Photographer Bruce Weber, 70, Says Stop Letting Fear Rule You

Photo by Michael Murphy

Photo by Michael Murphy

The Talks: You take pictures, publish books, and direct movies. What do you consider your job description?

Bruce Weber: I am someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and thinks about the things that I hope for. I end up putting those things in my films and my photographs and my books.

TT: Besides dreaming, what keeps you going?

BW: I try to have a big life. I visit different painters in their studios whose work I like. I maybe do stories on them or photograph them. Sometimes I take a trip. I have been doing a lot of trips around America recently. I’ve been going down south a lot, down in Mobile, I spent a lot of time in New Orleans.

TT: What's your solution to that problem?

BW: You have to fight for your work – everybody has to. You have to be able to get knocked down and stand back up. You can't let it stay on your shoulders. I see a lot of photographers who do their thing and put their soul in it and in the end it is all changed, but their name is still on it. So I do what Dick Avedon told me once and I just go out on each job and take pictures for myself. I’ll photograph trees or if I meet a really handsome guy or girl I’ll take their picture, even if they’re not part of the set. I’m going to try to learn something. Even if a picture is not so good, at least I can go back to bed at night and think: “Wow, did I learn something today?”

TT: How important is the sexual aspect in your body of work?

BW: I’ve always felt like love and affection were really important to me. I like it that people have a flirtation with life. I think that's kind of important. I didn’t think my work was about sex so much as I thought it was about desire. Desire to be close to somebody, to be intimate. A lot of the time people comment on my pictures that they are too sexy or too sexual, but to me it’s just a photograph of a friend and they trusted me and I liked them. I wasn’t afraid to show myself, my feelings about people.

TT: Your pictures always incorporate multiple layers. How do you bring these elements together?

BW: I think it is an instinctual thing. Sometimes when I am about to photograph somebody and I have to think about their body language, I’ll think about one of my dogs laying down on his back and scratching his stomach. I kind of think about the lustfulness that’s in life. I always tell my assistants who are young photographers that they should have a strong life, have a viewpoint.

TT: What do you mean?

BW: Go out in the world and live!

TT: Is photography art to you?

BW: I never questioned if it was an art or not. I just questioned its importance to me, whether it was very important to me – my life-source, my source of living. I always had a great time with it. It brought me a lot of happiness, a lot of pain, and a lot of crazy times. I like that about it.