Venice photographer David Zentz’s clever art book documents the Hitchcockian arrival of Bird scooters
By Joe Piasecki
Capturing the unique character and energy of people and places is how David Zentz makes a living, but in his latest project the Venice photographer manifests the lifelike qualities — sometimes graceful, sometimes comical, sometimes creepy — of the increasingly ubiquitous electric scooters just outside his doorstep.
It all started in late January or early February, when Zentz skated past a solitary Bird scooter parked at the edge of the bike path.
“Something about it made me think it looked like an animal, like it was sitting there watching the sunset,” Zentz recalls of the inspiration for “The Birds,” his new photo book satirically juxtaposing the arrival of Bird scooters in Venice and Santa Monica with dialogue from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller “The Birds.”
“I didn’t have a camera on me at the time, but I thought it would be a cool series to shoot them isolated, with no one on them, because that’s how everyone first noticed them — these random objects just parked throughout the community all of a sudden, and in certain light they kind of feel like living things,” he says. “They were growing in number so much that it was kind of like they were taking over, and later it just dawned on me that this is the plot of ‘The Birds’ … a bunch of crazy birds taking over a California beach town.”
Case in point: “I saw an article out of Boston a couple months ago that was like ‘Could they come here? Are we next?’ [laughs], so it is like something out of a horror film — this thing spreading across the country,” he says.
Zentz wrapped up shooting in June, launched a successful Kickstarter for his 100-page photobook in July, and plans to start selling copies through his website (thebirdsthebook.com) later this month. Amid the growing controversy surrounding grab-and-go scooters, he wants the work to stand as a photographic documentary of how the scooter phenomenon began — wherever government regulations and public sentiment take the issue from here.
“I tried to withhold judgment. I wasn’t just trying to shoot them in crazy situations — knocked over, in piles, or destroyed. … Especially in this community, I thought this form of transportation is a great idea, but I also saw that it was incredibly problematic,” he says. “Now that they’re everywhere, I’d probably prefer to see less of them, but I do still think this can be a good form of transportation.”
Despite the increasingly vocalized frustrations of scooter critics, Zentz says reactions to his project have so far been generally positive — or at least not angry.
“People either don’t get it, or they love it. I’ve even had Bird employees buy copies,” he says. “I’m glad they don’t see it as mean-spirited. I’m just trying to show it how it is.”