Zach Begler takes “A Lens to the Streets”

Helena photographer takes a guerrilla-style approach to his work in Holter exhibit

Art Beat
Zach Begler: San Francisco Homelessness
Zach Begler traveled across the West for his series, “A Lens to the Streets.”Photo © Zach Begler

Over the course of three-and-a-half months, Helena photographer Zachary Begler traveled up and down the West Coast. His journey took him to Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland to photograph homeless men and women. He took photographs, wrote short sentences or small quotes based on their conversations, and slept in his car at night.

The result isA Lens to the Streets,” composed of more than 50 film-based photographs on display through April 12 at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena.

“I take a guerrilla-style approach to documentary photography in the tradition of the concerned photographers who become personally involved with their subjects,” he writes. “I walk the neighborhoods that most people drive through with their doors locked and their windows closed, observe alcohol and crack-cocaine abuse, and witness the lives of individuals who are often treated as sub-human.”

“Their stories and faces are diverse, as evidenced in the images. Their facial expressions and body language are immensely candid, as if I were just taking photos of family members or friends, which is actually what a lot of them turned out to be.

“This project is about showing empathy and respect, but most of all, how truly easy it is to become someone’s friend.”

Begler grew up in Helena and began taking photographs during his junior year of high school on a digital Nikon camera. During his senior year, he took photography classes and was introduced to film. “I fell in love.” He studied photography at Montana State University before embarking on his road trip.

Ziegler shot the images that appear in this exhibit on film, primarily black and white, and occasionally color. He believes film facilitates human connection with his subject and cultivates patience.

“I trust the aesthetic of my final exhibition prints and printed book will convey this deeply emotional and socially relevant content.” Learn more about the artist at