21-year-old photographer Zamar Velez creates imagery that feels really good. With high contrast colors (his blues are bright, his reds are rich) and editing that pulls you into decades past, his work looks like it could be ripped from the pages of a late '90s zine. Zamar's subjects are always at ease, like shooting a best friend, and his environments quietly surreal. Learn more about the rising photographer behind PAPER's Issa Rae cover, below.

Where did you grow up and how has that impacted the work you create?

I grew up in Orange County, California. The weather here is beautiful — it hardly rains! The fact that it's almost always sunny really helps my work because I think my work is bright and filled with fun and happiness.

How do you think your work has evolved over the years?

My work has gotten a little more intentional, but at the core it is still the same as when I first started. I enjoy taking photos of my friends and experimenting with different editing styles. I think my photos have gotten more colorful too (which is cool to me).

How do you choose your subjects? Are they mostly friends?

I shoot the people around me — might be my friends or people I find on Instagram who I think look cool. For the most part, my subjects are usually my friends which is my favorite because everyone is so comfortable.

Your work looks like it could be from a different time. Is that intentional?

I'm for sure inspired by some of the lighting from '90s/ early 2000s magazines. It's intentional, but I don't want it to look exactly like that. I'm still experimenting with my style and trying new stuff out all the time.

The final colors in your photography are really bright and blown out. How do you decide when the colors are just right?

I take a lot of time coloring each photo and I just edit till I think it looks cool. My goal is to have people stop and actually look at my work and I think color plays a really important part in that. It'll bring an image together — so once I think it looks cool, it's done!

What are some of your main references/ points of inspiration, right now?

My main references right now are old magazines and movies! I have a ton of magazines from the '90s in my room that have been given to me and I like to look at those to spark ideas or concepts. I also covered the walls of my room with photos I really like so I get inspired anytime I look at any of these photos.

Where would you like to see your photography go in 2021?

I'd love to shoot a global campaign, photograph more musicians and see one of my photos on a billboard! That would be super cool to me. I also want to just grow and work with a lot of different people and learn a lot.

Tell me about your work with the Black Image Center? What's your role and what is its mission?

The Black Image Center is a non-profit organization that is being designed to help out the Black creatives in our community. I am one of the co-founders and our mission is to open up a space that offers photography equipment and printing services on a sliding scale and makes photography more accessible for young Black creatives.

Photo courtesy of advisry

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