Life as a Millennial is awkward. It’s awkward, scary, and sometimes downright frustrating. What makes it more frustrating is constantly being stereotyped as lazy or entitled. In a world where we possess access to a large volume of information, I’d argue to say that we are not entitled, we are empowered.
Graphic designer, photographer, creative director, and all around artist, David Zinyama is a perfect example of the “empowered” millennial artist. His ability to “fit in” with the stars, provide services to his clients, and still find time to inspire his audience is admirable and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn more about him as an artist.
Read below to get to know the man behind the manipulations and stick around for the awesome photos.
Culture Starved (CS): First of all please introduce yourself to our readers, who is David Zinyama?
David Zimyama (DZ:) Hi, Culture Starved, let me start of firstly by saying thank you very much for this great opportunity to interview, I really appreciate it. I’m David Zinyama, a self taught graphic designer, photographer and digital artist. I’m also a freelance art director and visual consultant. I’ve done a wide range of projects for individuals, small businesses, and large corporations. My diverse skillset allows me to specialize in a variety of areas including; digital and print design, identity and branding, web design and development, photography, and many more just to mention a few. But, many know me for my digital manipulation skills that I have been able to showcase all around the web.
CS: A lot of people know you from your image manipulation skills that show you alongside celebrities like Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, and Kim Kardashian West, when did you first start practicing visual art and incorporating image manipulation?
DZ: Visual art is an art form that actually grew from my skills of being able to retouch images as a photographer. This is something I have always been doing only in my client work but not personal. It’s only since Instagram was created, I thought, how can I post up interesting pictures which aren’t just your ordinary images that you find across the whole of Instagram like selfies, food, peoples’ daily activates, families, friends, etc. That’s where the idea of creating manipulations for Instagram came to light and ever since then that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve always wanted to show people how I can bring both design & photography together and that was the way.
CS: You’re probably used to it by now, but how do you feel when your work goes viral?
DZ: Every time my work goes viral, it’s a very overwhelming feeling because it only goes to show that, not only my work is being noticed but also, that the talent or what I can do is being brought to light and people appreciate it – and with that comes a lot of supporters who keep me going. This is the best thing that can happen to any artist or anyone with something to show, recognition from others.
CS: So on your social media, (Instagram especially) you share a lot of your work but you also share in-depth pieces of wisdom with your followers about various topics like friendship, suicide, and your beliefs. Was there a particular experience or a myriad of experiences that inspired you to start doing that?
DZ: I love to have this connection with those that follow me by showing them a different side to me; which is more of an insight of who I am as a person away from my artwork, what I believe in, stand for, my mind or serious thoughts. For example, my views on real life events or problems that occur around the world and what not. Some of these things that I bring to my Instagram are mostly conversations that would have sparked between my friends and me. They aren’t particularly an experience but some times I like to put the jokes aside and give people an awareness of what they might or might not be blind to.
CS: You have worked as a graphic designer for eight years, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned during your time as a graphic designer and visual artist?
DZ: The only big lesson I’ve learnt and that I’m still learning is the business side of everything. Every talent starts off as a passion, the more you practice it, the more you get better and eventually it grows into a service for others. Along with that comes business, and believe me, business is one thing that one can never stop learning.
CS: On your Snapchat, you’ve been known to share photoshop tutorials…very cool concept. Any chance of creating a YouTube tutorial series soon?
DZ: Hopefully this is something I will be able to do in 2016.
CS: Referencing your Snapchat once again, what does #LetsGetThisWorkB mean? You say that often, what do you want people to take from that?
DZ: Oh wow, I actually did not expect this question. I basically have a lot of sayings on Snapchat and #LetsGetThisWorkB is one of them. In fact, one that I actually use a lot. I’m sure you know on Snapchat my work ethic is impeccable? I have a lot of people on Snapchat that look up to me and always say that they want to be like me when they grow up. One thing I want to do is motivate every one and send the message out that behind everything that I do or where I am in life, is because of hard work. So every time when I put up the hashtag #LetsGetThisWorkB on Snapchat, it’s a message to anyone who sees it and thinks “oh wow, if David is working right now, let me work too.” I have been through a phase where the people around me are working when I’ve been feeling lazy and believe me, the more someone has challenged me works. It is a step closer to your dreams. If I didn’t do what I did or put in the work that I have been putting in the last two years, this interview on me would be non-existent. Every interview I do comes with hard work and trust me, there are people that will do anything to get opportunities like this but again, it only comes with hard work. I want to be the reason why somebody never gave up on their passion. I want to be the reason why they got up and made it work.
