Meet Mr. Bernard Brand. Bernard has been interning with me since June and he has proven himself to be an invaluable asset around here. I’m sharing his story of how he got this internship to illustrate a point; being genuine and persistent opens doors. Okay, that’s two points. Bernard is from Pretoria, South Africa and this trip to the States is his first time leaving his home country. Working a day job back in South Africa was taking a toll on Bernard and being a single young man he decided to take a leap of faith and write to me to see if he could intern here. He wrote a letter, included some photos, and mailed it off.

Then silence.

He never heard from me.

Because his letter never arrived.

So Bernard kept on living his life and doing his thing but he still wanted to pack his bags and do something.

So Bernard wrote another letter.

And added more photos.

And wrapped it up in cardboard.

And it arrived.




What impressed me was 1) It’s rare to get a handwritten letter these days and 2) It’s rare to see such clean penmanship. His letter was a simple two page affair that got to the point. His photography is really solid. I showed it to Meg and she immediately said, “Yes. He has to come here. This is a good guy.” Meg’s initial reaction to people is always right so I emailed Bernard and told him to pack his bags. I wasn’t sure what I’d have Bernard doing on a day to day basis, but I told him that he had a place to sleep and we’d keep him well fed. I have definitely kept up that side of the deal! Bernard packed his bags, bought a ticket, and that’s that. Or maybe he bought a ticket and packed his bags. That makes more sense.

What has he done thus far? Bernard wasn’t here for 24 hours and he was already getting his chops busted by Alton Brown.



Our next job was in Las Vegas to photograph promotional portraits of the Property Brothers. Here Bernard is standing in for one of the brothers as the video crew lit their set.



The true test of whether Bernard was going to make it as an intern or not was our family vacation. Meg, myself, our four boys, and Bernard took a 17 day road trip from San Francisco to Seattle to Portland. 17 days in a rental car with our four boys was going to either kill him or make him stronger.




He survived the trip. I don’t know how much I’m going to teach him so I figure I better introduce him to some real photographers while he’s here. So far he’s had lunch with Vincent Laforet and we had burgers and went for ice cream with John Keatley and his lovely family. We also had some amazing food with Chris Hurtt and his family. Bernard and Sara Lando also had many a conversation about life and work and I’m sure that was far more than I’ve taught him so far. Sara kicked my ass BTW about all sorts of stuff. I’m still trying to unpack the week we had with her. We also had Nashville based photographer and friend, David Bean, and his family over for dinner. We’ve had a lot of meals with a lot of photographers. It’s been a pretty damn awesome summer thus far.




(John looks tired because he was. He had *just* wrapped the new video with Fences and Macklemore. No matter how much I tried to talk him out of it he and his wife, Nichelle, insisted we come over for a backyard cookout. Yes. I know. We are some lucky sumsabitches.)

Bernard sent a letter. Then silence. So he sent another letter. He was persistent without being a stalker. He made something personal and wrapped it in cardboard and masking tape. Nothing fancy. Nothing over the top. Just a simple and genuine and personal little envelope of stuff and without so much as a Skype conversation we told him to pack his bags and c’mon over. Now Bernard is like our fifth son; we love him dearly. Bernard is here through PhotoPlus in NYC so if you are going to be there be sure to find Bernard and tell him how much you love his Australian accent because South Africans love that. You can also keep up with his adventures on his blog, “Only in America.


Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 3.36.37 PM


Taking on an intern is stressful thing for me. Taking on an intern is a big responsibility and you have to be prepared for it. Every intern I’ve ever had moved to Atlanta for the internship so questions of housing, transportation, money, and entertainment pile on top of the hope that you have something to give of value to the person working with you. Bernard is already a solid photographer. I have zero to teach him about f-stops and shutter speeds and lens choices and all that. Why is he here? Why me? I already know how helpful he is to me in day to day stuff around the studio. But am I helping him? It’s my responsibility to have him head home this November with something that made his time worthwhile here. If you ever take on an intern know that they have to get more out of the deal than you do.

So. Good on Bernard for being persistent and patient and having good hand writing. Now it’s on me to serve him well so his persistence paid off.

