By Jeff Zuschlag — Photos courtesy of Jeremy and Claire Weiss —
Batman and Robin. Simon and Garfunkel. Peanut butter and jelly. There have been a lot of dynamic duos in history, but only one of them has become Resource Magazine’s Photographer of the Week. Photographer super-team and married couple Jeremy and Claire Weiss have been rocking the photography world together for over a decade, and in a recent interview Jeremy was kind enough to tell me how. So sit tight, and enjoy the Day 19 take on family, fun, and photography.
Jeremy and Claire Weiss… with Little Eli (who is 4 now)
How did the photography partnership between you and your wife get started?
Jeremy Weiss: I actually started taking pictures at a Split-Lip show; it was the first roll I ever shot, and this fanzine wanted the photos. But they asked for this black, sloppy border around it, and I had no idea what that even meant; I knew nothing about photography. I took a photo class in a community college in New Jersey just to learn how to make that border so I could give the photos to the magazine. From that, I got hooked. After that class, I just kept taking more and more photos.
But Claire and I met way before we even started taking photos. We had met, and then I moved to Lake Tahoe to snowboard, and then to Southern California to skateboard. When I realized that wasn’t going to work out as a career, I moved back to New Jersey and kinda rekindled our romance. She was going to school with no idea of what she wanted to do, and I think I turned her on to photo classes. Then Claire and I moved up to Boston, and went to a little trade school. We both knew what we wanted to do; we just needed a little push and some knowledge about how to do this thing [photography].
What’s it like working together? Do you have some sort of division of labor, or is it more free-form?
JW: It’s pretty much completely free-form. When we started shooting together, it used to be that one of us would have the camera, and one of us would art direct. But we both just always wanted the camera [laughs]. So now each of us have a camera, and we’re both constantly shooting. Most of our shoots are pretty lifestyle-y, lots of models just trying to have fun, so we’ll go off in different directions, and then sometimes we’ll both be shooting one person, and then we’ll go off again. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it [laughs].
Is it ever a competition to see who can get the best shots?
JW: [laughs] It’s definitely a friendly competition. Like, “Look at this!” “Yeah? Well look at this!”
Would you say there’re marked differences in your styles?
JW: I wouldn’t say so. Sometimes I’ll look at a shot and not know if it’s hers or mine, and not just because I don’t remember taking it [laughs]. Because we’ve worked together for so long, our style has kind of come together as one. But there are still probably slight differences.
What would you say inspires you guys creatively?
JW: I think just living in California. We’re just constantly around people doing cool shit. And if we’re not doing something, it just makes us feel lazy.
A couple years ago, we went to Australia to speak at this conference, called Semi-Permanent, in Australia, and we met the people who do Monster Children magazine. These people run this magazine, they have two kids, they have their own art gallery, and they’re doing all this stuff. And we were just like, “Man, we’re not doing enough.” [laughs] So I guess the fear of being lazy is what inspires us most [laughs]. We go a little crazy if we have a day or two off.
We touched on this a little bit, but can you describe more in-depth the process that goes into these shoots? Is there a sort of plan that goes into the images we see?
JW: That’s an interesting question because I started thinking about that a lot a little while ago. I used to be so worried that I didn’t have enough ideas. I’m definitely not an idea-driven photographer; I don’t go into shoot going, “Here are the three ideas I have.” It used to worry the shit out of me [laughs]. I used to worry, “Oh I’m never going to make it in this field,” ‘cause I didn’t have lots of quirky ideas like a lot of people would.
So I just go into a shoot and meet the person. I talk, get to know the person, and shoot as I’m getting to know them. And things come from that. Even in advertising shoots, where there are certain expectations in place, my strategy is just: “Let’s go in, have fun, and take some honest pictures of these people.”
I think Claire thinks about things a little bit more, but more location things. Sort of like: “I found this great location, we should shoot there.” Whereas I’m more like, “Wherever the person wants to meet, we should go there and figure it out.” She has a little bit more of a thought process [laughs].
What’s it like raising a family, while still trying to keep up in such a fast-moving industry? How, for instance, does travel affect how you raise your son?
JW: I think we actually don’t travel as much as people think we do. Or maybe I just don’t notice it [laughs]. We have a good little system figured out, though. Our son’s four-and-a-half now, and he probably has more skymiles than any other four-year-old in the world [laughs]. But we bring a nanny with us, who’s a friend of ours, and has been for ten years, even before we had our son.
I hope it turns out well. And I hope he remembers it.
Could you talk a little bit about your personal projects? What, for example, was the inspiration behind the sketchbooks and “The Little Man?”
JW: “The Little Man” is not even half-finished (I think there’s just one picture on the website), and it’s just going to be photos of our son that we think look cool. We’d look like crazy parents if we had hundreds of photos of our kid all over our website [laughs]
As for the sketchbooks, we used to just shoot photos of our friends, cut them out, tape them into these books, and show them to whoever cared to look. That was our portfolio for years: these very rough pictures of people, taped into sketchbooks. I think we each made about seven or eight of those things. We wanted to kind of organize that, and get it all up in a little archive on our website.
Speaking of your website, I was wondering if you could “give us the scoop” on how you guys use social media, and how you would advised other photographers to do so?
JW: I think if you use it in an honest way, have fun with it, and don’t take it too seriously, then it’s all good. If you’re too busy figuring out what the next tweet or Instagram will be, then when is there time for you go to be out there shooting photos? I got Twitter, but most of my tweets ended up being rants about the Lakers losing [laughs]. It was never like, “Look at this! Look at this!” I like to use social media more for silliness.
I used to share an office with a good friend of ours, who designs websites. He would get calls all day, with people saying, “Somebody told me I need a Facebook account for my business to do well!” And that’s just the stupidest theory. People think they need it, but they don’t want it. If you can use social media and have fun with it, then do it. But if you just have it because someone told you that you needed it, then no one is going to pay attention to it.
Any other advice for photographers who might be reading this?
JW: The best thing for you to do is to make mistakes, and learn from your mistakes. Get out there and make your own mistakes.
Thanks you so much for this interview!
JW: Yeah, thanks for listening to my ramblings for a half-hour [laughs].
See more of Jeremy and Claire’s work here: http://day19.com/