Photographer by day...

   We all had that moment as kids; we were finally old enough to comprehend what we wanted to do with our lives and vaguely what it took to get there. It was that first true understanding of what these “Dreams” & “Goals” our teachers kept talking about. And in this moment, we are THE MOST motivated. Nothing would get in our way, no matter how hard, no matter who told us we would not be able to. Right then and there, our mind was (probably for the very first time) playing out a scenario that, maybe on some other timeline, wasn’t entirely impossible. 
I wanted to be a cardio thoracic surgeon. 
   I suppose my dreams were pretty farfetched for anyone, becoming a surgeon takes an insane amount of years just to complete education. That was everyone’s first thought when I would tell them that. I guess my first thought was always, I wanted to do something that I felt mattered. After quite a few surgeries myself, I suppose they mattered a bit differently than most people.  
   Life happens, plans change, and here I am standing in an operating room, not as the lead surgeon, but rather as the person helping these moments go down in history. Recording a moment that will forever be a pivotal moment in this child’s live; it felt like I was doing something that mattered. 
   I met with Dr. Vuthy Sar of the Neak Tep Clinic in Siem Reap, Cambodia where, little did I know, I would be given the opportunity that would undoubtedly change my life too. I was given scrubs and a few simple directions before we started operating on the first patient. The process felt eerily familiar to the posts from mothers I read on social media. I may not speak Khmer, but I could feel the mothers hesitation to hand her baby off in the arms of a man she only met a few hours prior. The tears came from the same place. The father’s grimace and firm stance (emotional in his own way) came to sound like the same story. It felt a bit like every story I had imagined in my head while being told them was happening in front of me. There are some other struggles in Cambodia that most won’t be able to empathize completely with, but I know if this woman had the ability to communicate with you all, she would have maybe had a little easier of a day. So keep it up, always. It matters. 
   I think maybe that is another reason I find this community to be so special. I love to read the comments of a new mothers post when she logs into a cleft support group of some kind. While every story is unique, everyone who has been through it feels this desire to be there for the next woman. It’s powerful and the definition of compassion. You inspire me. 


   I took this trip knowing that I would need help from my friends at Smile Train to connect me with the part of the community I would not be able to reach via the internet. Immediately Troy Reinhart (Vice President of Smile Train) got back to me with contacts and a few options he had come up with. After a few weeks of emails, I had come to the conclusion that I was to ditch the idea of Vietnam and head to Cambodia where they could help me maximize my experience. Without their determination to help, none of this would have been possible. 
Check out Smile Train here:
  A million thank you to my friends at Smile Train, Dr. Vuthy Sar, and all of the patients who left a mark on my heart during my week in Siem Reap. 

Fall In Love // Thailand 2017-2018

Here’s the thing about being a traveler; you get to fall in love with people, places, experiences, and moments over and over again...but the day will come where you have to pack up, move to the next place, and give them all back to the world. It’s not easy, but you weren’t created for the complacency of “normal.” It’ll always feel like the hardest thing you have ever had to do. You’ll cry behind a closed door, you will curse the universe, it will feel like whatever “God” is up there has banned you from love entirely. Sooooo close....then so far.

For years I would think that way and, if I am being honest, still do sometimes. Especially in times like now. My time in Thailand is coming to a close and it has been one of the most memorable places I have ever been to. Not because of 1IN700, but personally. I had some things happen that hindered me from doing much of anything with the project. A few things here and there, but overall I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to.


Something else happened though..

As cleft affected individuals I think we can all agree that the topic of “love,” specifically romantic love, is a subject we shy away from. Why? Because romance at it’s very beginning is almost always sparked based on initial physical attraction. And well...we have something that society, TV, and the internet says is different and not traditionally beautiful. It is already tough to put yourself out there, but doing it with a crainofacial difference is it’s own kind of hurdle all together. 

