Beginnings by Dean Zulich


It’s never too late to start again.


The year was 1993 and I was 20, somewhere in the trenches near the Sarajevo airport in the middle of the conflict that eventually disintegrated the former Yugoslavia. I remember looking at the UN planes leaving the besieged city and wishing I could somehow become a bird and fly away from the horrible circumstances of civil war and begin again somewhere else.


Little did I know that it’s often enough to visualize yourself somewhere, and if you truly believe in that possibility, life will find a way to make that happen for you.


That is literally the only way I can explain the fact that after somehow surviving a devastating civil war in my native Bosnia, I was able to not only find a way out, but later also to find a dream career that enabled me to do what I love and travel the world along the way.


My first decade in the US during the mid-nineties was a fresh start, adjusting to the new culture while working odd jobs just to survive. Somewhere along the way, I was given an early point-and-shoot digital camera and that was the real new beginning. I was living in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest at the time, so it was easy to replace my fishing gear with camera gear and start capturing the timeless beauty of Evergreen State’s landscapes.



Next up was another one of the new beginnings — enrolling as a freshman in an art school as I was turning 30. The decision to go back to school was one of the better ones I made along the way. It was at the Art Institute where I learned about the technical part of the craft of photography. I was fortunate to win several awards that encouraged me along my path to becoming a successful professional photographer. Some of these early images still make up an important part of my portfolio.



If attending the school itself was not quite enough to launch my career to the next level, certainly being selected as a photography-related reality TV show contestant helped – yet another new beginning. Being thrown into a dozen real-world, high-end photography challenges, while being filmed 24/7 only a few months after graduation was a true baptism of fire. Having lived through a war, I’m not fazed by pressure and can survive on very little sleep. These experiences helped me survive the ordeal of reality TV and subsequently I passed with flying colors, and these images show it.



Although I didn’t win the contest, I realized that I belonged in the world of commercial photography and that knowledge in itself was invaluable.


My next challenge was trying to translate what I had learned, into getting actual paying clients. Luckily, my photos were speaking for themselves, and I caught the social media craze at the very beginning, which enabled me to welcome Nike, Playboy and other big names to my client list much sooner than expected.



The business was going well, but for me, it wasn’t enough. Ever-hungry for a new challenge, I left Seattle, moved to Los Angeles, and entered the world’s largest creative market. It took exactly 5 years from the moment the idea to relocate was conceived to the time I opened my studio in thriving downtown Los Angeles. I created some of my best personal work in that era.



The end of the last decade inspired me to go back to my roots, and seek beauty in travel, people, and landscapes once again. Commercial work had caused a little bit of fatigue in my creativity, so I bid farewell to the fast-paced urban scene and decided to focus more on my passion for location photography. Once again, the idea of the new beginning realized itself, as these images show.



We have not been kind to the planet for a long time, and it has been coming back to haunt us recently. I feel like we are at the beginning of a large and difficult transition period for mankind. That being said, I have been lucky enough to weather previous crises with aplomb, and this one is no different. To hear more of that story, stay tuned until my next feature on the Datacolor blog.


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  About the Author – Dean Zulich  

Dean Zulich is a native of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina residing in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle’s Commercial Photography Program with honors and Best Portfolio of Show Award in 2007. In addition to his success at the Vh1’s TV show The Shot, he is proud to be the Art Institutes Hall Of Fame Alumni.   Dean's partial client list Includes NIKE, UN, CBS, ESPN, Playboy, ConAgra Foods, USC etc.   His work has appeared in Marie Claire, Vogue, New York Times, Boston Globe, Seattle Magazine, Digital Photo Pro, Mix Magazine, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Fashion Magazine as well as international publications such as ReFoto, ProfiFoto etc.   When he is not on an assignment, Dean enjoys teaching and presenting in collaboration with his affiliates


Articles from Dean Zulich