work is incredible and has inspired me for as long as I can remember. His compositions and use of color are amazing.  Shin Noguchi is another photographer whose work I really admire. His eye is incredible and he does a really wonderful job at capturing feelings and moments in his photos. I also really like Trent Park’s work. The way he sees and uses light is awesome.

  1. If you could have one street photographer document your wedding day who would it be and why 

I think if he were still alive I think I would choose Henri Cartier-Bresson. His work is just so classic, the way he composed images and the moments he found were so good. I would like to imagine he would make some really beautiful images that would capture the feelings of the day with style. 

  1. What are some of the positive influences Street Photography has had on you?

Street photography has definitely influenced the way I shoot and my approach in general. Without its influence on my work I am not sure I would have had the same opportunities as a photographer as I have had to this point in my life. There is so much crossover with photojournalism that the skills and lessons learned while out making street photos have definitely come in handy while on assignment. The confidence I have gained from street photography has also been empowering – to know that I can just roam around and find interesting scenes and compositions has been very beneficial at times.

Washington, DC
  1. What are you most proud of in terms of your work?

It isn’t necessarily street photography, but I think some of the healthcare work I did while at USN&WR really stands out to me as work I am proud of. I would often spend time with patients who were going through some really hard situations, yet they still had the most upbeat positive attitudes about everything –  it was humbling and inspiring to say the least. Occasionally during these assignments their family or friends would pull me aside and let me know how grateful they were for the work the magazine was putting out and how it had helped them figure out the best care for their needs. It was nice to know that the photos were part of something that was able to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Definitely hard to top that.

Queens, NY

I think a lot of artists are never satisfied with their own work, so just generally knowing that some of my images have inspired, informed, been appreciated or made a difference to someone makes it feel like I am doing something right. That is the work I feel best about.

  1. If you had to explain your work to a senior citizen how would you describe it?

When it comes to my work and street photography specifically, I like to explore the beauty and subtleties of daily life and the world around us. I tend to search for a combination of interesting light, vibrant colors, nice compositions, and a human element to try to create a mood or feeling in my photos. My images tend to be candid, clean and graphic, and I am a sucker for shadows.

Paris, France
Venice Beach, CA
  1. What is your dream assignment/project?

Good question. I think this answer could take many different paths depending on the day and my mood. What comes to mind now is any assignment that would involve travel to somewhere with lots of interesting light and colors to play with, and just the freedom to document it as I see it.  I’m drawn to the aesthetics of places like Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, etc…so those would be interesting places to go to for assignments. But really, so many things could be a dream assignment. Anything that just allows me to get out and experience things that I might not get to otherwise.

  1. Where can people keep up with your work?

My website (www.BrettZieglerPhotography.com) or the rare instagram post (@bziegler) is currently the best way to see new work.

Baker Beach, San Francisco, CA