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1.) Last we checked in you were editor of the Downey Beat. What have you been up to since?
I left the Downey Beat in early August of last year. Sadly, there are some residents who still think I am there. Just two weeks ago on Downey Avenue in the Downtown area a lovely older woman walking passed me turned and asked, “Are you John Zander?” I said “Yes, ma’am.” She then turned to her husband and said, “This is the gentleman who runs the Downey Beat.” It is very disappointing, and quite unfair. I posted on the Beat I was leaving, but it was removed, so the assumption goes on. Thank you for the opportunity to let residents know I have nothing to do with that outlet.
Previously to running that outlet I was a director and producer, but after my stroke in late 2012 I had to slow things down. Photography has been a passion for many years. My family encouraged me to do it full time. That meant the world to me, because they were worried abut my health and wellbeing over finances. I started to shoot full time December of 2013. It is scary starting a new business, especially at my age, but it has been steadily picking up ever since, thanks to the wonderful residents and business in Downey. 90% of my work is in town.
2.) What’s it like being the mayor’s official photographer?
Photographing Mayor Vasquez is a pleasure and an honor. It has also brought many, many other opportunities for me. He is so kind and is always promoting my work. I shot a photo of Mayor Vasquez, L.A. Mayor Garcetti and 25 other regional Mayors all on the steps of the Los Angeles City Hall. I was completely honored to take that photo, and it was all because of Mayor Vasquez. Mayor Garcetti called it “The Class Photo.” That was very nice.
Another plus is to get to see the mayor work as I photograph events. I have shot everything from interaction with Downey residents to meetings with heads of industry. He treats them all the same. He is amazing. And because of my work appearing on the mayor’s social media, I am now shooting for four other mayors in surrounding cities. It has been a real blessing.
3.) We noticed that you recently photographed the bands KISS and Def Leppard. How did that come about?
I sure did! It was a dream come true. I have been a KISS fan since I was a kid. I am also a musician so music has always been a huge part of my life.
A close friend, Leo Quinones, who is a TV and radio host called me saying he got the gig to moderate a press conference for KISS and Def Leppard. He asked if I would be willing to shoot it. I think I said yes before he finished the question! It took place at the House of Blues on Sunset and was broadcast through Live Nation. There were three other photographers there working for different outlets. I was the only freelance shooter there. It was amazing! Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS posing just for me, beyond words.
I took hundreds of shots as you can imagine. Also, I got very nice notes from Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell and Rick Allen complementing my shots. That was so very kind of them and greatly appreciated.
4.) Do you have any favorite places in Downey to photograph?
I love to shoot Downey! I put up a Facebook page called The Downey Monocle, which is just photos I have shot in town. No commentary or text, just photos. The name and idea for the site came from my friend Fidel, the owner of Marisa’s restaurant here in town.
I have a few favorite spots to shoot. Rio Hondo Golf Course and the Rio Hondo Event Center. Both are just beautiful. I like to photograph the ducks at Wilderness Park. I have done that for hours at a time. When shooting Downtown Downey I always find something new to shoot. I have shot from the street and from rooftops. It is a beautiful, diverse city and through my photography, I hope others will see it the way I do.
5.) Any tips for amateur photographers?
Absolutely! Everyone takes cell phone shots. Here are a couple of simple things that can improve those shots: hold the phone/camera still! After you take the shot, hold the camera still for a couple more seconds. And when shooting in a large area like a ball game or live theater, turn the flash off — it isn’t doing anything except slowing the camera down.
If you are new to a DSLR camera, shoot in auto mode and work on things like composition (properly framing your shot), and shoot a lot! There is nothing like experience and shooting 60 bad shots to get one good one is how you learn.
Published: March 27, 2014 – Volume 12 – Issue 50