I don’t often talk about the very beginning of this journey, mostly because it was arguably one of the darkest places in my life I had been. I fell maaaadly in love with someone, so quick, so hard, and entirely consuming. We were both crazy (like certifiably haha), such artists, and shared obscure bonds. He GOT me, ya know? The second I saw him was the moment I knew I had to have him. I was working and he was a client (we were at a gym in L.A.) so I couldn’t directly approach him, but eventually I sorted out a way to break the ice. We went down a spiral tunnel of passion. Nothing mattered except the next time I was going to see him. My work faltered, I didn’t care. My friendships lacked attention, it didn’t matter to me. I lost myself. I was drowning in him and I was totally fine with it. My life wasn’t “mine” anymore, it was “ours”...but what if that was just one sided? Then it wasn’t really “OURS.” What makes a great relationship is two whole individuals. So when it ended, a piece of my world did too.


His words: “You have so much to do with your life, but you won’t do it because you love me to much.”


My heart began to race. My blood started to boil. My vision became tunneled.


A flood of emotions overwhelmed me. I didn’t know whether to be furious or succumb to the devastation I could tell was creeping up.


I fell somewhere after that. I went to this place of feeling like I wasn’t worth it. I BELIEVED I was less than. I had to fall into this place to rise to where I am today (as cliche as that sounds, it’s true). What happened next in my book of life, has given me purpose, ambition, and a serious determination.


I dove into my work. I could hardly breathe let alone think about being involved with anyone else romantically. I didn’t accept dates. I didn’t much acknowledge the offers if I am being honest. For the first time in my life, I decided to give myself all of the love I had a tendency of spreading myself thin trying to give to a relationship, friends, etc. I took a long look in the mirror and I evolved. I let go trying to change the things I had no control over. I wanted to live a peaceful yet meaningful life. That meant finding out my purpose. I talk a lot in this blog about that; finding purpose, maintaining your focus, and allowing yourself time. Reiterating that will never get old to me because I have found the happiness that I see so many of my peers flailing to grasp. The hardest part is, I can’t tell them any magic words to reach their goal. I can’t tell them “This is what you do.” Because truth be told, there is no such thing. I believe that each path is found differently. You have to love yourself and trust the world enough to know that some day, it’ll come to you...because it WILL come to YOU and only you. Breathe. Enjoy the ride and find love in every moment. 


Which brings me back to why I decided to write this in the first place...


I met someone here who rocked my world. He shook my entire existence into something beautiful and absolutely terrifying. The first time I saw him, I was at North Gate Jazz Club in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had been to dinner with my travel buddy and then met up with some other friends for a night cap (or two). We listened to smooth jazz and swayed. I smiled from ear to ear because I was actually HERE. SO long looking forward to it, so long waiting for that day to step on the plane and leave for a new beginning. The second he spoke to me (in really adorable broken English; he’s German) I knew he was someone special. A part of me hated it. I had done so well with keeping my heart guarded and only giving it to the participants of 1IN700 and the cleft community I have come to adore. For 3 years, I loved ME...and what was born from that changed my life forever.

Now as I travel, meeting cleft affected brothers and sisters, experiencing what the world has to offer, I meet someone. I meet someone so genuine, so unique, and ultimately so perfect for me. We have spent weeks together traveling this country and getting lost in each other’s eyes. We found happiness while in a mosquito infested bungalow. Carrying 17 kilos in our packs from location to location. We danced in the pouring rain on the beach in Koh Phi Phi Don. We held hands in the face of homophobia. We kayaked to a beach overrun by thieving monkeys. We ate SO MUCH FOOD. We lived. We lived. We lived. I had to part ways with him and I continuously find myself upset....yet strangely okay. You see, when you meet someone that you know in your bones is going to be in your life longer than what the universe is currently allowing, you are still incredibly sad but your heart settles into a place of understanding.


“Not now, but soon” you think as you let go of their hand for months on end. After all of the goodbyes and sad songs playing on repeat, it’s possible that you can meet someone that, despite it being brief, can change your perspective on love.


I’m not sure what happens from here, but all I know is 1IN700 Cambodia is happening in a couple weeks and I feel more focused than ever. Thank you universe. 


To all of my cleft affected brothers and sisters; let yourself fall in love with the world.

Auf Wiedersehen Schatz.


