We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous Art producer: I nominate Jeremy and Claire Weiss of Day 19. They are established but their work is nice and fresh. They also are very low key to work with and create no problems on set. They are very flexible when things change. I recently worked with them a campaign. There were a lot of problems on my side with the talent, which were musicians due to legal matters, and they sailed through drama free and accommodated the production 110 percent.
How many years have you been in business?
I don’t know how long I would call it a legitimate business but starting getting some paying gigs around 2000 when we moved to Los Angeles. Claire and I didn’t start shooting together until 2006 and she waited tables up until 2007 and I would do movie extra work (it’s an easy gig in LA) and go on tour with bands selling merch and make little photo ‘zines with the tour photos and sell them to pay rent. I did that up until 2006 when we got a pretty big advertising job out of the blue, but that money went fast paying off debts so we were broke again in 2007. So to take an easy question and give it a difficult answer we have been making a living solely off of photography since 2008. I think people always saw us as bigger than we were really because we shot some pretty popular albums for friend’s bands but that paid pennies.
We both realized very early on we would never make great assistants, I tried twice and both times it ended pretty badly and I don’t think Claire ever even tried.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Both. Claire and I met while we were both attending a county college in New Jersey where I was taking a photo class because I had shot a roll of film at a concert and this fanzine Anti-Matter wanted to publish it but only if the print had a black border around it. I had no idea what that even meant so I took a printing class to learn how. A teacher named Charles Luce showed me the magic of a filed negative holder at County College of Morris in 1998. I urged Claire to start taking some photo classes too and she fell in love with the darkroom. I miss the black border; it was like a badge of honor that you didn’t crop.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
The influences to start taking photos and to get into the business of taking pictures are totally different. I am from NJ and grew up taking the train into NY to skate every day and go to shows. I would always see guys like Ari Marcopolous, Chris Toliver, Tim Owen, and Larry Clark taking photos and I was intrigued by them but always too shy to talk to them. I got a camera from my mom and starting taking photos of my friends hanging out like I imagined their photos looked like. That’s what got me to start shooting and the eventually led me to take that class so I could make better prints than A&P was giving me.
Strangely enough the person who turned us on to the commercial world of photography we are in now was a photo rep who seeked me out because of the photos she had seen in one of those many photo ‘zines we had made. I guess someone showed her one and she called me and wanted to meet. She asked to see my portfolio but I only had photos taped into these black sketchbooks. It was her idea for Claire and I to work together because when she was helping me build a proper portfolio she wanted to use a photo of Jack Black that Claire had taken backstage at Coachella, so we ended up building a portfolio of both of our work in it. We didn’t really realize our work could fit into the advertising world, it wasn’t even something we aspired to until we started getting some advertising gigs and realized the clients and agencies just wanted us to shoot like we were shooting our friends.
How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
I think we are each other’s biggest inspiration. We get a kick out of bouncing ideas off of each other and there’s a healthy competition between the two of us to get an amazing shot. We only know how to shoot the way we do so we are always being honest with ourselves. Advertising came to us; we didn’t change our way of shooting to cater to the ad world. I’ve seen a lot of people, assistants and others; completely change their style to what the trend happening was. We had an assistant shoot in that super sharp ultra realistic whatever its called style when it was hip a couple years back and now they shoot “lifestyle”. Such a terrible word.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Years ago we did. Our book would get us in the door but clients would always seem scared away probably because we had photos of a guy with Slayer carved into his back or a girl with a bloody nose in there too.
These days we have enough pretty successful campaigns under our belt that it makes it easier for clients to look past the tattooed lip photos etc.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Honestly, we don’t do much self-promotion. We need to do more for sure. Our agency Giant Artists makes a book once a year that includes everyone on the roster that people seem to dig and we send out an email every couple months that maybe 3 people click. I’d say its mostly the work we’ve done speaks for itself and word of mouth gets us most of our work. We’ve had art buyers tell us that a creative director would put one of our photos on their desk and say, “find out who shot this” more than a handful of times. It’s flattering.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Maybe it works for them, who knows? Our motto has always been show what you wanna shoot.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
We have an ongoing Polaroid Project that we do when we get a chance that’s more of an excuse to meet people doing cool shit than anything else. It’s pretty much the same photo of different people, Claire shoots one and I shoot one.
We don’t see much of a separation though of what we shoot for clients and what we shoot for ourselves. Maybe the stuff we shoot that’s not commissioned is a bit darker but that stuff usually gets referenced for an upcoming shoot when we end up showing it. Our goal going into every job is to want to completely redo our portfolio with the images when we are done. We’ve been lucky too that any idea we have outside of something we’ve gotten hired to shoot we’ve pitched to a magazine ahead of time and they gave us space to print it.
We’ve never done a “test shoot”.
How often are you shooting new work?
Never not shooting.
Jeremy & Claire Weiss split their time between Los Angeles, CA and Big Bear Lake, CA with their 5 year old son Eli.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.