Bruce Weber's work—renowned for its powerful and iconic imagery that has graced gallery walls, billboards and the finest fashion magazines around the globe—is largely an extension of the way he sees the world. And when the first few images from the campaign he shot in Detroit for local handmade maven Shinola recently surfaced, it was clear that the project merited an in-depth look.
Weber is a photographer of the deeply personal. He opts to understand and connect with his subjects' personalities as the way to best capture them visually and convey the most captivating message. Weber's photos are at once simple and complex, familiar yet buttressed by an allure that draws the viewer into his vision. Regardless of the campaign, series or project, humanity is at the core of each and every piece of Weber's photography and films. We caught up with the artist to discuss the role of his small-town roots and shooting in the Motor City.
Your work features a mix of models and people off the street. Who's easier to work with?
Well, it always starts with the person. Do I believe in the person, do I want to spend a day with him or her, or several? I don't really care whether it's a fashion model or not. I really like people. I'm just really curious about their stories, their lives. That's what I want to show.
This is not your first time shooting a campaign in Detroit. How has the city changed from your perspective in the past eight years?
When I first went to Detroit in 2006, I was with Kate Moss, and we did a story for W Magazine. The city was so welcoming—even though it's a big place and spread out, Detroit had that wonderful small-town kind of attitude. People were really friendly, they looked you in the eye when they said hello on the street, and they greeted you with a smile. Since I first visited, I feel a real sense of optimism has grown in the city.
The Shinola series is very captivating. What was your inspiration?
When I first was in Detroit, we met so many interesting characters who then introduced us to people they knew. For this job, I got together with our friend, the casting agent Jennifer Venditti, and talked about the kinds of people who we felt represented Shinola—people from a wide spectrum of experiences.
What inspires you outside of photography?
As a kid I grew up listening to Broadway shows with my sister. She later went into the music business and worked with a lot of really great musicians. So music, definitely music.
"It's always a treat when real folks meet," a short film in the series, seems to pull the campaign together.
I'm a small-town boy, and I like to think that those values I had growing up in the midwest taught me a few things about life.
For more information on this special project, visit Shinola online.
Photos by Bruce Weber, courtesy of Shinola