Back at it // ASIA - December 2017

“If you would have told me at the beginning of this year that I would be conquering two continents with 1IN700, I probably would have looked at you like you were crazy. Not just crazy, but totally delusional because if there was anything I had learned over the past couple years working on this, it was that good, solid progress takes REAL time.”  
  Sometimes I write things in my phone or on this little notebook I carry with me that jar my memory to how I am feeling in that exact moment. What is above really expresses this moment of “HOLY CRAP” that I was having every time I packed another item in my big travel backpack. “This is actually happening” I would think every time I zipped a pocket shut. But now I am here. I have been here for over two weeks now and I am in love with it. Now...that doesn’t discount how tough it has been at the start. From forever lost luggage, what felt like perpetual jet lag, and feeling flat out yucky for a few days...needless to say it hasn’t all been sunshine and smiles. 

  People have this impression that when I go abroad and if I don’t post for a week or two that I have either disappeared into some foreign abyss or that I have decided to stop the project all together but the truth is...I am an artist that goes through waves of inspiration just like all of my other brothers and sisters in the arts. I am fueled by experiences and to have post like this one is going to be, I need to go through some ups and downs to bring that to light. So, here we go. You ready for a “Life Re-cap” of the last 6 months? Hang on tight! 
  POST Europe I felt my light dim a bit; my heart and soul needed a serious recoup. The company needed restructuring and I had to find ME again before I could continue on with “1IN700.” So I went to New York City. To a place where at the beginning of my adult life I fell in love with. It KICKED MY 18 YEAR OLD BUTT THOUGH! I was often broke, desperately trying to hold onto a place to live, eating minimally because well, lets be honest, nothing is cheap in the Big Apple. But it was home. I groomed me for what was to come. I held my head high when traveling and people would ask me where I lived...”Oh me? I actually live in New York...Yes, New York City.” If only people knew how I lived though, haha, they wouldn’t have been so jealous. I realize now that what they were jealous of was my intense, passionate love for “The City of Opportunity,” as I like to call it. I was free. I was free to express exactly who ‘ZACK’ was. I wanted nothing more other than to sort that all out. I felt like the weight of hiding was finally gone and NYC showed me exactly what kind of guts I would need to survive and THRIVE in the journey that was to be my life. 
   When I arrived in the city this time, something was incredibly different inside me. Maybe it was the international travel or living in L.A. for 3 years...I wasn’t sure, but I I landed a part time gig at a Boxing Inspired group fitness class called “Rumble” where I made friends and a little family. We all had a serious love for the brand and a high motivation to push our bodies to their limits. The job was great, my coworkers were amazing, my bosses were the coolest, and I do find myself missing the crew from time to time. 


Dagmara was one of the first trainers I fell in love with. She’s not only gorgeous but a downright awesome human (who will kick your butt in the gym).


A lot of investors would bring their puppies in and leave them with us while they were in class. Jackson was a fav of mine. 


Aliyah was one of those people you can’t help but be excited to be around. She’s got an infectious laugh and an even more beautiful smile. Broadway better watch out for this babe! 


This is still my phone background 


The mighty New York native: Beth Goldy shot by me :)


Rumble OG’s and the famous power couple: Andy and Julia Stern shot by me :)


Arguably the most lowkey hilarious girl at Rumble and the best hugger: Sara Lipson. Miss this one dearly. 


