PROTEC17 member Zim Zimmerman spends his days inspecting the streets of the City of Portland to keep the roads safe and well-maintained. But when he’s not working, he’s able to pursue his lifelong passion in photography – in large part because of his union benefits.

As an avid photographer since his teenage years, Zimmerman worked as a photographer and lighting assistant around Portland for years before joining the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and PROTEC17 in 2017.

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve liked to look at the world through a viewfinder,” said Zimmerman.

Photography, he says, satisfies the technical side of his nature.

“It’s one of a few art forms with a strong left brain component to it. On some level, every shoot is just a math problem.”

His innate technical abilities also serve him in his job at PBOT, where he collects data on the type and severity of cracks, weathering, and pavement distresses to help engineers prioritize repairs and determine their budgets.

Currently, he is also helping to inventory every street light in the City using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Since he started working at the City, Zimmerman has enjoyed a work-life balance that has allowed him to pursue photography in a volunteer capacity for several non-profits, including the Oregon Country Fair (OCF). Each year, he brings his lighting gear and sets up a studio out in the woods, where he offers free, professional quality portraits to anyone patient enough to wait in line.

Last year, the OCF celebrated 50 years of bringing arts, music, education, environmentalism, and philanthropy to Central Oregon. The annual event attracts nearly 50,000 people over it’s three-day run.

In the photo booth, Zimmerman has had a range of interactions with festival go-ers, and has found the experience incredibly rewarding.

“I’ve had the privilege to photograph individuals, couples, friends, and families in their most joyful times – reunions, anniversaries, even a wedding day – as well as their most sorrowful, including a woman who recently lost her sister and her own infant daughter in the same year.”

Volunteering, though, requires that Zimmerman use some of his earned vacation time from the City.

Two years ago, during City of Portland contract negotiations, members made the case to increase their vacation accrual rates. The data showed that the City’s rates had lagged behind other municipalities and companies in the Portland area, and members were increasingly leaving City employment to pursue other opportunities that afforded them more time with their families. The City finally agreed and starting in January of 2019, members received more vacation time in their banks.

“I am so grateful for the extra vacation days that PROTEC17 negotiated,” said Zimmerman. “I’m able to spend time with my kids, visit family on the East Coast, and volunteer my time as a photographer at the Oregon Country Fair, which has been so rewarding to me.”

You can find examples of Zimmerman’s work in the Oregon Country Fair portrait booth at: His photos from the 2019 Fair are posted under “Thursday PM” and “Fri/Sat/Sun AM”. He will again be volunteering in the photobooth at the OCF this year from July 10-12, 2020.