I was interested in photographer Braeden Vanderzalm (@withinroots) at first because he was a friend of a friend that just randomly had 32K followers on Instagram before the age of 19. It’s sort of one of those social phenomenons - but the way he developed such a following is also a fairly accurate caricature of social media. It may seem unprecedented, as there are many talented shooters using the photo sharing app, but there is something innately engaging and honest about Braeden’s work. In explaining Instagram to my grandma, I might be like, “A guy I know has thirty-two thousand people following his photos.” But Braeden’s travels and perspectives are absolutely something that many people seem to want to follow along with. As noted in the interview below, Braeden’s play on light and his work with landscapes are largely what have defined his work thus far. Given the platform that Braeden has, and the eyes that are on his work, it puts any future creative efforts in a gainful position, as he is already leading a young generation of Instagrammers.
Recently, during a stint in Los Angeles, he linked up with a model (@thefogez) to excellent results for the “Belle Matin” photo set below alongside our interview.
CHRIS DANFORTH: Discuss how quickly you gained followers on Instagram and how it happened.
BRAEDEN VANZERZALM: I began posting my work on Instagram just over a year ago. It started off as just my iPhone photos, then I quickly began to gain followers through my active use on the app. As I began to travel more, I started to post my DSLR work from all the beautiful places I had been visiting along the West Coast. By this point, I gained respect from fellow photographers and my following began to rise from there.
I have always been interested in photography, it wasn’t until around a year-and-a-half ago that I took it up as a profession. I tend to gravitate towards truly anything from the visual/audio realm that lets me open my creative eye.
How did this latest “Belle Matin” project come to completion?
“Belle Matin” is a concept I came up with not too long ago with the idea of capturing the perfect morning with the essence of female energy. I felt Los Angeles was the perfect place to shoot with its fantasized “perfection” look.
What sort of expectations or goals do you have with your photography?
Right now, photography is another creative outlet for me, although, music has always been number one. Photography has let me expand my creative flow and open new doors. Like with any creative journey I set out on, my main goal is to create something that is honest and makes you feel some type of way.
What perspective do you bring to make your photography unique?
In my photography, I tend to enjoy playing with natural light, raw landscapes, and just letting my senses take over while I shoot. When I plan a shoot, I try to keep the details as minimal as possible because I find that, while shooting, it is such an in-the-moment experience that anything can happen - for me at least. The main thing that makes my photography unique is my eye and my perspective - everyone’s is different.
What is the most beautiful thing a photographer can capture?
The most beautiful thing is capturing any given moment through your perspective; to find beauty in the smaller things and to breathe life into the vision behind your eyes. Have the viewer feel what it is your trying to communicate through the photograph as though they are right there in the room. Art has endless potential and you are limitless when in the proper creative space and mindset.
What impact does music have on your photography?
My music is my backbone to everything I do. It impacts my photography by letting me put visuals to music in my head. Even while I’m shooting, I may have a certain song in my head which may, figuratively, set the mood for me.
Which photographers do you look up to?
Some inspiration comes from artists like Purienne, Amanda Jas (@Shokaytokay), Jacquemus, Jim Mangan, and Neik Krug. My true inspiration comes in the form of visuals, styles, and things I see everyday.
Are there any exciting projects slated for 2015?
2015 is going to be a big year, I will be dropping my first debut album “withinroots.” I have been working on this project for a full year now and I am finally working on the finishing touches for each song. Be ready for a movement of sound. This music is going to be something new, something real - a human experience.
Are you a sneakerhead?
[Laughs] Not so much. I enjoy my black Converse Chuck Taylors, and a good pair of Nikes.
See more of Braeden’s work on his Instagram @withinroots.