View from the fire escape I spent countless nights on pondering my purpose ^

   My stay in the big city was short lived this time around. I found myself getting on the subway listening to sad music as the hustle and bustle of rush hour swarmed around me. I also cried by myself more than I would like to admit. Nothing was really “wrong” persay, but this did not feel right. Then I had this break after work one day. I had just finished a Rumble class after a 4:30am shift, probably didn’t eat enough food to refuel after burning close to 1,000 calories in 45 minutes, and my body finally let me know I was not okay. 
   Picture this: I walk onto the subway platform in the middle of summer (there is no AC on any of the subway platforms, only on the actual train) post sweaty boxing sesh, post POST 7 hour shift, to literally hundreds of people trying to cram onto the same 6 train as I am. I let the first go by as I turned up the volume on my music trying to drown out the enormous amount of anxiety clumping up in my through. You know that saying, “We were packed like sardines!” Well this was like if they took what should be in 4 cans of sardines and packed them into 1 can that was half the original size. The next train came and it was not at all any better, but I was tired of sweating and really just wanted to get home to lay down. I stood by the entrance of the train, knocking shoulders with my fellow commuters and just barely make it past the threshold of the sliding doors. They close and I am stuck. I immediately felt like something really awful was about to happen. Something wasn’t right. My heart began to race, I felt tears coming to my eyes, and guess what happened next? I started HYSTERICALLY laughing (weird right?). All people who know me have probably witnessed my nervous laugh, I’ve also mentioned it a few times in some posts. It was like that but X36876483746825687 and not so cute. Then I felt a wave of heat start at the base of my back and rush over my head and my breathing labored. I just kept repeating out front of the entire packed full 6 train: “I HATE THIS PLACE! HAHAAAA I REALLY HATE THIS PLACE!” I got off at the next stop and just sat down on the platform. A couple passengers got off and asked if I was okay and at this point the laughing had ceased, my skin was now bone-white, and I could hardly breathe. Everyone and everything was blurry at this point but I could feel the presence of a few people really trying to care for me but their voices sounded as if I was underwater. One took my shirt off and dumped her bottle of water soaking it like a rag and then laid it on my back,
 “That felt good. Focus of the good feelings” I kept thinking.
Another woman raised my chin and stuck a straw in my mouth, I instinctively sipped and tasted a cold strawberry smoothie.
 “GET ME NINE OF THOSE” I shouted in my mind.
A man pressed his fingers onto my wrist, I knew he was checking my pulse. 
 “He’s coming back, it’s going to be okay. We got you buddy. Just breathe.” 

   Those words echoed throughout my head and it was like magic, I could focus my sight again, I wasn’t so hot anymore, and words were finally starting to form from the mumbles. The next few minutes were fuzzy but I remember getting my address out to the man that took my pulse and next thing I knew, I was in an air conditioned cab driving up 3rd Avenue. 
   I don’t remember any of the people’s names who helped me and I only kind of remember their faces but these angels helped me through what was probably a massive anxiety attack. I got home, slept for about 6 hours, woke up and knew it was time for a change. 
  Fast forward to right now where I am sitting in South East Asia excited to continue the journey I began three years ago. I am LITERALLY doing everything I set out to do and it is exhilarating. There’s no way I could do this without the help of my new team who have started in on pushing myself and the project forward.
Allow me to make the introductions: 


  Michelle Tonacchio has been a vital piece of the team since the very beginning.  She first stumbled across one of my first Facebook posts explaining what exactly I was planning to do.

“I loved his passion and boy it was contagious! I immediately knew that I HAD to follow his journey.”

Initially when she reached out, she just explained that she wanted, in some capacity, be involved in the rise of this project. Michelle had just began selling cleft awareness items with her new business “Little Weaving Willow,” named after her cleft affected daughter Willow. She came up with her own creative way to contribute to the cause by making 1IN700 merchandise and donating ALL of the proceeds to the company and it’s startup expenses. Michelle is the brains behind the 1IN700 heart logo that has become a company staple and truly carried a beautiful meaning to all those involved.

With her passion, organization, and ambition, Michelle has all of the makings of a perfect VP.




  Danielle Zierer is a name quite a few people in the community will recognize due to her heavy involvement in educating. She runs “Cleftopedia,” a platform used solely to inform families and new cleft affected parents about the resources available. Being involved in cleft awareness has been a serious passion of hers ever since the birth of her son Will. Will was born with bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. By day, Danielle manages team effectiveness for one of the highest Sr. Leadership Teams at the global company she is employed by. She took it upon herself to get involved by creating a post in Cleftopedia that reached over 17,000 people and made contact. She was insistent that she help in anyway she could. Hyper-organized, a straightforward New Yorker, and genuine human, the 1IN700 team all agreed that Danielle would be exactly what the company needs to take the next step in expanding.


Marketing - Public Relations // MEGAN STRANGE


  Megan Strange is one of the newest additions to the team and has quickly shown her dedication to the 1IN700 mission. She first heard of 1IN700 when she did exactly what the doctors tell you not to do; she searched the internet high and low to prepare herself for the birth of her daughter Hattie. Megan extended her hand to help in anyway she could and eager to fill this position with someone who’s passion burned as bright as the rest of the squad. With her experience owning her own marketing firm Megan brings a strong vision of how to maximize 1IN700’s reach. Megan fully grasps that 1IN700 is a project to help those cleft affected own their scar but also not use it as a crutch; that these individuals are not only resilient and pillars of strength, but are also capable and beyond qualified to rise.


