She is a shutterbug of sui generis proportions, her immersive, intimate images reflecting not only the lives of those lost in love, but also the lands where their matrimonies are celebrated.
Zai De Guzman travels the world capturing couples in picturesque places where every hug, kiss, cuddle and crack-up pushes the paradigm of traditional wedding photography.
“I tell my brides that their photos are going to look dated someday, and to me, that’s a beautiful thing,” De Guzman says. “They’re not going to be classic. They’re not going to be timeless. They’re not going to be grip-and-grin. They’re going to be authentic.”
This month, she will jet off to meet Jose and Jamie in Costa Rica for an exotic elopement under a waterfall. She recently returned from Scotland where she shot Piotr and Cinthya tying the knot in a castle. In July, she will document an already married pair as they hike up a trail in Lake Tahoe, California, to re-exchange vows. Future destinations for De Guzman include Egypt, Israel and Turkey.
“I just tend to want to make people feel happy,” De Guzman says. “I say to them, ‘Don’t ever feel like you have to look at the camera. In fact, pretend there’s not a camera.’”
The 31-year-old Jensen Beach resident works her magic behind the lens of a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and uses Adobe Lightroom software to give her candids and stills an earthy tonality that is both romantic and rustic.
“I loved looking through my parents’ old photo albums,” says De Guzman, a former columnist for The Stuart News who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Florida International University. “I’ve probably looked through them 20 times, the same ones, over and over again. That is what inspired me.”
Of all your journeys, which destination stands out as a favorite?
Of the places where I have photographed weddings and elopements, the destination that stands out most is this last one in Scotland. It was in a castle on a cliff. The sceneries were unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was in complete awe. Of the places I’ve traveled to overall, my favorite destination has been Barcelona, Spain.
Name some bands on your playlist.
I kind of tend to listen to music that matches the country where I’m at. Lately I’ve been listening a ton to Sylvan Esso, Maggie Rogers and George Ezra.
What do you like most about living in Jensen Beach?
I love the small-town charm here. I love that I am a bike ride from the beach and that, wherever I go, people know each other’s names.
Where can we find you when you’re not traveling?
When I’m not traveling, I’m often just home and in my garden. I can travel anywhere in the world and still yearn to be back home.