Walking into the studio of Zach Davis Photography in Fargo, ND, you immediately feel the sense of adventure. Blankets collected from across the globe hang from a ladder, an atlas is open on the coffee table, and photos of loving couples in different landscapes cover the walls. We sat with Zach Davis himself, along with his co-worker (and girlfriend) Jodi Regan, to chat about travel, their amazing couples, and what keeps them inspired.
How did you start your business?
Zach Davis: I got into photography when I was studying abroad in Argentina. I had a bit of free time so I just wandered a bit and shot around there a bunch. When I came back home I took a semester off of college, which turned into two and then turned into three. By random I got asked to shoot a wedding – I feel like that’s how most people get into weddings. And I liked it and I moved back to Fargo almost three years ago now…shot with Katie Lewis for a couple years and then started my own business a year-and-a-half ago or so.
How would you describe your style to people?
ZD: I like photos that feel very organic and natural and authentic. I don’t like stuff that’s posed really at all. It feels stiff. As far as setting up shots, I want it to feel very true to who the couple is. Making them feel comfortable is usually when you get the best expressions and emotions out of people. I guess actual aesthetic or color-wise I like stuff that feels very muted and very subtle – almost has a film-like quality to it.
How did you two meet?
Jodi Regan: I want to hear your version of the story. I’m the one who always tells it.
ZD: Jodi moved up here a while back to start a non-profit store downtown…
Where did you move from?
ZD: They were having a corks and canvas-type event where there is wine and you can look around and see different artists, so they were open that night and were hosting drinks so my friends and I wandered in and we started talking. We got to talking about travel a lot and one thing led to another. (Looks at Jodi and smiles.)
How long have you been together?
ZD: A year and… three months? Four months? A little over a year.
So you (Jodi) second shoot a lot? How did you know you wanted to start working together?
ZD: I kind of just roped her into it.
JR: Uh, yeah! He handed me a camera and was like, ‘Figure out how this works,’ and I had a book. (Laughs.)
ZD: I think people that have a consistent second shooter have a huge advantage. It’s so much nicer. Having second shot for a bunch of people and having a bunch of people second shoot for me, it’s a pain in the butt having a different person every week because you have to set expectations for what you want from them, where they need to be, and everyone has a different style. It’s nice to have her because we both know what to expect from each other and we even have silent communication and know what the other wants. It’s super nice.
What do you think about working together, Jodi?
JR: It’s really fun! I think I know him better personally because we work together too. The more time you spend together with someone, the more experiences you have, and I’m a person that loves to delve deeply into humans – I want to know everything. So it’s fun to be able to know him through that but then it’s also just fun to be able to grow the brand together as well and be able to push things more by having someone to continuously learn from – I feel like I get to continuously be inspired and see things in new perspectives, and it causes us not to be stagnant ever, you know? Like, ‘I saw that! Did you see this? Look it over here!’ It causes you to become a better photographer.
ZD: When you’re shooting by yourself all the time and making all of the decisions, it’s really easy to do the same thing over and over again.
Are there certain ways you two complement each other, like one is more organized etc.?
JR: We’re both pretty spontaneous people.
ZD: She’s definitely a better writer, better interviewer. I try really hard to really get to know the couples we’re working with pretty well, and so a lot of them we end up hanging out with or grab a beer after an engagement session. That way when we post things online we can actually tell their story of how they met or how they got engaged instead of, ‘Here’s Jack and Jill and then day was beautiful and here are some of my favorite photos.’ It makes it more personal, and that’s why I think we like doing it so much because you get to meet some really cool couples. Photographing is super fun but…
JR: Being able to bring in context with both words and photos to someone’s story is kind of like if you just taste your fruit, you know it’s good, but being able to smell it and see the color and taste it brings together a bigger story and a bigger perspective.
JR: But yeah, photography is sort of a visual storytelling, and if we can – together – not only bring in the visual component, but the other sensory components to the story, it makes it richer and gives the couple their due. They’re more than just this one day. This is just the beginning of the best days, so to be able to fill a full context into someone’s story and build that relationship is more narratively compelling and gives respect to the love they have. Like we still get together and have pizza with couples after shooting their wedding.
You two travel a lot. How does that play into your photography and tell us about making stops for shoots throughout the nation?
ZD: We’ve both done quite a bit before we met each other. We went to Vietnam and the Philippines last fall for a few weeks just for fun. For me as a photographer it’s super fun to shoot something completely different than weddings. Weddings are fun and crazy because there are a million things happening, but most weddings follow a general timeline. So it’s fun to walk around a foreign city where you don’t know what you’ll run into, who you’ll meet, or what you’re going to eat.
JR: It also gives you full license to be able to meet people in a unique way. You can ask them to take their photo. With a camera you can meet someone in a broader context – people want to share their story with you because they want to be photographed, which is cool.
ZD: We have a couple of trips coming up that are either for work or fun. We’re going to Washington for a couple of weeks just to some hiking. We’ll probably schedule some shoots while we’re there. It’s nice to be able to shoot different geography. And we’ll be down in Denver as well during the fall and try to set up some things through there and travel through Utah and see if we can find some couples who want to go hiking or try some cool stuff with us.
JR: I feel like Zach’s photography almost becomes more alive in nature. Being able to attract couples who don’t mind getting dirty, that don’t mind the potential of cuts and scrapes in order to get the shot, to have an adventure is so inspiring to shoot. There’s something even about just the smell of grass or shrubbery or a mountain that makes a photo great. When you look at a photo you can smell the snow and feel the cold. Being able to vary where you shoot brings out different qualities in photo, and again, is important to that narrative of storytelling that photography can bring out.
What do you do when you’re not shooting photos?
JR: Adventure and cook.
ZD: Yeah, we cook a lot. We live in a really tiny apartment downtown with a super small kitchen. We read a lot, we have been learning how to play ukulele and guitar, which has been interesting. We just really like hanging out with people, so we’ve started doing big dinners in the studio or have a fire pit in our backyard. We’ll project movies onto our house and have people over with blankets and watch films.
JR: We love hiking and exploring. We’ll go down by the river and see if we can find new paths for couples or to picnic. We were in the Black Hills recently looking around, and I wish there was a little of that closer to us.
What do you love about the Fargo wedding scene?
JR: The community of vendors is super and no one is out to get each other. That collaboration is a great place to get started and to meet people and feel like a family instead of a cut-throat environment.
Anything to add?
ZD: I can definitely see how people get burnt out about weddings, and I think what keeps everything fresh and exciting for me are the couples. We’ve gotten really lucky that we get amazing couples that trust us and do crazy things we ask of them like go into a river fully clothed. It’s super fun and inspiring to find people who are as excited about photos as we are.
JR: And just keep shooting.
(Both smile at each other.)
To contact Zach Davis Photography, visit his website or call (701) 690-7789.
Photography: Elizabeth Lucille Photography +