Amir Zaki publishes 23 years of photography in a new monograph, ‘Building+Becoming’

ByDavid M. Conte

Apr 20, 2022

With a camera in hand, Amir Zaki captures the stunning beauty of California – spaces that become precise moments unveiled only at dawn.

“Building+Becoming”, a new monograph by Zaki, art professor at UC Riversidewill be co-edited byX Artist Books andDoppelHouse Press. The book presents a body of work that spans over 23 years. The 272-page monograph is designed as a double gatefold that opens to a total width of approximately 40 inches, allowing the reader to explore images and text in different combinations.

“Building+Becoming”, a new monograph by Amir Zaki.  (<a class=Photo courtesy of Amir Zaki)” src=”” title=”Amir Zaki” typeof=”foaf:Image”/>
“Building+Becoming”, a new monograph by Amir Zaki. (Photo courtesy of Amir Zaki)

In this monograph, Zaki weaves stories that capture both nature and architecture. He visits these spaces before the full morning sun interrupts the silence and emptiness found in cities, beaches or any landscape where he places himself to capture environments illuminated by the soft light of the sun. early morning. The book’s title, “Building+Becoming”, takes readers on an interactive journey as they simultaneously open the two-page spreads to find striking images of trees, skate parks, ocean waves or landscapes that make the reader stops to appreciate the captured serenity. in these pictures. He prefers to photograph landscapes, not people, he says.

“The quality of light in a photograph is something that is close to my heart,” said Zaki, who has been photographing California since he was a teenager and lives in Beaumont, Calif. He attended UCR and graduated in 1996 with a major in art and a minor in philosophy.

“Although I started my career photographing very late at night doing exposures of a few minutes, I now mostly shoot very early in the morning, for the double advantage of capturing a soft and beautiful light, as well as the solitude that this time of day offers. (Late night and early morning have similar psychological benefits for us loners),” he said. “I shoot mostly alone, and often when I show up somewhere, I’m the only person around. I often get a bit of adrenaline from it. For some reason, I feel like I’m getting away with something, and that my mere presence in this place and at this precise moment with my camera is a form of transgression. Photography is a kind of theft in this sense. I steal the light while others sleep.

Knowing that light is the essence of his work, Zaki admits he is always aware of his surroundings, always looking at buildings and landscapes and imagining what a photograph might look like. His work has benefited from the help of mentors such as John Divolaprofessor of art at UCR, and Uta Barth, professor emeritus in the Department of Art at UCR, and inspired by many photographers, including Roy DeCarava.

Amir Zaki, professor at UC Riverside in the art department. (Photo courtesy of Amir Zaki)

For the past decade, Zaki has used a process that involves taking dozens of high-resolution images of a particular view or scene and then stitching them together to produce a single image. To help him, he uses a tripod head called Gigapan, which is used to move the camera left-right, up-down in a precise way.

“The places I choose for my photographs are simply the result of experiences. I have always found ways to photograph relatively close to home to support a long and committed process over several months or years,” said Zaki, who has taught at UCR since 2000.

Towards the end of the book, a section called “Stealing Light” is Zaki’s personal story, formatted in a Q&A with artist and art consultant, Corrina Peipon. Through these Q&As, the reader gets an intimate understanding of what inspires Zaki and allows a closer look at his family, career, and life as a teacher. This sculptural monograph also includes an essay by authors Jennifer Ashton and Walter Benn Michaels.

In the Q&A with Peipon, Zaki explains the importance of observation and movement, both on a personal level and in his work.

“Movement in space is experienced in time. Driving, walking, standing, surfing, skating and sitting all affect the way we experience time. The mind/body practices that I have dedicated much of my life to, such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation, all cultivate a heightened awareness and embodiment of time,” Zaki said. “I quite often consider the idea and experience of time. Photography is always a question of time, implicitly or explicitly. Light and time; that’s it.

Meet Amir Zaki at:
  • Launch and signing of the book: Saturday April 23 at LA Times Book Festival. Booth #183, 2 p.m.
  • Collective exhibition and reception. “Mapping the Sublime” at the Brand Library and Art Center: Saturday, April 23, 4-8 p.m. Brand library1601 West Mountain Street in Glendale, CA 91201
  • Diane Rosenstein Gallery Solo Exhibition: Saturday, June 11 at 2 p.m., 831 N Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Event includes artist talk and book signing. Exhibition from June 4 to July 16, 2022.
Amir Zaki's new monograph,
Amir Zaki’s new monograph “Building+Becoming” weaves stories that capture both nature and architecture. (Photo courtesy of Amir Zaki)