For a project like this to succeed, you need to have someone who is both gifted and experienced at the art of visual storytelling. And Tony Di Zinno is our man!
I first met Tony in the Black Hills of South Dakota, shooting photos and film for a three-day musical and cultural gathering of the Lakota Sioux and other Native people. As we maneuvered on the edges of both stage and meeting grounds, seeking the perfect angles from which to tell the story of this event, Tony’s mastery of the lens was obvious. And the respect he conveyed as a guest in this special place was evident in everything he said and did.
Tony’s career has been one of telling beautiful stories of endurance and fortitude, environmental activism, and social justice. Tony got his start working for a Rolling Stone photographer, then broke out on his own shooting portraits and action shots of iconic sports figures for Adidas, Nike and The North Face. He moved on to photographing and filming extreme motorsports and human-powered racing events across the globe, and eventually landed in Afghanistan working with Mountain2Mountain – a project that operates in conflict zones to create education and opportunity for women and girls to be agents of change within their own communities.
“I’ve never tolerated bullies of any kind since I was a kid,” says Tony, speaking of the social issues he’s embraced. “This really hasn’t changed as I’ve grown up. In fact, it’s only become a deeper conviction.”
Tony currently works with the Endangered Activism project, which is focused on engaging youth culture and reconnecting young people with the natural world through uniquely modern visual storytelling.
One of the things I admire most about Tony is his mantra of preparation. “It’s only the best prepared who are ready for when the most fleeting, ephemeral and sublime moments present themselves,” he says. There may be no better example of this mantra in practice than a recent trip to Botswana, where Tony captured on film a leopard hunting and striking its prey. It was such a rare moment that even the guide he was working with couldn’t believe they saw it happen. (Be forewarned: the following video captures a moment of Nature that is truly red in tooth and claw.)
“When something happens so quickly and there is no warning, the reward only goes to those who have prepared for success in anticipation of these possibilities,” says Tony. It’s exactly this level of preparation and discipline that we’ll need to film the bees in Grand Staircase-Escalante. We may only get one chance to capture any given moment of their exquisite little lives.
Tony’s thoughtful way of being in the world and his vast experience have helped this project become what it is today. Telling the story of the monument bees has not been an easy one; it started out as a print story and tripped plenty of times in the pursuit of publication – including having different media outlets show interest in the story and then back away. When I was at one of my lowest moments in the journey, it was Tony who asked, “Have you ever considered making a documentary to reach even more people than any single article could?”
I had not, of course. So I responded, “Have you ever considered working on a documentary about bees in one of the most beautiful places on Earth?”
Fortunately for all of us, Tony didn’t just recognize the opportunity for making this story even more impactful; he was also game to take it on.
You can read more about Tony on our Team page.