Zach Hyman Talks Nudity, Nightlife, And His New Role On The City

by Chiara Atik · May 6, 2010

Zach Hyman may be new to The City, but he's definitely been around the block. After only two years in New York, he's built up an impressive amount of life experience, from working as a nightlife photographer and making a splash on Page Six, all before he ever started filming for The City. He sat down with GofG last week and told us about almost getting beat up by Gerard Butler, running around naked, and filming for MTV.-

Zach dropped out of acting school after two years and moved to New York City to pursue a career in photography, fully aware that it might take a while for things to get underway. Luckily, he didn't have to wait long.

"I got a busboy job where i moved to barback and then bartender. And I've always been just a big believer in manifesting your reality, so every night I'd go home and I'd meditate on seeing the things that I wanted in my life and in my photography and meeting the people and shaking someones hand that could get me somewhere, and I met Patrick McMullan's first assistant who was like "Oh, you shoot!" and and I'd just shot a party for the salon I used to work at, so I had some images I could show. I got in as a Patrick McMullan photographer and i started shooting nightlife."

With virtually no experience with NYC nightlife, Zach was suddenly shooting the top parties and top players in the city. He describes the experience as surreal.

"I started shooting those nightlife parties and just kind of seeing these "key players" and like, I still don't know what half of them do and why they are reported on why there's gossip about them. I mean i guess it's just another form of entertainment. And all these people are actually very sweet, you know they seem sweet, or maybe they're just sweet because they want their photo taken, but like it seems that everybody was noticed before they started doing something. Like before Tinsley had her reality show she was noticed because she was always on the scene and she's pretty and you know whatever, it's just everybody starts doing their things which a lot of it is very good but it's just very surreal to me in that environment and now, now i just want to slit my throat. not all of them! it's great for connections and meeting people, but."

The hardest part of being a photographer, according to Zach, is getting shy celebs to agree to have their picture taken.

"I have an ongoing thing with the Olsen twins cause every time I see them they're like "Oh, not tonight!", and I always say, cause the first time I said 'Ok, listen, that's fine, I understand you don't want your picture taken, but you owe me one. Like, this is my job and you owe me one." So every time they're like 'Ok, fine', and like, the last time I saw them at was at some strip club they didn't want to get shot at so I, you know, sat down, I don't know if it was Mary-Kate or Ashley but I sat down and talked to her and she was like "I KNOW what I said but I can't, I'm in a strip club!"

Of course the hardest part of nightlife photography is that photographers are hired to take celebrities pictures, whether they want to or not. Gerard Butler at the Whitney Gala last year,did not.

"I'd already talked to one photographer who'd told me he didn't want his picture taken. Ok, well, I'll go up and ask cause PR girls are right behind me the whole time which is always the WORST case scenario. So I walk up to Gerard and I'm like 'Hey man, can I please get a shot of you?" and he's like "No man, I'm sorry, not tonight." So I go back to the PR girls and they were like "We need that shot. We hired you for the whole fucking night, we need that shot, we don't care how you get it done." So I walk 20 feet away, hold my camera up like, way high in the air and I snap one picture, just, flash. He pushes through like 20 feet of people, fucking comes up to me, grabs me by the shoulder and shakes me and goes "I thought I told you I didn't want a fucking picture!" Later that night I see him walking out and I say 'Dude, I'm really sorry, I'm not feeling well, they were telling me to do this, it's my job." and he was like 'No worries, man, I understand, I overreact a lot."

In last summer of 2009, Zach started getting a lot of attention for Indecent Exposures, a series of photographs of nude models in public places like the subway. Then, in September of 2009 he made the front page of Page Six after his model got arrested during a shoot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"We go to the met, I'm understaffed because two people don't show up and TV crews were there and I get there and I'm just like, this is not gonna work like from the get go. I just had so much doubt in my mind and but I was like "well, lets see what happens". So we went in and she got arrested and I think the most frustrating part of that day, which to me is a sign that it just wasn't supposed to go well was that I didn't even get an image from that day. The back of my camera --there's a dark slide in my camera- and my runner biked it all the way down to Second Avenue and when he came back and handed it to me the dark slide was half open, so there are only five pictures on the roll of film and they're all gone. It didn't go well that day but then the press on it was great and everybody was like "why was this a big deal?" there were women and children there standing watching like it was part of the museum and all of her charges were dropped because it was for the sake of the performance or piece of art. Eventually I'll go and do that shoot again cause I didn't get that image and I want that image and I think it'd be fun and funny and awesome."

His most recent show at The Chair and Maiden featured photographs taken on a road trip through central California with photographer Carrie Shaltz, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and ten pounds of glitter. And of course, they got naked.

"We start coming up with concepts and we come up with "Dude, glitter is awesome, we can probably do a lot with glitter, and we'll just get naked the whole time. Nude, glitter, awesome."

[Photo from Glitterous, by Zach Hyman and Carrie Shaltz]

"The show went really well, MTV came and covered it on the opening night and Olivia and Whitney and Roxy all showed up and it was great and I feel like that was great exposure, however the people we invited didn't get to go in because they were filming."

So, speaking of The City...

"I was a little apprehensive about it because I'm trying to create a name for myself in the art world and I didn't know if the show would promote that or make me something different or whatever and I'm still not sure...basically, all in all, how can you say no to something like that? If somebody wants to put you on television to do what you're doing there's no reason not to. It's a good story. I was apprehensive at first, but honestly, 16 year old girls watch that show, art collectors don't watch that fucking show."

And is it scripted?

"When I was in acting school when I'm on camera reading lines its more difficult, but like when they're just telling you here's the situation, which is usually like, the situation, like it's pretty much the actual thing that's happening. They're like 'Ok, you're going in for an interview you're gonna sit down and you're gonna talk and you're gonna bla bla bla and you're gonna talk about this--' I mean they don't always say 'You're gonna talk about THIS' but like you know, 'talk about your art and talk about a shoot that you might have" so you go in and you do it. I mean it's very surreal..."

So far, he doesn't have any regrets about appearing on the show.

"I'm excited to see it, I'm excited to see how I'm portrayed and how the girls are portrayed. I mean, hoenstly I think that if I were gonna be on any reality show I think I would want it to be that show because it's about the fashion industry and I want to shoot fashion and I want to be a part of that and just do that and I think it goes into that a lot and there's also a lot of fucking drama but you have to have that, it's enertaining to someone."

Zach's now-famous naked subway portrait will be shown in an exhibit on May 13th, alongside some of the most iconic photographs and photographers in the world, including Bert Stern's "Last Sitting", and works by Zach's idols Helmut Newton and David La Chapelle. He's planning on doing some traveling, both in the US and abroad, but he's not quite done with New York yet. He's mingled with celebrities, gotten the attention of top art critics, and filmed a reality show, but there's still one more thing on his checklist before he'll have conquered the city.

"I want to get that Met shot. I mean it's like I think I might have to do that before I go and get anything else because it's gonna bother the shit out of me and I just have to do it. Right now, that's my dream job."


[Photos courtesy of Zach Hyman]