Oh friends! I am very excited today to share an interview with fabulous Lifestyle/Portraiture/Reportage/Fashion/Music photographer Elizabeth Weinberg. I’ve been meaning to catch up with her for some time, so this is a real treat.
ALSO: at the bottom of these Qs and As there will be a test (the good kind, don’t panic).
Hi Elizabeth! I’ve been a fan of your work for ages, so I’m delighted to do a little interview. First, some background info– how did you start shooting?
I started shooting as a teenager, taking pictures of my youngest sister, who was born when I was a freshman in high school. It was sort of crazy having a baby in the house while I was doing algebra homework. I started documenting her growing up and running to the hour photo lab to get the film processed as soon as I finished a roll. I sort of fell in love with the suspense. At the same time, I became heavily interested in music and would shoot live at concerts I attended, mainly as an excuse to get up front. I’m not quite sure when photography became an addiction, but that’s the closest I can pinpoint!
What subject matter did you start with- you seem to have several specialties (music, fashion, lifestyle)- did one get the ball rolling on the others?
Music was always first, and portraits of my friends were a constant as well. The lifestyle stuff has come about more recently, when I realized I could funnel the real-life type photography I do on a regular basis into a specific market that has the possibility for commercial appeal.
I love the effortless, slice of life feel of your imagery. Was this a conscious style choice, or did it evolve from your personal images?
I think this evolved naturally from my personal images. I don’t want there to be much of a style difference between my “personal” work and my “professional” work. I guess I just try to make everything look as pretty as I remember it being in real life, and maybe a little bit more. I think I view memory in a really romanticized way, and my pictures reflect that.
I love that I can’t tell whether some of the folks in your shots are models, friends, or professionals.
That’s great! I won’t spoil the mystique.
We’ve been talking a lot on the blog lately about film v. digital- I would never guess that a large portion of the work on your site is digital– it’s so film-like. Tell us all your processing secrets! Ok- maybe just a tip or two?
I won’t divulge all of my processing secrets, but I will give some advice: Shoot RAW. Pay attention to the color of light; in the late afternoon shade, peoples’ skin looks almost cyan! Highlights and shadows have different colors at different times of the day or under different kind of light. Film yields deep blacks, so emulate that in your digital processing.
I’d prefer to shoot film all the time but it simply isn’t practical, financially or time-wise. The pain is lessened by the fact that I’m often told my digital photos look like film!
What’s the best/most enjoyable editorial assignment you’ve had?
Hmm, this is a hard one. One that sticks out is recent: I just shot the Mighty Boosh for the September issue of NYLON. I knew little to nothing about them so I went to their Bowery Ballroom show the night before the shoot to get a sense of what they were all about, then I watched a bunch of stuff on YouTube. It was their first American performance so shooting them the next day was pretty sweet. They were really hungover and exhausted so we bought them a bunch of beer and we shot out on the street in SoHo as they heckled passers-by. I didn’t realize they had such a rabid following here in the States, so I’m glad I got a chance to shoot them when they first got here. They took direction really well and just ran with it.
Earlier this year I did a campaign for Sony Ericsson in Los Angeles and Mammoth Mountain. The product was a new 8 megapixel cameraphone, and they wanted me to shoot the entire thing with the phone itself, to prove that it was superior image quality. So here you have an assistant, art directors, account managers, models, the client, etc. all standing around me while I’m holding one phone in each hand, running around and shooting them alternately, side by side. Not your typical advertising job. There was little to no production involved–just me, the phones and a reflector. The entire experience was so freeing and really really fun. I had a huge amount of creative control–they hired me for my lifestyle eye and I just went to town.
What’s next for you, what work are you hoping to make in 2010?
I would love to shoot more documentary projects and assignments. I just did a reportage series on the Michael Jackson birthday celeration that Spike Lee put on in Prospect Park in Brooklyn–it’s on my blog. I went to school for photojournalism, and that itch for reportage has stuck with me since I started my career. I’d also love to work on more lifestyle campaigns, be it for catalogs or print advertising.
Thanks, Elizabeth! OK! Test time. Here’s the deal:
When I was whining about digital v. film complexities the other day, my buddy Dalton Rooney reminded me how good Elizabeth is at making digital seem film-like (which we discussed a bit above). SO, on that note– we are going to have a test. If you can tell which of EW’s images are digital and which are film, you win an 11×14 print of any of the images in the running. REALLY!!!!
Tell us which images, from A-I, are film, and which are digital. Leave your answers in the comments section. First person with all answers correct wins an 11×14 print of the image of your choice. GO!
UPDATE: we have a winner! Find out who.