Liaison Coordinators // CATHERINE & ANTHONY TOWNS


  Cathy & Anthony Towns are a husband and wife duo 1IN700 has welcomed aboard. However, these two have a unique perspective and story that connects them to the cleft community. Anthony was born with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate and their first and only child Triston was born with the exact same cleft type. They first heard of the company at 1IN700’s “infant stage,” and have since played an active role assisting in 1IN700’s expansion to Texas. Cathy has worked extensively (20+ years) in the mental health field and truly understands how beneficial body positivity is to the general public and even more so to the cleft community. Anthony has over 15 years experience in the nonprofit world and has trained over 100,000 soldiers in the U.S. Air Force. Both have a strong understanding and background in leadership and management. Together they are an ideal team to be one of the first lines of communication to anyone interested in collaborating and/or getting involved with 1IN700.
   This team is unstoppable and a total force when it comes to making 1IN700 what it is. I am more grateful than words could express for the mental, emotional, physical, and financial support everyone has given “1IN700” and the all around love is what fuels me to keep it pushin’...and guys, I am ecstatic to show you the work I am doing out here. 


15 hour time difference got me like ^ 


   That’s it for now, but I have a so many things planned the next couple months. The content will not only be consistent but it will be so darn cute it’ll hurt. 
Love ya’ll <3


Belgian Beauties

  I will forever have trouble finding the right words to explain the love I have for the country of Belgium. The beer, the chocolate, the waffles, the frites, and especially the people. When I was planning my European tour, I never even thought to include Belgium. Not because I didn't like the country by any means, I just had no idea what was really here I guess? I was completely unaware of the active cleft community up until I received a message from the magicifent Nathalie Kalb. Then this unexpected series of events began to unravel. A Facebook group was made; funds began or pour in; and a schedule was formed. The amount of people becoming increasingly involved was astounding. Before I knew it there were over 20 people attempting to book a spot! I never would have guessed that Belgium would have been this proactive and determined to bring 1IN700 to their part of Europe; but the next thing I knew I was on my way to meet these people. 


Having a local (Nathalie grew up in Brussels) to give me a look into the real history of Belgium, the city of Brussels, and give me a detailed explaination on the history of it all was unlike any walking tour you could have paid for. Not only did she have personal ties to all of these locations, but she knew so many random facts about the city itself. Things I wouldn't expect for just anyone to know. Nathalie strategically planned my days so I could also sightsee around the city. Doing the city center for three days, Waterloo another, and then the Atomium ( 102 meter tall construction of a carbon atom). I learned several things about each location while also getting to photograph some truly incredible individuals. 


  As I arrived in Miami and began my mini vacation with my big brother and his girlfriend, I started to talk about my experiences and (my) kids that I got to meet across the pond. Rattling off names and details about each and every experience, Tina (brothers girlfriend) pointed something out I hadn't even realized:
 "You know all of their names off the top of your head?"
  I have been asked thousands of things when it comes to this project. All of which I can answer 6 different ways to prove the same point. When Tina asked me this, I paused... She was right. I just knew them because they all have given me a piece of their heart by contributing to this project. I was blown away by their courage on a daily basis and felt blessed to have the opportunity to share my vision and perception of them with the world. How could I ever forget them? 

It's great to be back in Los Angeles, but I am going to miss my Belgium buddies tremendously. 

