Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Coloured gels, scrims, modelling lamps, monoblocks, snoots, sandbags - my brain just freezes when it comes to studio lighting equipment. I prefer working with available light but that's probably just because studio lighting scares the willies out of me. I have assisted on a few shoots where photographer's have used incredible sets and lighting but it was all so complicated (and so much else was going on) that I failed to take in a lot. Plus I had the Fear of God put into me by one of the other assistants who regaled me with the story of an incredibly high boom, a hapless assistant, a very hard concrete floor, a very, very expensive light and the terrific noise that a light makes when it plummets to the floor in the middle of a shoot. Not to mention the look on the photographer's face.

But former model turned photographer, Zoe Zimmer, has a studio. With studio lighting. And a wind machine*. And she knows how to use it.
Zoe lives between LA and London (her Oscar winning film score composing German Dad lives in LA) and has been photographing professionally for just over a year. And in that time she has photographed Morgan Freeman, Heidi Montag, Joel Madden, Liberty Ross, D.J. Mbenga.... You know, just the usual people you photograph when you are starting out!

Leaving school after her A-levels, Zoe took a gap year (she ended up having another 2 gap years because she wasn't sure what she wanted to do), and then started a Business Management degree. She lasted 1 1/2 weeks, decided it wasn't for her, and instead moved into modelling full-time. So how did she make the switch to photography? While sitting in her Dad's studio, Zoe was flicking through some of his books when she came across some images by the famous American lesbian photographer, Catherine Opie (they were the self-portrait 'carving' images), and Catherine' story really spoke to her. It was a "BAM!" moment. A couple of days later she had booked a lighting course and secured a camera (she has since upgraded to the excellent Canon 5D Mark II camera).

Her photographs are dark and moody rather like her personal style. Zoe wears lots of black and lives in her leather trousers "real leather trousers! none of this pleather, 'jegging' ****!" accessorised with lots of jewellery she has picked up on her travels. In these photos her little denim shorty shorts (which looked incredible on her super long legs!) are from a vintage shop in LA called "Wastelands", her belt is from "Jet Rag" another vintage shop in LA, her tank top is from American Apparel and jacket is an old Chloe piece she has had for ages.

And her gorgeous jewellery? All her rings are from either Tibet or Egypt, her watch is Cartier, and her skull bracelet is from Chrome Hearts (her favourite jeweller, and that of Mr Lagerfeld as well!) as is one of her necklaces. Her other necklace is full of charms she has picked up from around the world. Have I mentioned I LOVE jewellery?! Oh, only about 50 times on this blog!

Zoe's other camera is a Leica (a gift from her Dad) (above left). Her mood board holds cards of the various models she has photographed (middle), the "Enter" sign used to be the opening screen on her website (bottom right).

One of her favourite photographers is Miles Aldridge . His beautiful book is open on Zoe's lap (collage below, bottom right).

p.s. you can click on the collages to make them bigger

*fascinated by the wind machine. One shoot I assisted on the photographer used a big sheet of cardboard and a strong-armed assistant to create the wind. Probably the piece of cardboard is more in my budget than the wind machine!


  1. She's beautiful and love her hair! Great shots, as always, Vanessa. Nx

  2. Thanks Natalie! Hope to catch up with you soon?!

  3. Gotta love your sense of humour, Vanessa :)

    And Hans Zimmer's daughter? Niceee!!!

  4. Mel- hee hee! :) Re Zoe's dad, um, I had no idea until I got home and googled him. Zoe just said her Dad works 'in the film business in LA' so I as, like, oh okay, cool! As my husband likes to say about me "I live in Neddy land" and don't always have a clue what is going on around me! Hence Hans sort of slipped under my radar :)

  5. She is incredibly beautiful. Nice shots.

  6. this is so great! she's sooo cool and amazeful! i love your blog, you put the story behind the faces and your voice comes out too.

    i feel like we're having a chat over a coffee about the epic people you've met.

    only that we don't know each other, and i don't like coffee :s

  7. oh, she is just gorgeous beautiful! wonderful hair and amazing eyes! ;)

    really great shots! lovem'
    always great compositions!

    well, born in Germany i have to say i didn't even really know about Herr Zimmer's personal life! Exciting... where's her mom from?

    and i wanna the Leica so bad! ;)

    dearest greets!

  8. She is so pretty and so talented!

  9. Wow. She's bloody talented for just 'starting out' a short while ago. I am impressed with her work but Love your portraits of her. I am also more into available light. I need to take a lighting course. The most I've done is play around with one of my lamps and a mirror at home since I don't want to put anyone through the pain of my struggle to find the best way to use lighting . . .

  10. Such a beautiful model, such a presence !

  11. cute face. i like your beauty.

  12. I went to nursery school in London with Zoe! Weeeird. Have since relocated to Brazil, never saw her again. Lol.

  13. do you know which leica camera she uses? is that a M9???

  14. i just discovered this blog- and so glad i did!
    such beautiful photographs- i had to scroll all the way back to the begging. My inspiration folder now is alot fatter than it was!

  15. Great shots! She's gorgeous.

  16. Thanks ever so much guys for your lovely comments!! I am sorry I haven't had time to reply but I love reading them all- so thank you :))

    @PD- hee hee! So glad I'm not the only one that is a weeny bit scared of all that lighting equipment!!Me too- I need to take a lighting course. Assisting is great but I just find it too confusing if the photographer is using a big-arse studio and lots of equipment. I just need to find one that does the kind of lighting I like.....sort of very natural and looks like daylight!

    @Anon- ooo I'm sorry, anon, I am not sure of the make of camera. It is digital, so I think it is one of those super dooper expensive ones! Not very helpful, am I!

    @Jacquie- I too feel like I am having a chat with you guys over coffee :))))I write very much like how I speak (one of my downfalls at school!).....sometimes I waffle on too much, just like in real life!

  17. She is just beautiful

    and we have the same name x

  18. Oh my god she has a Leica, lucky girl! Those are so insanely expensive it would be like having to choose between buying a house or a camera hahah. I want one because the size is a lot smaller than most digital cameras but the picture quality is really out of this world, too bad I will only have one in my dreams!

  19. so beautiful!
    so refreshing.

    i love the cardboard + strong-armed assistant combo!!