Local photographer’s ‘Back to Work’ series heads to the shore

Zave Smith

With the world around us changing rapidly almost every single day, it can be hard to channel any sense of normalcy. What does seem to be constant, however, is the fact that everyone has had to find a little strength to try and pick up the pieces and move on any way they can after an unprecedented pandemic. 

For one local photographer, Zave Smith, documenting that willpower to return to the “new normal” of life has become that life raft needed in a sea of uncertainty. 

Smith has been in the photography business in the City of Brotherly Love for many years, and was first seen in Metro for his initial “Back to Work” series earlier this summer. The series documented the first wave of workers in a variety of industries heading back out to the field wherever that might have been, in and around the city. Smith caught up with everyone from construction workers, security guards, restauranteurs and beyond to allow viewers to see first-hand what life looks like in the helm of COVID-19. Those who got to check out his initial series peered into snapshots of daily lives of some inhabitants in Media, Market West and East, plus around Philly and some other suburbs for the first time. 

Zave Smith

With Smith’s latest addition to his series however, he like many other Philadelphians travelled down to the shore to the popular coastal town of Wildwood to see what he could capture with his lens. At first, he was going to follow the same formula and grab some snapshots of those returning to work, but once there, Smith found that interesting shots were everywhere he turned even as soon as he set foot on the boardwalk. 

“I went down to Wildwood to shoot some additional images for my ‘Back to Work’ series, but while there I found the people on the boardwalk to be just as interesting as the people working in the shops and restaurants. So I broaden the scope of what I was shooting,” explains Smith. 

What Smith found was that a lot of people were eager to get back to work and play safely as if it was another regular summer in Wildwood, even with the craziness of the world today, there were some subjects that truly still captured the unique and happy-go-lucky spirit of the popular seasonal destination. 

“One shot that I find particularly fascinating is the shot of the man who works as a human target in the paintball shooting gallery. Between his expression, skin texture and the blues, greens and yellows of the dripping paint, I find this shot to be very compelling to look at,” says Smith. “I also really like the shot of the man on the back of the tram. His friendly wave and smile captures the Wildwood [spirit].” 

Zave Smith

Heading to Wildwood was an easy pick for the local photographer. The town, much like those who flock there, has always been filled with culture and spirit. 

“What I love about Wildwood is just how diverse and friendly it is. All these people from all of Philly and even the world are just hanging out and being themselves. It is really amazing,” says Smith. 

When asked about his initial series back in July, Smith had an interesting viewpoint as to why these photos really do speak volumes and make an impact. That sentiment certainly rings true for the latest shore-side addition to “Back to Work” as well. 

“What I’ve always been impressed about is how human beings, for the most part, are extremely resilient and we adapt. It’s not the strongest animal that survives, it’s the most adaptable, and humans have definitely been a very successful animal on this planet because we are really good at adapting,” Smith had said. “The other things I’ve always felt is the American system of government while with many, many problems tends to self-correct itself over the long term. We’ve made as a country a lot of really dumb decisions—our genius is we tend to correct ourselves eventually and overcome these things to become a better society and a better nation. So, I’m hoping people will get to take a look at this stuff and get a sense of the resiliency of people and of our country.”

Zave Smith

Smith’s series not only showcases the tenacity of the human spirit, but also brings a glimmer of hope that even if we are unsure, we are all still trying to live our lives to the fullest. 

Perhaps you could even be the latest edition to this poignant series. 

“If you are down the shore and a guy with a Zave Smith Photography cap on asks if he can photograph you, just say yes.” 

To learn more about Zave Smith, visit zavesmith.com

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