When I first started thinking up the ideas of how this site would work, and the fact that it would revolve around bi-weekly interviews, I immediately knew I wanted to interview Elizabeth Weinberg if I could get her to agree. At 29 years old, this Brooklyn, NY resident already has a lot of amazing work under her belt. I have followed her work for a while now, even before I knew it was her creating it. She did promos for Dr. Dog (and if you don’t know who Dr. Dog is, you need to go check them out NOW), she did a kick ass look book for KR3W, she put out an amazing photobook called Of Recklessness and Water (which if you have a tumblr, I am sure you have seen photos from it reblogged time and time again), and so many more awesome shoots. She’s pretty well known, and questioned time and time again, for how she makes her digital images look so much like film. She also likes The Get Up Kids, and owns a Descendents holiday sweater, so you know she’s rad. Ok enough gushing, here is the interview.
What really sparked an interest in photography for you?
I am not really sure where my interest actually began. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about… it is just what I do, I guess. We have piles and piles of photo albums all over my parents’ house.There was definitely an emphasis on the visual representation of memory in my household growing up. I guess it just became second nature to me.
How important do you feel it is for aspiring photographers to get a formal education in photography?
It’s hard to tell. I never went to straight-up photo school. I have a Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a concentration in Photojournalism. I think it is important to learn how to interact with people. Technical knowledge is also good, but you can learn a lot of that yourself. I think working in the field is the best education you can get. I learned more in the couple of years that I worked in high-end pro photo labs than I did in all of school. But then again, I wasn’t going to the kind of photography school that teaches you about the kind of work I do now.
I’ve read a few different places you feel it is important for people to learn to process color film, could you elaborate on why you feel it is a good skill for aspiring photographers to learn?
I feel it is important for people to learn how to print color in the darkroom. They are starting to phase out teaching that sort of thing in schools, which I understand in terms of keeping up with the times but I think it puts kids who are just starting out at a real disadvantage in terms of color theory. You need to know that taking out yellow makes something more blue. You need to know that taking out green makes something more magenta. You need to know about cool light and warm light, and their shadows respectively. You need to know how certain films look on certain papers and that different papers produce different contrasts… and that NOTHING compares to seeing your negatives enlarged onto photo paper. It’s just something so satisfying that scanning and printing digitally can’t replicate. I learned a lot about color in freshman painting class, actually.
This is a huge problem with people trying to get their digital to look film-like. There’s a little piece of the puzzle they can’t quite figure out. I get emails constantly from people asking me to help them with this. Some of it is based on a knowledge of color theory and Photoshop wizardry and comparing photos on the screen to those that they have printed with chemicals but I also think that part of it is either you having the eye, or you don’t.
Do you have a favorite editorial/advertising assignment you have worked on?
It’s hard to pick favorites. Generally the jobs I have the most fun on are the ones from which I like the most pictures. Funny how that works out isn’t it… I shot the musician Madi Diaz’s album artwork packaging and press photos a few months ago in Malibu Creek State Park. It was such a beautiful day with the greatest crew and no particular shot list; I just love every photo from the shoot. I also loved the KR3W shoot, but for totally different reasons. Every shoot is different. I guess the only constant is that if I remember enjoying it and it was drama-free (and if the light was good), then I’m probably stoked on the results.
I looked through your series of your younger sister Abigail and I noticed she seems to be clinging on to cameras of her own in some of the photos, is she trying to follow in big sister’s footsteps eventually?
I don’t think she’s in it for a photography career. She wants to be a writer. I got her a 35mm SLR for her birthday a couple years ago, the same one I learned on. I think she just likes taking pictures.
What would be your ideal photo assignment?
Nothing specific. I did a shoot this summer that I would consider ideal; I flew down to Georgia to shoot a sort of utopian planned community called Serenbe for enRoute Magazine. I had a shot list to nail but I was also told to just shoot anything that caught my eye. Having a photo editor put enough trust in me to let me go off and capture things in my own personal way is just the best.
What/who inspires you in your work?
I never know how to answer this question. I guess traveling inspires me the most. I hate feeling stagnant. That’s why I was always so intent on never having a 9-5. I can’t imagine living life that way. That’s just me. I need to get out of town every so often. And the photos will follow!
For your photo book Of Recklessness and Water what kind of cameras did you use and what inspired the project?
