Through the viewfinder | Zorah Olivia Interview
Zorah is a talented SKATE photographer. She grew up in Baltimore then moved out to Los Angeles to pursue what she loves. She now photographs some of the worlds best skateboarders, both men and women. WE recently watched her film ‘RISE’ and were touched by her story. Her father was a big inspiration on her photography but sadly passed away when she was in collage. her determination to keep going and to continue to CREATE beautiful photographs is A true TESTAMENT of her character.
“Skateboarding is the definition of creative freedom and that mindset absolutely influenced my photography. The possibilities are endless when you really think about it. There will always be a new skater to shoot with or a new spot to discover! I just feel completely free whenever I’m skating or shooting skate photos.” ZORAH
What’s your favorite film portraits you’ve taken of female skaters and why?
(All of these were shot with 120mm film, using my Hasselblad)
Margielyn Didal: Before I met Margie, Jenn Soto and Mariah Duran warned me to keep an eye out because they told me that Margie likes to bite people. Last summer, I was invited to Camp Woodward in PA to teach photography during Girls Week and Margie was my roommate the first night at camp. Before we even met that day, I texted Mariah and said, “Dude…I’m rooming with Margie, should I be scared?” Mariah responded with, “Yes.” Little did I know they were just fucking with me and Margie and I became instant friends! Now we mutually pick on each other, but she does really bite people from time to time.
Lola Tambling: In October of 2017, I bought a spontaneous plane ticket to London without personally knowing anyone there. I reached out to my followers and told them I was coming to work on a photo series of the female skateboard community. Lola’s parents drove her 5 hours from Cornwall to London just to meet with me to take pictures. At the time, Lola was 9 years old and had just shaved her head to raise money for children with cancer. Her spunk and raw talent is so admirable for a kid her age! Lola is now traveling to the US for major skate contests like Dew Tour and Exposure. Keep an eye out, she’s going to do big things!
Nora Vasconcellos: I remember this day vividly, we were all at Lisa Whitakers house for her son Dylan’s first birthday. This was back in the tail end of 2016 and I had only been living in Los Angeles for 3 months or so. Nora was blowing up balloons and Vanessa Torres was playing with Lisa’s pet rabbits, who roam freely in the yard.
Jenn Soto: Jenn and I drove cross country from the east coast to Los Angeles in September of 2016. We packed up my car to brim, with my guinea pig between us in the front seat, and left home to chase our dreams in LA. It’s crazy how far we’ve both come in 3 short years, I’m so fucking proud of her!
We shot this photo on our apartment rooftop in 2017. She was living downstairs with Vanessa Torres at the time and I had my first studio apartment upstairs, it was the perfect set up! We were always hanging out on the stoop or up on the roof. Although she no longer lives downstairs with V, she’s just a 5 minute drive down the street!
Stella Reynolds: I shot this photo of Stella my first few months living in Los Angeles. Stella, Andrew, and Kader Sylla invited me to skate with them at Skatelab out in Simi Valley. I’ve been shooting photos with Stella for about 3 years now and it’s so incredible to watch her progression! I recently took her to Seattle for Wheels of Fortune for her first solo skate trip. We were both stoked about our fancy hotel that Andrew booked (thanks again, Andrew!) and the room service menu! Fun fact: Stella loves to watch Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives while eating room service.
How has skateboarding influenced your photography style?
Skateboarding is the definition of creative freedom and that mindset absolutely influenced my photography. The possibilities are endless when you really think about it. There will always be a new skater to shoot with or a new spot to discover! I just feel completely free whenever I’m skating or shooting skate photos.
The fact that you moved state for photography and are working as a female in a pretty male dominated space, what would be some advise you can give to people wanting to pursue their passion and how to deal with some of the hurdles that may come with it?
If you want something bad enough, you can make it happen! There’s nothing else in this world that can fulfill me, all I want is to make a long lasting career as a photographer. It’s really about embracing vulnerability and putting yourself out there and accepting that the worst anyone can say is no. It’s going to be extremely difficult at first and you’re going to come face first with rejection over and over, but it’s how you get up and power through it that matters in the end. If you’re passionate about something, never ever lose sight of it.
Do you ever get any negativity from people for being a female skate photographer or skateboarder? or is everyone pretty supportive?
As a photographer, surprisingly not really! I’ve had some moments where male photographers will kinda get territorial but for the most part the skate community has embraced me with open arms. As a skateboarder though, I definitely have had plenty of negativity thrown at me over the years. I started skateboarding when I was 10 years old and back then it felt like I was the only girl skater. The only chance I had to skate with other girls was one week out of the summer at Camp Woodward. I distinctly remember a boy at the skatepark coming up to me and asking me if I was a boy or a girl. I was also shocked to hear two 11 year old boys at Dew Tour last weekend yelling at girls during their practice. They were saying shit like, “Do a kickflip!” and “You suck!” I had to stick up for my girls though, so I said to them, “You’re both being rude. Are you out there skating the contest right now? No, I didn’t think so. Show some respect.”
If you had to shoot something other than skateboarding what would it be?
Honestly, any kind of portrait work!
Favorite person to shoot? why?
Man Ramp! I shoot with him the most these days, thanks to the Worble crew. The Worble is bringing a fresh perspective to skateboarding and the projects that we’re currently working on are going to absolutely break the internet…you just wait.
Why is it important for you to shoot female skaters?
For me, it’s all about giving them a platform and showing the world just how incredible they are, on and off the board! Now more than ever, it’s important to support and elevate women of all ages, we need to be there for each other.
Well, I recently quit my job at Shepard Fairey’s art gallery to focus full-time on my photography career. It’s a really empowering feeling but it’s also terrifying not having consistent income coming in every month. The fact of the matter is though, money will always come and go. Life is too short to wonder what if, I just had to go for it. I have so much coming up! Currently, I’m working on a year long photo series leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I’ll be able to share more details soon!
I’ll be teaching photography at Camp Woodward in PA for the 2nd year in a row coming up on June 30th! It’s crazy going back as a VIP when I spent my entire childhood there. The most rewarding aspect of my photo career is being able to teach and speak to the younger generation.
Group photo show at the Skateboarding Hall of Fame (August 24th)
I’m also working on a community event series with Red Bull that will be premiering in August. The first event will be held at the Red Bull HQ in Santa Monica, more details coming soon as well.
What’s the last photo you took on your iPhone?
Me and Man Ramp at the Cobra Man show at The Bootleg
THANKS ZORAH. YOU RULE!