I have always believed that artists are the ones who shape society.
A piece of art, whether it be in the form of a photograph, drawing, screenplay, music can be perceived in any way that the viewer chooses to take it…almost like a visual message, each piece has something to give.
CS: What is one thing you struggle with most as an artist?
DZ: The only thing an artist can struggle with which can hit you unexpectedly is what we call designers block. Pretty much where I cannot generate any ideas. Kind of like how writers and authors get writer’s block but, in my case it’s called designers block. The only way to get rid of it is to come away from my creative space and do things such as reading a book, going for a walk, watching TV or a film, anything that isn’t design related.
CS: How does your Zimbabwean background influence your work and work ethic? Do you visit often? Does it inspire you? If so, how?
DZ: It is not just me being a Zimbabwean, but more of me being from Africa that influences my work and work ethic. It is practically who I am as a person and where I am from but, the only difference is that I was raised in a foreign land but with an African upbringing from my parents and family. It is whom I represent without even saying a word. I am inspired by the strength of the people of not just Zimbabwe, but everywhere. I am most importantly inspired by their pride and inherent power. I have been to Zimbabwe three times in the past seventeen years, my last trip being of summer 2015 where I was there for nearly a month.
CS: Where does the magic happen? Where do you create your work, art studio? Living room?
DZ: Good question. People think I use fancy lights, equipment, or a studio but the truth is, what I use is far from that. When I started creating manipulations for Instagram I was living in a student accommodation in Manchester. In fact, living in student halls where I had a little room for three years. I have done some live manipulation tutorials on my Snapchat that showed this room. I have moved away from there now after completing my studies. All I have ever needed was a wall, preferably blank, a camera with a tripod, and my laptop or computer with Photoshop installed for my editing. A lot of my manipulations have always required me to cut myself from any background. I photograph myself so any where I took pictures of myself have never really mattered. In most cases, I have traveled just to use scenery to achieve certain concepts, such as concepts that require me to be on the street, a field, or this one time I literally had to be underwater.
CS: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
DZ: Just to expand from the last question and to elaborate a bit more, I never run out of ideas. Each manipulation or piece of work has to start with an idea in my head. That idea has to be well thought before it is done, firstly to see if it can be done and if there will be any other resources like chairs or garments, that I will need to execute.
CS: Besides creating, what else are you passionate about?
DZ: To be honest, the only thing I am passionate about is learning and I get that from reading. I love reading books that are thought-provoking, inspiring, or give me a positive perspective on life. I have learned that my strength comes from reading books. besides The Bible gives me strength and motivates me. I read books based on entrepreneurship, how the brain works, how to use your talent, psychology books, and so much more. Bill Gates once said “Every now and then I like to pick up a copy of Time magazine and read every article from beginning to end, not just the articles that interest me most, that way you can be certain to learn something you didn’t know previously.”
CS: What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a piece of work?
DZ: The only strange thing I can think of is when I was on the bus on my way from University going home and a transgender walked on the bus and sat next to me. The whole journey it was on my mind to think if it was digitally possible to change myself from a man to a woman in Photoshop. This is was a digital experiment, which I did achieve but, at the same time it was almost a challenge because it was something I have never done before.
CS: Are there any under-appreciated artists, galleries, or works that you think people should know about?
DZ: This is one I could never answer, I think all artists who produce great work should be appreciated. For me, as an artist myself, appreciation is something that I can honestly say I strive for. That is how one progresses and gets better; by giving more and more, because at the same time it is a talent that is forever growing within someone.
CS: What role do you believe the artist plays in society?
DZ: I have always believed that artists are the ones who shape society. A piece of art, whether it be in the form of a photograph, drawing, screenplay, music can be perceived in any way that the viewer chooses to take it…almost like a visual message, each piece has something to give. As you are familiar with my pieces based on suicide, with me knowing I have a large following, I have touched people or stopped people who have contemplated suicide. This goes to show how my work can speak to people.
CS: What do you need as an artist?
DZ: In my line of work, all I have ever needed as designer and digital artist is my computer, my camera, and the necessary software needed for all the skills that I have acquired which at the moment is the whole Adobe Creative Suites which comes with Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Dreamweaver, Indesign, etc.
Most exciting moment? The day I graduated with a first class honors in graphic design. I just want to make my family proud.
My favorite artist is: This is actually a good question because I do not have a favorite artist, but I am influenced by many artists whether it be actors, singers, or writers. One digital artist I have always been amazed by when it comes to creating manipulations is Michael O.
One book I would recommend to any rising artist: Make Your Brain Work by Amy Brann.