Portrait photography: Zea Stallings, Denver folk musician

Zea & the Copper Children album art

Zea & the Copper Children album art

Zea Stallings is a picture-book folk singer: curly hair, a slow stride and an ardent gaze. When the 20-year-old speaks, he spills abstract, grandiose ideals that might cause the more cynical among us to smirk.

"I don't want to be tied to a label, you know? I don't want to identify as folk, or soul, or anything. I just want to make music."

But by far, the most striking thing about Zea is his voice. This voice can silence a buzzing room of people who don't even know his name. It skips across stanzas and darts through heavy subject matter without trivialising the stories he weaves. And what stories they are: Zea's idealism complements his musical mastery to great effect, and it's easy to forget he's still too young to drink in some parts of the world. 

I met Zea through another stellar singer-songwriter, Colleen Evalyn, and despite my preference for electronic music - I've recently started DJing - I was immediately taken with his live performance. I knew I had to photograph him, so we put our heads together and created a shoot in corners of the Denver CBD that lent the shoot a country town feel. Can you believe these were all shot in the middle of a busy city the size of Melbourne?

Chuck him a listen and tell me you're not impressed. I hope you enjoy the images while you're at it.

Chanelle x

Photography and post-processing: Chanelle Leslie, on Ilford XP2 35mm film as well as digital.

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