Thankful: Positivity Through the Lens of Photographer Zusha Goldin

Upon speaking with premium headshot and portrait photographer Zusha Goldin, one thing becomes clear: although he is only 23 years old, the LA-based lensman exhibits a passion and talent for his art, rivaling that of photographers with careers spanning decades. Still, Goldin is much more than just the photos he snaps. In his interview with PositiveVibes Magazine (PVM), the young photographer gave us a full picture of who he really is. At the heart of his person is someone positive despite professional setbacks and mental health struggles — someone who is grateful for the beauty of photography and, overall, someone who is thankful for the abundant opportunities life has given him.

A Snapshot of Goldin’s Childhood

Goldin was born the youngest of ten to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. He recalls that, since his family lived in a tiny three-bedroom apartment, their home sometimes lacked a sense of privacy. However, Goldin does not consider this circumstance a negative. Rather, the close quarters resulted in a close-knit bond between the family members that Goldin genuinely appreciates. He believes his familial relationships molded him into the person he is today; he is happy with that person and makes conscious efforts to better himself where he can. And, after all, it was in this home that Goldin began his photography career around six years old. Although he was too young to fully grasp the storytelling aspect of photography at the time, even an amateur Goldin was dedicated to preserving moments in a still shot, portraying and evoking real emotions, and creating eye-catching compositions.

Indeed, Goldin is one among many ambitious family members with creative or unique professions. He shares that his great aunt founded the National Ballet of Canada, while a great uncle owned the largest hairdressing school in Europe. In his immediate family, as they grew older, some of Goldin’s siblings became cosmetologists and makeup artists, while others chose careers in religion, real estate, and hospitality. As he neared the end of high school, Goldin was dealing with a choice between such artistic and so-called “practical” pursuits, as well as a choice between attending college or learning a trade.

From Sibling to Celebrity Portraits

Of course, Goldin would ultimately decide to become a professional photographer and move to Los Angeles in 2020. Before he could earn that title or pack his bags, though, he had to prove his credibility, develop his craft, and construct a portfolio that best illustrated his abilities. In the beginning, the photographer had frequently used his siblings as subjects for his portraits. Eventually, he began photographing events around New York, such as bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, and engagement parties. Goldin explains that, while he is an extroverted individual and thus enjoyed shooting these social events, they did not allow him much creative control. So, he returned to portraits, this time seeking out celebrities, social media personalities, and other talent. Goldin jokes that portraits and headshots allow him to engage much more in storytelling by collaborating with his subjects instead of just “capturing people eating mid-bite!”

As one might expect, convincing people to let you photograph them can be intimidating when you are just starting your career. But Goldin was all ingenious, courageous, and persistent in his search for notable subjects during the first two years of his professional career. For instance, he decided to direct message actors from his favorite movies and TV shows to ask if they were interested in working with him. Goldin describes his approach to building his portfolio as making use of the “word-of-mouth market,” always “cold pitching but leading with value.” This approach often meant non-stop networking to gather clients and doing free photoshoots to fill his portfolio.

Today, Goldin has been working as a professional photographer for approximately six years. Finally able to take hold of his creative autonomy, he is currently shooting headshots, portraits, and now editorial pieces in LA, working with celebrities like Selena Gomez and Patrick Stewart and social media sensations like sisters Charli and Dixie D’Amelio. His work has appeared in countless print and online publications, including Charli’s book Essentially Charli: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping It Real and Variety. “From a dopamine perspective and ego perspective,” Goldin admits, these accomplishments are “amazing.” Yet, he is more so proud that he has been able to devote himself to his work and thrilled that the public likes the resulting photos. Goldin intends to grow his business as much as possible; he expresses that he has had “so many blessings” and cannot wait to see what more blessings are to come.

Goldin Gets Candid about Mental Health

Later in our interview with Goldin, he offered his unfiltered thoughts on mental health. He let us know that things aren’t always picture-perfect. In his early years as a photographer, especially, Goldin faced a lot of rejection when reaching out to potential clients. Even as a more established photographer, he still considers himself a freelance artist who faces instability. Goldin specifically relates that the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown cost him an important photoshoot right when he moved to LA from Brooklyn. After that, he had no work for a year and a half. So, battling anxiety and depression, he essentially gave up. But when Goldin was ready to pick up the camera again, photography gave him something to hold on to. Music also helped, as the photographer reveals that sometimes he just needed to sit in his bathroom at 3 a.m. and sob while listening to Lana Del Rey. The beauty of photography is that it captures a moment in time and, in this way, is a form of presence. The beauty of music is that it focuses on feeling and an awareness of that feeling. And with both art forms, the audience is free and allowed their own interpretation. They are allowed their own healing. Thankfully, Goldin was allowed his own healing.

“Flash” Forward Five Years

Now, Goldin is hopeful about the future. Five years from now, he would love to have photographed icons like Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taylor Swift, and Lana Del Rey herself. Other magazines he would like to see his work featured in within the next few years include Vogue, Marie Claire, and GQ. In line with PVM’s aims, Goldin dreams of starting his own magazine one day to tell uplifting stories of those around the world who, like him, have not come from much or are in the midst of their personal journeys. As for his short-term goals, the photographer has some mental health projects in the works, and he plans to continue supporting up-and-coming photographers.

Goldin Says Shift Your Focus

To those who wish to become professional photographers, Goldin advises you to forget about spending thousands of dollars on equipment right now. He suggests you first focus on learning photography basics such as lighting using your smartphone and Internet resources such as YouTube. To those who wish to see some of Goldin’s work for themselves, PVM highly suggests visiting Goldin’s Instagram or checking out his website. And finally, to Zusha, PVM is incredibly thankful for your insight and to experience the positive impact of your photography.

Written by Kiersten Wright
Written by Kiersten Wright

Writer | Poet | Actor |

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