“I was working too much, I thought I’d had a stroke,” he says. “They found a mass between my left lung and my heart.”
His first thought turned to work. Second thought to his hair. Third thought about the six months of treatment, including a biopsy and chemotherapy, that lay ahead.
“I chose to do in-hospital treatments,” he says. “You don’t sleep, TV gets boring, lots of white rooms, you start to think about death. If you don’t think you’re gonna make it, you’re not gonna make it. I will say Instagram helped, though.”
What followed was six months of tracking the latest photography and fashion trends from the (dis)comfort of a hospital bed on the relatively new (at the time) photography-based social media app. Hours in the bed viewing a heavily cultivated Instagram feed translated to a newfound skill behind the lens.
“At one point, I was organizing my hard drives, planning a last will, and picking my funeral song,” he says. That song, Erykah Badu’s “Telephone,” wouldn’t play for Ziggy that year. At least, not in that context. Four years later and well into remission, Mack has no regrets. “I still tell people that cancer’s the best thing that ever happened to me because it forced me to slow down,” he says.
Slowing down led Mack to discover his two favorite subjects: dancers and mermaids. Seeking out and capturing peak moments in movement of the human body and crafting depictions of deep water in art of often seen to symbolize life, death and rebirth gave a whole new meaning to Mack’s photography.
His underwater work, shot with an iPhone at first, eventually necessitated a full-size camera rig. “At first, I was just looking for anything I could shoot underwater,” he says. “And then I find out one of my coworkers performs as a mermaid. Next thing I know, I find myself at a mermaid festival in North Carolina.”
Being a budding underwater portrait photographer living in a landlocked area next to the muddiest river this side of Texas has its challenges.
“For the most part, I have to travel,” he says. “I’ve been to Ireland, Scotland, Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa, Mexico, and a few other places. My favorite, culture-wise, has been Johannesburg.”
Additional work from Ziggy Mack can be seen at fomoloop.com.
In a word: Fluid
Mermaids are real for Ziggy Mack.
His ethereal, dreamlike photography style focused on the human body and movement wasn’t developed overnight. Mack got his start shooting photos at nightclubs across the Bluff City before being diagnosed with lymphoma. He was 27 at the time. “The artist year,” as he calls it. It all began with a sharp pain in his left arm.