I used an old Canon G9 and an underwater housing. Both of those things are currently broken so I’m figuring out a new system. I have an underwater bag for my Canon 5D Mark II but I don’t really trust it in heavy surf. I might invest in a dedicated housing.
Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?
Still shooting, always improving!
Musically, what are you jamming while you edit/shoot or do you just prefer silence?
No silence. I need music on all the time, especially when I’m working at the computer. I don’t really have a “photoshoot playlist” or anything. Something upbeat and catchy. I could totally nerd out on some Get Up Kids for like 4 hours like the aging emo kid I am…
What gets you most excited about photography? Is it shooting a big name person, shooting somewhere cool, or something/anything else?
Shooting big name people can be a major bummer as often as it can be really awesome. I don’t think that really does it for me. I just like making a really great picture, regardless of the subject. Locations can make a difference, but then sometimes they don’t even matter. For example once I was shooting a band and we literally had nowhere to go but the crappy part of Manhattan near Madison Sq. Park, where there isn’t really anything cool, and it happened to be winter when the light is low and bounces off of buildings in great ways—so I found a spot under some scaffolding that had really great bounced light, and shot a tightly cropped portrait. It’s still one of my favorites. I guess it’s just when all the elements align just right.
I’ve lurked some other interviews you’ve done and I notice you mention caffeine in a few of them, so be honest with me, have you just ever been so caffeinated you thought your heart was going to explode? This shit happened to me last week.
Once on a flight from Barcelona to Hamburg or something I was so hopped up on caffeine that I felt like I was writing entire novels in my head faster than I ever could have typed or written them down. We were flying over the Alps or something and I was looking down and my neurons were like, doing cartwheels. I had had to wait at the airport for my flight all night because I had nowhere else to go so I ended up doing like 15 shots of expresso while reading some dumb Crimethinc book (hey, I was 21). I have never felt so completely insane and sped up in all my life.
Nowadays I do one or two cold brewed iced coffees a day but I drink them over the span of like 3/4 hours. I also drink them in the winter. Some places don’t do iced coffee in the winter so I get an iced americano. It has to be iced all the time for me.
Your shoot for Kr3w got me so amped, when I saw it all I wanted to do was shotgun beers, skate mini ramps, light things on fire, and drink till I puked (is that weird?). How did you go about coming up with that shoot? Was it directed by someone else or did you have creative control over it? Either way you really captured a lot of energy, and it got me pumped up.
That is not weird and I’m glad you felt that way, because that was the intent! The concept was thought up by their art department. By the time I got there, most of the dudes I was supposed to shoot were drunk and our shot list kind of went out the window. We did go from specific scenario to scenario but it wasn’t without a bit of wrangling. I sort of came up with shots as we went along. That’s how I like to work anyway. You have to do a lot of thinking on the fly to see what is working and what isn’t. We were also losing daylight fast so I wanted to get the vast desert background shots out of the way first, so I went in that direction to start. I guess you could say it was loosely-outlined chaos. I got gasoline in my hair during one of the Molotov cocktail-tossings and I was pretty sure I was going to die the whole time, but the whole thing was a total blast (pun) and I love how everything came out. One of the most ridiculous and fun shoots I’ve ever been on.
How important do you think social networking is for up and coming photographers, and I don’t just mean facebook/twitter/etc. but networking with people in the real f’in world as well?
Super important. At least if you’re “emerging” or whatever you want to call it. Going to openings and talking to gallery owners or other photographers or going to “industry” things and talking to photo editors is helpful. Especially if everyone has had a little bit to drink and you can hang with them without the office-formality vibe. I don’t really like schmoozing so I don’t go to a ton of these things, but there are a select few photo events I hit up. It’s nice to feel part of a real community instead of being holed up on the computer staring at Photoshop all the time.
Any final words of wisdom/thoughts/rants you would like to get out?
It’s really easy to get discouraged in this business. One of the biggest obstacles one can overcome is to have pure unadulterated confidence in your work even when things seem like they’re in the gutter. I struggle with that myself. Take breaks and shoot for fun. And don’t lose track of why you’re trying to do this in the first place!
For more of Elizabeth’s work check out her portfolio here: http://elizabethweinberg.com/
Or you can follow her blog on tumblr here: http://scrapbook.elizabethweinberg.com/
(Source: spitthereal.com)Friday, January 20, 2012