Zakaría Gharrafi

Kicking off the Brazen Yearbook series is Zakaría (Zico) Gharrafi, a 20-year-old rising junior at Columbia University. Zico is an emerging, independent photographer majoring in Environmental Engineering. In addition to photographing himself and nature, Zico hosted a photoshoot with his club, uniquely branded as “RXLL C4LL.”  This club is deliberately crafted to be freeform and lacks set, rigorous rules of how it’s going to run. The amorphous nature of the club allows for endless possibilities and this is how Zico expresses himself through his art: he is unconventional, unrestricted, and unbounded. He embraces the true nature of what Brazen represents and I was lucky to speak with him to discuss himself as an artist and his craft. Here’s a peek into our conversation…

What is the name of your art, your creation, etc. and what exactly is it?

There is no name. It’s just independent “me” photography. 

What was the intention or inspiration for starting your photography?

I took a photography class my senior year of high school and I have a couple of photographers either in the family or like close family friends and they would always talk to me about photography. Then I got my own camera for my 18th birthday and I just started taking lots of flicks of all my homies. I’ve also always loved nature and so I thought it would be a cool way to capture that using my own eyes. But then it expanded to me using people as models or myself. 

Did you have any struggles, doubts, obstacles in your photography journey so far?

Not really, just cause it is so self-administered and not serious. When I get the urge and the feeling to, I just take photos. Then I’d share them without really worrying about what it means to share them or who’s going to be seeing them. It’s more just cause I just like them, so I like to see if other people can find some enjoyment in the photos that I’m sharing. 

So is there an intended audience or is it mainly for you and your enjoyment?

Yeah, it’s really just for me cause I like to do it and then I share it. Then other people who like it end up sharing it or talking to me about it. My purpose in doing photography isn’t for other people. Even with RXLL C4LL, it was all just about getting a bunch of people together to create something. And we started out with no plan, it wasn’t even a photoshoot. I was just like “Y’all are all cool, interesting people. Let’s make something happen.” The photoshoot is what came out of it. It’s more so about the act of creating and doing it than about what happens after.

And hopefully people can learn from that because they can see that you can just do what you love to do and good could come out of it without trying so hard to please other people.

Yeah. The best art comes from when you just like to do it. Take everyone else out of it, get in your own zone. It’s for you and what you like. That’s my recommendation to the Brazen audience.

Where do you envision this going in the future? Even if it’s RXLL C4LL specifically and growing that or anything else in general?

RXLL C4LL is an idea that I’d like to carry on for a long time from now. Even if it’s just testing the idea out at school, no matter where I go or what community I find myself in, being able to make a community of people that just are creative but don’t necessarily have their own personal drive or time or other people to collaborate with. Cause a lot of people don’t have a space to talk about what they’re interested in or the necessary tools or materials. So basically for me, I just like to consider myself like the spark and they’re all like the different logs and twigs and various stuff to make the fire. I’m just the one to be like, “Let’s get together and do this sh*t. Let’s make something happen.” 

What makes you, as a creator, Brazen?

I would say I embody Brazen [a sort of boldness and shamelessness] because everything that I’m doing, especially artistically, is just because I just put out what I like and I make things happen when I like it- and I like to make things happen a lot. I like to talk to people and I like to collaborate and I didn’t know what was going to come of it [RXLL C4LL]  but I knew something cool was going to come of it. Also, we know that the systems that are in place are either flawed, outdated, or unnecessary; so that’s even on the bounds of art. Just do whatever you want. Just figure it out. Learn new things. Start things. That’s how great things happen. Just do it yourself and don’t worry about what you’re supposed to do. What you’re supposed to do is not usually what you should do or is not what’s going to help anything. Cause if it’s what you should do, that means someone else has already done it. So there’s no point. 

Interview written and conducted by Nicolette Auld-Griffith

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