Thanks for being persistent Bernard. I hope you are getting something out of this. Let’s see how we do in our upcoming competition. 🙂



Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

View All Posts
Share on Pinterest

Leave a Reply


  1. Rachel

    What a great story. He was persistent and it’s paying off! Definitely a guy to admire – packing up his life and moving across the globe to follow his dreams! Gotta respect that!

    Love his image of you on his blog! Will be following him on “Only in America’!

  2. Dallas

    Awesome. Because you rock and because us South Africans love to rock with you too. And yes, don’t ever tell us we sound like Aussies. 😉

  3. adam

    how did you handle the issue of health insurance? did it come out of your pocket or did bernard buy insurance before leaving south africa?

    • Bernard

      Hey Adam

      I can answer that for you. I let my health insurance back home know that I would be traveling abroad before I left and they seemed fine with it.

      Take care

  4. adam

    just check out his website. really nice stuff, especially the dudes with beards project. i wish i had thought of that.

  5. Kinan

    Good got you Bernard! And good on you Zack! You have a lot to teach Bernard trust me. It isn’t all about f stops and lenses. When I assisted you for the few days at GPP I learned plenty of intangible things not related to technicalities of photography at all. Inspiration, opportunity, and compassion are some of the greatest things one can offer to anyone else. For all you know you’ve now opened a new world for him and given him the exact break he needed. Companionship is the greatest school. Awesome stuff!

    • Bernard

      Amen Kinan

      It’s so much more than the technicalities behind using the camera. It’s great to learn those things, but I am learning way more than that. Your words sum it up pretty nicely – “Inspiration, opportunity, and compassion are some of the greatest things one can offer to anyone else”.

      Thanks for reading

  6. Jaco Smit

    Thanks for taking real good care of our friend! We can’t wait to have him back, but for now we’re pretty stoked his trip got extended!

    You’ve got a rad family! It’s really neat of you to share his story and I like your view on interning, he will never be the same!

    Have fun with the competition

  7. Graham

    Go Bernard!

    Flying the South African flag high in the good ol’ US of A!

    And Zack……..Australian accent………..not cool! 🙂

  8. Ivana

    Hi Zack / Megan

    Just want to say (again) thank you so much for being such good and kind friends to Bernard and taking him into your home and treating him as one of your own. This really means a lot to me, as a mom, as he is so far away from home. Hopefully you will come to SA somewhere in the future and we can pay you back some of the hospitality you showed to Bernard.

    • Zack

      Thanks for trusting us with him! He’s a great person. You should be very proud of him.


  9. Andrew Hollister

    I’ve met a few interns in my day, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Bernard, on two occasions. This young man doesn’t move like an intern, he moves thru your space like a seasoned pro. He engages people with confidence. I would never have thought him your intern.

    Bernard, you’re going to do very well in this world.

    Dinner and drinks on me before you leave town, if you all can make it the 3 miles down the road to my place.

    • Bernard

      Andrew; WOW!

      Thank you for the vote of confidence and the kind words. Now I’ve gotta work to live up to them 🙂 I like that idea, just let us know when.

  10. Kevin

    Even though he doesn’t eat sushi, this guy is top notch in my book. Australian accent and all. 😉


  11. Richard Wintle

    Great story, thanks to you both (Zack, Bernard) for sharing. Good inspiration for anyone, particular those in their late 20’s who are looking to kick-start their careers. Write a letter, get on a plane, kick butt. 😀

  12. Ed Castillo

    Awesome story! You’re a good man Zack!

  13. delboy

    Great story, well done Bernard & of course the Arias family!

  14. Donna Luker

    What a wonderful experience. For Bernard, Zack & the entire family!

    Bernard: OMGGG! You will LOVE New York! It’s so full of energy & is a photographer’s dream.

    Meg: OD on testosterone much? 😉

  15. Peter Ort

    I am really jealous of Bernard right now. I’ve often thought about trying to do an internship with an established photographer as there’s so much I’d be able to learn. Alas, my debt and lack of savings keeps me from pursuing it as I can’t afford to make any less money than I do now at my day job.

