Chad is one of our Builders and is a photographer in Watford City, North Dakota.
Name: Chad Ziemendorf
City/Town: Watford City, North Dakota
Who is your community?
Friends and family in Watford City; North Dakota creatives; the photography community.
Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.
On an average photoshoot day, I am out the door around or before 7am to find the closest coffee shop (not Starbucks) on my way to our shoot location. Upon arrival, we unload the gear, get the cameras set up and connect with our client to make sure everything is nailed down for the day. Then, we make pictures throughout the day while interfacing with the client and drinking more coffee.
On a non-shoot day, I get my son ready for school and make coffee at home while downloading large files that have just been retouched the night before, or I start processing a photo (enlarging it, merging panoramas, etc) that will take some time for my computer to execute. When my son heads off to school, I choose my playlist for the day, check the status of my downloading/ processing photos and start returning emails, usually to nail down an upcoming shoot, arrange travel or stay in touch with clients.
The balance of the day usually entails me finalizing photos for clients, delivering photos and toning my own personal work, while backing things up on external hard drives.
If I’m caught up on everything, I explore North Dakota with a camera, explore my own thoughts on photography, add notes to my Evernote file that organizes the topics for a book I’m writing, and come up with story ideas for Intersection Journal.
When my son comes home, we are either getting homework done, getting ready for hockey/baseball, jumping on the trampoline, building Legos or eating.
The best part about being an assignment photographer is that when I’m home, I’m very home. It is tough to be away, but great to be a stay-at-home dad in between assignments.
The end of the day usually involves church activities and family time, nurturing relationships with those around me and making memories with them.
If you could do any job, what would you do and why?
I’m doing it! It is an amazing blessing to make a living with a camera. Even though I was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and had a taste of being a professional athlete, I feel even more passionate about photography and visual story-telling.
What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the OTA region when it comes to your career?
That’s easy … Coming home to North Dakota.
For two reasons:
1. The wide open spaces of Western North Dakota is the perfect antidote to the congested rat race of San Francisco and Silicon Valley (where I grew up and tend to work) … my blood pressure goes down instantly when I get home to ND. I can clear the cobwebs and enjoy time of introspection so that my creative juices are ready to flow for the next project.
2. The culture of resilience in North Dakota keeps me grounded as I make pictures for clients in other metropolitan areas. Because of the agricultural and industrial heritage, it is hard to find a sense of entitlement in ND. That lack of entitlement/ resilience inspires me as a photographer and story teller, bringing a deeper sense of authenticity to my clients and readers.
At what intersection do you live your life?
I live at the intersection of Love and Communication.
Where do you think good ideas come from?
Good ideas come from anywhere. You just have to be able to interpret what you see. Robert Frank, photographer and author of the influential photography book THE AMERICANS, spoke of the subject he chose to photograph (American daily life) saying, “I speak of the things that are there, anywhere and everywhere — easily found, not easily selected and interpreted.”
Our ability to create rests on the culmination of all that we are – our morals, beliefs, the movies we watch, the literature we read, our relationships. All these things contribute to why and how we create, and “good ideas” are the result of these beliefs and experiences coming together in a very personal way that provides exclusive insight into a particular subject.
As Paula Scher, Principal at Pentagram, said about her experience in creating the current logo for Citi, “It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.”
What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?
The best way to put inspiration into action is to START. Just begin. Make the best decisions possible with the information you have at hand. We don’t know all of the answers, but we know enough to start. The plan will continually build on itself and evolve, we aren’t meant to know how it will all work out.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?
Moving to North Dakota, leaving the familiar in California. It didn’t make much sense to leave the market that has been so good to me, just as I was coming into my own as an architectural photographer. But I didn’t have peace there, neither did my wife. I have complete peace in ND and couldn’t be happier. This risk has also led to my greatest reward.
What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
My biggest failure, there’s been so many, I couldn’t narrow it down to one. Baseball is sometimes nicknamed the game of failure. The best hitters in the game have a .300 batting average, which is a percentage (30% of the time they get a hit). As a result, the best hitters in the game fail 7 out of 10 times. Transcending through the ranks of Division 1 and Professional baseball taught me so much about overcoming failure. Specifically to not be afraid of it, to not beat myself up over it (conflict creates growth) and to embrace the knowledge gained from the experience.
What is the worst case scenario of taking a risk and failing? That you end up exactly where you started. Then you pick yourself up and start again. It isn’t as detrimental as we can make it in our head.
Life isn’t about avoiding hardship, its about learning to transcend and grow through it.
The OTA Builders are a group of individuals who thrive on possibility and use all opportunities they are given to grow both in their careers and in their passions. We seek creatives who are tenacious and strong-willed movers and doers and are driven to make a significant impact on the people around them and the community they call home. These people recognize their talents and capabilities and find ways to continuously grow and learn from them. Why is this you?
The media landscape has changed and it is more important than ever for photographers (and all creatives) to have a voice and a point of view founded on sound principals that are outwardly-focused (not self focused).
Going against the grain, making waves in the community and creating change is not an easy road. Professional baseball prepared me in more ways than I can count to battle through adversity and transcend set-backs. Serious injuries, organization politics and coaches who say, “you aren’t good enough,” are all things that a professional athlete endures over his or her career.
Those principals are directly applicable to the career of a creative professional, because the quality of our work is so subjective (some may love what we do, some may hate it). We have to struggle and agonize to bring our vision to life, and no one can do it but us. But, having the courage to know that we aren’t for everyone, that we are different and that we are doing what we are doing because we can’t help it is the truest way to have an authentic impact on our community. People are inspired by others who are constantly growing and discovering, which is why we must encourage others to fight being stagnant.
If only one thing comes through loud an clear from my application, I hope that it is this: my life is not about me.
What project will you focus on as part of the OTA Builders Program?
I hope to define what Intersection Journal is meant to be. In 2014, I set out to make it a self sustaining business and had some success right out of the gate (60k page views in first month, 12k shares on lead story), but became disenchanted when potential sponsors wanted me to provide outdated metrics to define the brands (perceived) success, reach and engagement with the audience. More so, I wasn’t willing to give up control of the content or let a corporate sponsor turn it into a big PR piece. The content has to be original, without commercial pressures.
Now I see Intersection Journal as a part of my photography pie, not the end-all. Instead of blogging about myself, I’m “blogging” (reporting on, documenting) North Dakota through photography, showcasing the state I call home while showcasing my work.
It plays a role in the larger ecosystem that is my career, rather than being a career/business in and of itself.
What change / advancement do you hope to achieve as part of the OTA Builders Program?
The business of photography has changed, whether it’s editorial, news, commercial, fine art – you name it. I hope to be a human guinea pig and explore how this model works in reality and include my findings in the book I’m writing (The Photographer of Impact). I anticipate it will be a book of approximately 30,000 words; I’ve written approximately 12,000-14,000 words so far. The findings of how Intersection Journal relates to editorial work, which relates to commercial work, would comprise multiple chapters of the final book.
In short, I hope to shed light on the new ecosystem of professional photography, enabling other photographers to maximize their community impact, personal satisfaction and financial success.