HEART AND SOUL
For my dear friend JocelyneR
That I finally realized I was trying to describe something that wasn’t there.
I finally realized that the magical something that sets cweeks’ works apart from others is that his camera disappears. There is no sense as you look at his photos of street scenes and other captures that you are looking through a lens, even the lens of a particularly talented photographer. There is a sense of simply walking through a town and seeing what you happen to see – without the usual subtle “commentary” of the photographer winking back at you with his framing, his lighting, his signature technique.
cweeks has no need to announce his presence in his pictures, letting his lens be the viewer’s own eyes with no separation from the subject. Photography becomes art when all trendy technique and “stylization” disappears and the viewer absolutely believes, knows, he or she is seeing what “is”, believes he or she is seeing a capture of what has just “happened”, thanks to an unbiased, un-opinionated reporter.
Such ego-less presentation and sharing are rare in our times of self-promotion, especially when the artist is quite talented enough to be
allowed such indulgence if he chose to partake of it. cweeks photos have such a purity and sense of immediacy that after perusing them for a while one
doesn’t feel a sense of “documentary” but of having been on an actual journey. I’m sure people often “remember” `cweeks’ photos as being from their own
experiences rather than being photos they saw.
Weeks creates celebrity portraits as well as street scenes, but manages to bring his street sensibility to the photos even when the settings
are relatively intimates, e.g., celebrities’ living rooms and backyards. Again, there is no feeling of the expected posed portrait. Again, the camera disappears.
Somehow he “disrobes” his subjects, cajoling them into dropping the façade of their “posed identities”, so that it feels as if the viewer is a member of the
family just glancing over at the subject, who just happens to be famous. This is something I find unprecedented. (O.K., have at it, deviants: Here’s where you
slam me with other photo artists who achieve a similar effect.)
Even the best “celebrity” celebrity photographers are unable to present truly naturalistic presentations of their subjects – there always being that identifying
patina of “demi-god” glow about a rock star or movie star. Instead, cweeks allows us the experience of looking at stars as if we were one their best friends
or family members. The effect is far more startling than the rowdiest shock shots.
cweeks exemplifies the best street photography, which is not the capture of the most ultra-hip moments in the hottest of hot spots, but rather the selfless recording of a place and time as it was and would have been experienced by any person had they been there at the time, no matter how distant in time or geography the photo is separated from the viewer experiencing it.
And let himself be our eyes, the eyes of all those lucky enough to discover the places he’s been and the moments he’s seen. cweeks is one such street magician who hopefully will inspire many to emulate his achievement.
cweeks is an editorial photographer with an emphasis in entertainment based in Los Angeles covering assignments for the world’s most recognized brands, wire services, magazines, advertising and public relations agencies. His work has been published all over the world in newspapers, magazines and websites such as InStyle, Vanity Fair Italy, USA Today, People and hundreds of other publications both in print and online.
Photography, much like so many other mediums, is personal. What moves one person may not affect another in the same way. I’m pretty crass: If a photograph moves me – in whatever way – the photograph is successful to me. I mean, really, what is artistic value? If something speaks to you, it speaks to you and really doesn’t need any other explanation.
I remember covering the opening of an “important artist” hosted by a very important art dealer. He saw me looking perplexed at one of the “pieces” and I said, “How does this move you?” Curtly, he replied “It’s 3 million dollars and I sold them before this show was even open. That’s how it moves me.” He’s not a very nice guy.
Art can mean many different things to many different people. I prefer to be emotionally moved in some way, shape or form.
I think photography and fine arts painting are wholly different and I’m not so sure even though they are both art, per se, can be compared. In mentioning Steiglitz I think he explained it best, “"Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings… You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the art galleries of today."
Stieglitz when he had one of the first shows of photography in New York back in the day had other photographers, not painters, as was the norm, as the judges. Photographers and painters and sculptures all have different sensibilities in the context of their respective “eyes.” There is cross-over for sure, though. I do think that each kind of artist sees work in their own medium differently than artists in other mediums.
I don’t think that Henri Cartier-Bresson ever wanted to be known as a photographer but rather a painter. Don’t think it worked out that way for him.