  16. Carlos Sandoval

    Bernard. Keep rocking! Thanx again to Zack for getting us acquainted with great talent and real people. Any time you need a place to crash in México, let me know. Keep cool!

  17. John Wangelin

    Very good experience for Bernard congratulations. I can imagine the family road trip was quite the test. Good luck in your journeys Bernard I think you took a great step coming to work with Zack.

  18. Bernard

    I’d just like to thank everyone for their comments and kind words and those who took the time to go check out my work.

    Thank you so very much!

  19. Iain

    Hey Zack,

    Kinan did sum it up pretty well here. There’s a lot to be gained by Bernard just by being around you. When I was an apprentice the best advice I was given from one tradesman “Learn from me. Then learn from the other tradesman. None of us have the right answer. Just soak it all up & then find your way.”

    Yourself, Meg & the boys have given Bernard a gift he will carry with him for life.

    High five!

  20. Nick

    Good to see the gamble is paying off for him and he’s getting value from it.

  21. Bob Hayes


    As I found myself coming back to your blog today, I asked myself, “why am I drawn to this site so much?”

    On one hand, I think there is a kindred spirit thing going on – you are in touch with that inner voice that some of us have that is always questioning our authenticity, our ability, our existence. It is this voice that makes some of us great, and it is this voice that has some of us on medication (at best). It may be arrogant on my part to claim a kindred existence with you – but what makes the connection – what makes me keep coming back is that you seem to have these demons somewhat under control, harnessed them, maybe. You seem to have them in that place that calls you higher, rather than the other way around.

    And then there is that honesty you have, a certain integrity, that speaks to the good in some of us.

    I greatly respect your integrity towards your intern, for example. Not many people get that anymore. That the intern is there to learn from you, to grow with you, to come away richer for having been with you. Many people see interns as free labor at best. Yet, reading this post, I clearly see the burden of responsibility you feel.

    Thank you for sharing that with us.

    Thanks for the insights into your personal battles, which give us hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train. And then there is Meg. Talk about value-added content!

    I keep coming back because I find inspiration in what you are building. When I am questioning my own artistic integrity, I can come here and read about how others have persevered. There is much value in that. There is good signal amid the noise.

    Thank you. Keep up the good work.

    • Zack

      Thanks Bob. I hope to always be an inspiration. Like… “Wow. Zack’s an idiot. If he can do it I can do it.” sort of inspiration. 🙂

      Glad you are here!


  22. Jurie van Dyk

    Hi Zack,

    I thought I was your biggest fan and follower in South Africa.Thanks for all the great content, your 5K challenge changed my photographic life, I spend my money on lighting and studio equipment and I’m still rocking it with my 5D mark one. BTW what happened to Right Hand Dan?

    It is an amazing time where you can have apprentices learning from you in different countries and have never met or even heard of them.

    All the best with your endeavours.

    Best Wishes from Jeffreys Bay South Africa
    Jurie van Dyk

    • Zack

      Right hand Dan is back in school for copy writing and art direction. I’ll be working for him pretty soon!


  23. Jeff Wade

    Wow, Zack… actually thinking of, and seriously believing and accepting responsibility for, ensuring he takes away an experience that will help him grow significantly. It’s nice to know there are people like you out there, and you’re an inspiration. Thank you.

  24. Jeff Wade

    …oh, BTW…. checked out Bernard’s Only In America site… I dig your portrait in Dudes With Beards! 🙂

  25. Kari

    Sadly i write like an 8 year old. For some reason I went from drawing like an artist to drawing like an 8 year old through the years.

    Im not gona lie but I would love to be an intern to someone, but what holds me back is: fear, depression, insecurity, my work is crap despite photographing since 2008. I know the exposure triangle but understanding light/recognizing good light is a different matter.

    And in my country (Iceland) your not allowed to work as a pro without university education(nor make money from photography).
    I could go on and on, but if I will ever improve to a level like you, jared polin, chase jarvis, kelby and hurley Id be satisfied despite not being a pro in Iceland.

    Im not in it for money(not that i could make any due to the laws), im in it to try to make myself happy. So far im never happy with my shots.