Zak Krevitt, Photographer and Video Producer at them.
After our feature on Meredith Talusan , we discovered that so many more talented folks work at them. that needed to be spotlighted, including Zak Krevitt. Zak is journalist, and motion graphics designer / video producer at them. Although all of this is extremely impressive, we were mostly captivated by the rawness of his work. He documents people, specifically queer communities, in an authentic way that no one can deny, or top in our opinion. Through politics and sexuality, Zak is able to visually deliver a message to the world that we all deserve to be the truest versions of ourselves at all times. If you want to take what some would describe as a "racy" journey into reality with us, read along for Zak's story. We promise you'll be able to relate on a level you didn't think possible.
Zak, can you describe yourself and your work to our community?
I like to document queer communities around the world and focus on real people, real stories – stories that, oftentimes, society has deemed unworthy of being told. Documentation of queer communities around the world, taking an approach that is both personal and anthropological. I often spend long periods of time with the communities I document, exploring my own role within them. When I am working on a project, the camera acts as a sort of divining rod, telling me where to go, both inside myself, and in the world in order to understand myself and my community better. When I’m not focusing on the queer community, my documentary commissions take me into some very heterosexual spaces, spaces that I’m not completely comfortable inhabiting, but when I’m there I love to think of myself as a spy. I use the camera to decipher what’s going on, and often let my intuition lead me towards an angle, which can tend to be quite critical.
You are a part of them., you've contributed to the New York Times and other publications, and on top of that, are a visual artist. How do you maintain your vision and ethos through working on multiple projects and for different people?
I’m extremely blessed to be working in a place that also aligns with my personal values and artistic interests. I don’t see much separation from what I’m trying to accomplish at them. and what I’m trying to accomplish in the world with my art practice. It’s a big reason that I pursued a job in the LGBTQ+ sphere. If i was working somewhere else, selling software to businesses or advertising bedding to millennials, I’d have a much harder time keeping my personal and artistic intentions at the forefront – and being happy going to work everyday.
You have a gallery on your site labeled “Queer Cognitive Dissonance.” Technically, cognitive dissonance represents the mental discomfort of someone who holds contradictory beliefs, or ideas. Was this created to challenge the beliefs of those “unsure” about sexuality? Or was it meant for another purpose?
I made this project during my time at The School of Visual Arts, where I now teach. The work was combination of archival work from my past, and new work I had made after a year long monogamous relationship. After the break up – I was seeking out instant gratification physical intimacy on dating apps, in back rooms, on bar stools, everywhere and anywhere. At a certain point I was struck by the complexity and implications of a phenomenon I saw unfolding in front of me that seemed emblematic of issues facing the queer community at large. The experience of being so close to someone physically, yet so completely removed and distant emotionally – that is the cognitive dissonance being referenced in the title. Generations of shame around our sexuality has long driven queers to seek out sex underground, in turn, this often led to a lack of sustainable romantic relationships, and I think some of that lingers in the culture today. So this project is exploring those lingering effects. My own liaison with physical and emotional intimacy, my relationships with the people in the photographs, and their relationships to their own identity and sexuality, be it lust, love, money, power, or mourning, are all at play in this expansive project.
What about “Election Night”? The images show an insane amount of hope until you scroll down and reality hits through the tears you’ve captured. Can you describe that night for you as an artist?
The night I spent at the HRC “Victory Party” was something I’ll never forget. My former partner, Thomas McCarty, and I, were both on assignment that night for W magazine, he, at the Trump event,, and myself at the Clinton event. My day got off to a rocky start, because the campaign had overbooked press, and even though we had been credentialed 48 hours prior, myself and a large group of photo journalists were not allowed onto the event floor because of capacity issues. Sequestered to the press area away from the event, I grew frustrated and began planning a route to sneak past the guards and on to the floor. I made it past the guards once, but was caught and told to go back to the press area, from there I watched the monitors with dread. As the numbers began rolling in, and it started to look more and more like Trump was going to win, the mood shifted... The next time I snuck onto the event floor, everyone was too depressed to pay any attention to me. The tension in the air was palpable, you could feel the negative energy, fear, loathing, disappointment, all of that, you could feel it on your skin. I was overcome with emotion and let that guide my lens, watching the evening unfold through the images on the back of my camera. Around 2am, with people curled into balls on the floor, some weeping, others sleeping, John Podesta came out and told us all to go home and get some rest, that it was too close to call, to have hope. The audience gave a final cheer, wanting to believe there was still a chance, but it was a farce, we all knew the jig was up. At this point, I start walking to the Hilton Hotel to pick up Thomas from the Trump event. I stopped at a halal cart to get some food and spoke with the man behind the counter about the night. I told him “it's too close to call they said, they’re waiting for the morning,” but he replied, one earphone in tuned to the news, “It’s over.. He won, they just announced it.” We both stood in silence for a few minutes, cursing under our breath and contemplating what this meant for our futures. He handed me my chicken pita and I head to the Hilton. Thomas texts me that he needs to hang around a bit longer, Trump is coming out to speak and celebrate the win. I can hardly believe what I’m reading. After I pick him up, we walk through Times Square to the train, Trump’s face stands 3 stories tall, splashed on almost every big screen in the area. We stopped and watched, shuddering, as Trump greeted the country with a sleepy Baron by his side. We could feel it in the air once more, nothing would be the same. To this day, that assignment was one of the most surreal and upsetting I have ever experienced, even now just writing about it I am getting anxiety and chills on my arms.
With all of this powerful and beautiful work you are creating and producing in this dark world, what do you wish you could do more of? Or do you have big plans to do more in the near future?
I wish I could be making work on a grander scale and in a larger variety of mediums. Creating whole sets and organizing large groups of people into tableau. I’d also love to be sculpting, using CNC routers to digitally carve stone and marble. I want to be creating more politically charged work, addressing injustice — not just in America, but globally. I want to be making movies and documentaries and virtual universes. I’m a big fan of what Sam and Andy Rolfes are doing, and wish I had a wider skill set in the digital sphere. At the root of it all I want to be creating space for people to feel seen, safe, and nurtured, whether that be through art, media, business, apps etc. Right now I’m focusing on my work with them., I’m a firm believer that we are helping people every day with what we do. I am working slowly on some larger photography projects in secret for now, but when they start to see daylight, I’ll let you know.
Interviewed by Emily