Thursday, May 7, 2015


Bruce Weber, Toronto, Sept. 1987

IT TOOK SOME WORK TO GET A SHOOT WITH BRUCE WEBER. The photographer was in the first major flush of fame, and had arrived at the film festival with a movie, Broken Noses, about a young boxer named Andy Minsker. Access was tight but I summoned up whatever youthful charm and persistence I had at 23 and persuaded a publicist to give me a few minutes.

I had no interest in producing the same sort of high-styled beefcake photographyWeber was producing in his advertising campaigns, but I responded to the retro element in his work strongly enough for me to have something to talk to him about for about as long as it took for me to get a few minutes of interview on tape and a handful of decent portraits.

I don't remember a lot about the shoot except for the entourage of attractive young people who filled Weber's suite and followed him around at the festival - a group that included Minsker, future Tim Burton muse Lisa Marie and (I think) Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Bruce Weber, Toronto, Sept. 1987

At 23 I was dazzled by the fact that there was such a thing as a superstar photographer, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't hope that it might be possible to have a fraction of this sort of success. In my cockroach-plagued bachelor apartment near Boystown with the darkroom I'd set up on a bunch of garbage bags on my desk, a photographer like Weber looked to be having the career I wanted.

I wasn't big on the shirtless dudes, but after seeing Broken Noses I jumped at the chance to shoot boxers, if only to measure myself up against Weber's work. Just a couple of years after buying my first camera, everything I did was about serving an apprenticeship, and if I wasn't doing that in a school, I could try to learn a few things through simple imitation.

Bruce Weber, Toronto, Sept. 1987

He might have scowled for most of my roll or two of film, but the shot above is a lot more like Weber actually was - surprisingly friendly and gracious. After running the gauntlet of reluctant publicists, when I actually made it into Weber's suite I was enthusiastically met by Weber and his wife, agent and collaborator, Nan Bush, who treated me with a solicitude and dignity that surprised a kid with his cameras stuffed into a bag with a broken zipper who tended to break into a cold sweat while trying to find some decent light.

A year later his film on Chet Baker, Let's Get Lost, helped turn me into a jazz fan, so in addition to the kind treatment, I can thank him for that.


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