When I look back at the part of your question that says “…years of labor capturing moments…” it’s hard for me to imagine any labor at all doing what I’ve done since I was 11. Not gonna say my exact age but it’s been a long-ass time. Decades. No matter if I’m shooting a commission for a magazine, an assignment for a wire service or a public relations agency … whatever the situation may be … I know exactly what they need. I give them exactly what they need. Many times what they need is straightforward illustrating whatever they need illustrated. Sometimes, though, they’ll see something else in the edits that they may not have known why they needed it but they did. I’m always happy when that happens.
It’s funny. My friends – yes, they’re mostly working photographers – will always share the story of the beautiful ambient light photograph or the not-so-common juxtaposition that plays (our parlance for being published) over the other photographs we’ve moved or file that are more straightforward or “expected.”
You also mentioned “technical craft.” Like other mediums that use different size brushes or whatever it is they use in their craft we know our equipment and exposures without a camera telling us what to do. For me given an ISO I know the pair (shutter speed/aperture) within a half-stop just by looking at the light. Knowing what’s there allows me to adjust that so that the moment I want to record is properly framed. Usually, within an instant.
That isn’t to say some photographers can’t do as well or even better although they use programme or automatic settings. I know at least a few photographers who shoot big commissions who use less-than-desirable glass and have their cameras set to programme. One doesn’t always have to know everything in a technical sense to be a photographer. That having been said when you deal in moments like I do most of the time if you’re going to rely on the camera to be tricked by some element of exposure it didn’t know how to handle, a guy like me may possibly make a beautifully exposed photo of a moment someone else botched.
I’ve watched that happen. On several occasions.
For the most part “taking a picture” is what you see being done by people on Facebook with their Blackberries or iPhones. If it’s a picture of their friends, there’s too much head space and they cropped above the waistline making people amputees. It’s a picture of their dog cropped at its knee. It’s a picture of their girlfriend with an unfortunate tree growing out of their head. It’s a picture of a family vacation of which they spent ten thousand u.s. to see some of the wonders outside of their own city … and they take one picture. Someone looks wonky. Someone photo bombs them. And all they have is that one photograph.
I’m not saying beautiful photos aren’t made with smart phones. In fact, many of my favourite personal photos are made with my iPhone 4. Then again, I know the difference between a picture and a photograph even though there is no difference because technically each word is interchangeable for the other. In this context I’m talking about the difference between “taking a picture” and “making a photograph.”
When one makes a photograph they’re making sure a group shot is balanced. They’re making sure they’re not making people (or animals for that matter) amputees. They’re making sure that there’s nothing unfortunate growing out of their subject’s head. And they’re making more than one photograph so they have “insurance.” The list could go on and on.
I’m not saying that when someone makes a snapshot or making something look like a snapshot they’re not really making a photograph. Making a photograph is more thoughtful than taking a picture.
For me I like a well-balanced frame. I like my subject to be positioned in the golden section but I also like other elements, whether they are in-focus or part of a beautiful blur, to balance the frame. I like to give the frames some sense of their environment … sometimes only a kiss of the environment.
Photography for the general practitioner is probably different for each individual general practitioner I would think. It’s hard to make a blanket statement about someone’s current level of desire of knowledge about a subject, passion or whatever motivates them to put viewfinder to eye.
Because I do what I do because I love making photographs this kind of question has different answers for different situations. Is it absolutely lovely to hear the creative director for a worldwide ad agency tell you how beautiful the selects are? For sure. Is it equally as beautiful to make photographs of your aunt’s aging champion dog with a puppy-glint in his eye at 16 years and then he dies the next week? Seeing her face when she looks at that photograph is very gratifying knowing you recorded a moment of her personal history that means a lot to her. Is it hearing when you go to pick up your new reading glasses – yes, because you’re getting old – “I went to your website. I love café’s. I love cafés exactly for the reason you seem to like them. Your photos took me back to Paris and make me want to fly there next week.” Or could it be when you’re showing your own child how to edit photos on Apple’s Aperture and you start browsing old personal archive frames that bring back memories for her?&nbs