To celebrate his forthcoming award, here‘s a quick refresher on the man responsible for sexing up Calvin Klein and getting Leo to pucker up
From his iconic magazine covers, to his black and white portraiture of David Bowie and Kate Moss, and fashion imagery for Versace and Louis Vuitton – Bruce Weber’s work is as diverse as it is timeless. The photographer started out by shooting campaigns for brands like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, featuring sporty, muscular men – the body type that he came to pioneer in his work, and probably the reason that all American male models come issued with a set of washboard abs . Today Weber has 30-something books to his name, including the All American series, several monographs, a growing number of film and moving image credits, and can boast over 60 exhibitions – all thanks to his winning trademark combination of sexual charge, naturalism, classicism and nostalgia.
Not only has Weber’s longstanding career seen him produce some of the fashion industry’s most progressive campaigns, it’s also seen his unique vision of youth stand the test of time. As the moment comes for the photographer – who once compared getting the perfect shot to “showing your crushes to the world” – to be honoured for his creative achievements with the Isabella Blow Award For Fashion Creator at this year’s British Fashion Awards, we give you a five-point guide to the prolific image-maker.
HE’S NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSY
Having produced some of fashion’s most groundbreaking and controversial campaigns, Weber isn’t one to shy away from controversy. From his early work published in SoHo Weekly News featuring a then-shocking spread of men wearing underwear only, to his later imagery that set out to subvert puritanical America's obsession with sex, Weber has long been pushing the boundaries and restrictions of commercial photography. His 1982 image of Olympic pole-vaulter Tom Hintnaus wearing just a pair of white Calvin Klein briefs has been widely cited as a fashion advert that changed America, his work with Abercrombie & Fitch captured a post-millennium obsession with hypermasculinity and male sexuality.
ONE CREATIVE OUTLET WOULDN’T SUFFICE
As a true creator, Weber has never been satisfied with just one output for his work giving him reason to expand his art into the field of moving image. From 1987’s Broken Noses, a series of black and white shorts that documented the teen boys who sparred at Portland, Oregon’s Mount Scott Boxing Club, to his 1998 Oscar-nominated documentary Let’s Get Lost that chronicles the life of jazz trumpet player and heroin addict Chet Baker, and 2002’s long documentary Chop Suey, in which Weber explores the world surrounding Western wrestler and model Peter Johnson – Weber’s moving image portfolio is as diverse as that of his stills. That’s not to mention his countless fashion films for the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Moncler and Versace; and music videos for the Pet Shop Boys’ “Being Boring” in 1990 and “I Get Along” in 2002.
YOUTH IS INTEGRAL TO HIS APPROACH
Since his early days shooting young men for the pages of GQ in the 70s, to his time spent realising the series of hypersexualised Calvin Klein adverts that would come to define the future aesthetic of the brand – the beauty of youth has been integral to Weber’s approach as an artist over the past 40 years. In fact, his images have often captured significant moments in youth culture, like his June 1994 Interview magazine cover of Leonardo DiCaprio holding a red lip-shaped ‘Kiss Me’ sign and the magazine’s infamous cover of a topless Mark Wahlberg in February 1992.
HE’S A BIG FAN OF BRITISH FILM
Having initially trained in theatre studies in Ohio, before moving to New York to pursue film studies and later switching to photography following encouragement from American photographer Diane Arbus, it’s no surprise Weber is an avid film fan. Aside from directing his own moving image, he has previously expressed his love for the British film industry. As the photographer told AnOther in 2011, “I’m a big fan of British cinema from the 50s, 60s and 70s. It sort of became my film school in a way. It really meant something to me to see them” – he went on to say that British film This Sporting Life (1963) gave him “the courage to do what I believe.”
HE HAS AN AFFINITY WITH DETROIT
In 2006 Weber travelled to Detroit to shoot Kate Moss for W magazine and while many viewed it as a place tarnished by widespread poverty, Weber saw the city in a different light. Home to many of the luminaries Weber finds most inspiring, the photographer’s love affair with The Motor City saw him capture a number of them himself (including Iggy Pop and Aretha Franklin) along with a series of candid images of Detroit’s local inhabitants that later became the subject of his Detroit – Bruce Weber exhibition. Taking place in 2014 at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the exhibition saw Weber turn a positive, humanising lens on a neglected city and featured a compilation of his images taken between 2006 and 2013.