Elizabeth Weinberg was born and raised in the wilds of Massachusetts and graduated with a degree in Photojournalism from Boston University in 2004. She migrated south to Brooklyn, where the rooftops are bigger and the night is longer, in early 2005. Her clients include SPIN, NYLON, Giant, Mass Appeal, TOKION (Japan), and Alarm, as well as several record labels. She loves living on a tour bus, the woods, riding her bicycle, and she is looking for a vintage moped.
You photograph a lot of musicians. How did you get into this?
‘Before photography, my first obsession was music. I’d be one of those crazy teenagers who absolutely needed to be in the front row at a show, trying to get into 18+ venues on a school night. Shooting photos at those shows just happened naturally, as I was starting to carry a camera around with me at that time. I started working for a music management company the summer after high school and I met a lot of musicians that way. I got access to a lot of places not many fans could, because it was part of my job. My first tour was with Ben Kweller, the summer after college, in 2004. Through that job I’d had all through school, I ended up selling merch on the tour and shot on the side. Though I’d just graduated with a degree in photojournalism, it was through touring that I really I fell in love with documentary photography’.
Do you carry a camera with you everywhere or do you make plans to photograph?
‘I feel naked without a camera. I generally have a point and shoot digital or 35mm camera on me at all times. A lot of my favorite photos have come about purely by happenstance. I prefer catching someone or something in a moment versus setting up shots. I do plan personal shoots sometimes; I’ll pick a day and some friends and I’ll tell them I want to shoot some photos in a particular place. It’s hit or miss–it depends on if I find the right light and if my subjects are in the right mood. It’s tough to coordinate that too often if it isn’t for a job, and I think my best work happens on its own anyway. A good example of this is a photo of my friend Nick lying on the rug playing with a kitten. That was a scene I came across in a room full of friends just hanging out. Now it’s one of my favorite pictures’.
What is your favorite time of the day to shoot?
‘Magic hour! Late afternoon, always. My favorite time of the day is about an hour before the sun goes down right until civil twilight is almost over. Right when the clouds get darker than the sky. California is the best place in the world for this kind of light. Not that I’m wishing a ton of smog on New York!’
What camera are you using?
‘I primarily shoot with a Canon 5D and Mamiya RB67 concurrently. I also use a Canon G9 point and shoot, a Pentacon Six TL (this ancient German medium format TLR that is amazing!), a Canonet rangefinder, and an Olympus Stylus Epic 35mm point and shoot.
Your portraits have a lot of energy about them. What’s the secret behind getting your subjects to relax?
‘When it’s photos of my friends, they’re so used to my being around snapping away with a camera that they never act any differently than they otherwise would, so it’s pretty easy to get natural and relaxed pictures. When I shoot musicians or editorial portraits, if I’m relaxed, they’re a lot more likely to be so too. I used to work on shoots where photographers were frantic, running around, stressed out. It made a shoot seem a lot more like a chore than a creative give and take. I’m open about what my vision is for a particular shot, and I’ll listen to feedback from my subjects to see what they’re comfortable with and if they have any other ideas. Shooting photos is the only thing I want to do, so why shouldn’t it be fun?’