  Almost all of the people involved in "1IN700" strike some sort of emotional cord with me right off the bat. Whether it's something I can relate to, or sharing their own experience in which I have empathy for, they are all equally impactful. Then I am messaged by a woman named Nathalie. This woman, time and time again, surprised me with her resilience and strength. Nathalie has two beautiful children, one of which (Oscar who you can find in a couple of my Instagram posts) who has the exact same cleft as I do. Little man was one of the best babies too, just so smiley and happy all of the time. It was also beautiful to watch Nathalie and her husband Ben with both of the kids; sooo incredibly obvious how much they adored these two munchkins. 
  Nathalie is pretty much THE reason I was able to make Belgium a stop on my tour at all. She asked me what they had to do to get me there and if there was anything she could help with. It all made sense when I met her and she told me what she did for work, she's a project manager, because my entire schedule was lined up and in writing. Oh, she also speaks so many languages that she was my translator through my entire stay! Did I mention she was also balancing two kids under the age of five through several LONG days with me? She is a literal superhero and I couldn't have had more fun with her. Nathalie made sure that after my shoots, or during lunch, that I was able to take in REAL Belgium. Brussels is where she grew up and knows that city like the back of her hand. A lot of those photos you see above was from our many adventures around the city center of Brussels. 
  I will soon go into more detail as to why my connection with Nathalie and these families struck so deep with me, but for now all of you readers can ooooo and ahhhhh at the adorable cuties in my photos above. I am going to do the same. 

Je t'aime Paris

  It's hard for me to even fathom that I have been in Europe almost two months already. It seems like I have had the most wonderful and the most terrifying ventures in such a short amount of time. I have learned so much of myself; what I can handle, what I want with my time here, just how social I can be when I am faced with the solo traveler loneliness that tends to set in from time to time. I have also learned that this idea that I can do this IS truly insane. The looks I get from people when I tell them exactly what "1IN700" is and what I am doing are kind of hilarious. I have learned that there truly is no predicting what comes next with all of this. All of that said and done, things have still continued to progress in such unimaginable ways; expectations always being surpassed and everything is always okay. One of my long time benefactors, Daniel Delgado is one I have to thank for some of this. Always, always coming through for me in a pinch. His words being: "Call me anytime you need help. You know I got you." Or Jenn Cook who messaged me saying: "If you need anything, ever, call me and I will see what I can do. Day or night." It's people like that and like Michelle Tonacchio who consistently flood my heart and soul with a love I have always longed for. And any other space is filled by the thousands of those across the world reaching out their hand to pull me onward. 

  I left Paris with more than 10 entry photos for "1IN700," which is much more than I expected considering the language barrier. Google translate was my best friend for sure this leg in Europe. I did however find myself not needing any translator to see the smile light up on their face when I showed each person their photo. Paris was short, but Paris was beautiful not just for "1IN700" but for me personally too.

  Ya see, Paris has always been one of those places for me. One of those places I HAD to visit. At heart, I am a hopeless romantic, waiting for that one day intimate love will enter my world as I see it finding all those around me. Often times when I meet cleft affected individuals that are around my age, I almost always have to ask about dating. I find myself asking questions like: "Has dating been as tough for you as it has for me?!" or "Do you find yourself insecure in even the perfect situation?" Often times I find that we have all struggled with the same exact things. And when in the "City of Love" how can one NOT think about this?? The canals lit with the afternoon sun; soft music being played on a saxophone as I walk across a bridge; the pure love between the couple holding hands and staring into each others eyes outside of a cafe...all of this seemed like a dream. Like MY dream. I have had a few "serious" relationships, but in only a couple of them have I truly been the real Zack in. Some of them I found myself not needing to hide who I was, ever. Until I began "1IN700" I had no idea part of this insecurity stemmed from not feeling beautiful because of my scars. I felt the illogical fear that just being ME would never be enough for someone. I am always one to talk about not dwelling on the past and focusing on now and what is to come. But I cannot help but look back and thank my past lovers for teaching me lessons of self love. To the one who cheated: Thank you for making me find the strength to pick myself up. To the one who broke my heart worse than all the rest: Thank you for letting me go so I could find my life purpose. To the one who wasn't ready to accept his love for me publically: Thank you for teaching me what resilience I have for being out and proud. To the one who left without a word: Thank you for showing me what I am capable of handling when I thought my world had fallen apart.

  To all of my cleft affected warriors out there, we don't always have to hold the shield up. Sometimes, people surprise you and you'll look and notice your walls no more. Even if it is all temporary, I guess what they say is true, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all." It's not without pain, tears, anger, passion, late nights, but all of that is worth it and much, much more than regret. 
Choose Love. Always choose love. 


My new amazing friend (and addition to 1IN700) Eve!!