ruce Weber is a famous American photographer and film maker. He had
his works exhibited in many galleries and museums and printed in practically
every major magazine. His most known photos include legendary Pirelli
calendar (1998 edition) and Calvin Klein advertisement photographs.
He also created a couple of documentary films, one of which—Let’s Get Lost—was
nominated by Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, and directed
music videos for Chris Isaak and Pet Shop Boys (Being boring—it
was him who chose Long Island as the place to shoot the video, and all
of the people on the set were his friends or models—1996’s
Se a vida é and 2002’s I get along).
n interview with Bruce Weber was conducted for Literally 5:
What did you know about Pet Shop Boys?
I’d listened to the music for a long time and I’d
always loved it, because it always took me to another
place. I think my image of them was that they were not
just singers and songwriters but had a kind of artful
attitude about what they did. And I liked their charm
and enthusiasm. I remember hearing West End girls and
I just loved that song so much, you know?
What had you deduced from their videos and photographs?
They were kind of my stenos. They always reflected to me
a lot of the attitudes that were happening on the streets
in England. I always feel that being on the street in
London was a real inspirational place and they represented
a lot of those feelings.
You thought they were very English?
What about them seen like that?
Oh... you know... (laughs) they like black.
What did you thought when you first met them?
I thought they had to be great because they had
that sensibility, and they were. You meet a lot
or musicians and they’re so chatty about themselves, and
they weren’t. They were really interested in what I thought.
Usually when you meet musicians to talk about a video they
just care about what they think.
What they’re going to look like?
Why had you not done a video before?
Time and circumstances, and I also fell that I really wanted
to fall in love with a song. Because I knew I was going to
have to listen to it about a million times (laughs). I
got the tape and I loved it; I had an immediate reaction
to it. I thought it had a lot of musicales and a lot to say,
I loved the lyrics and really felt that it was something
I wanted to be part of.
Before you discussed it with them, what did you pick up
that the song was about?
The feeling that times are different today, and that feeling
of abandonee we can’t have today because of the way the
world is the whole sexual thing with AIDS, the feeling of
different groups around the world trying to ban a lot of
visual things. The world’s really different from the times I
think Neil and Chris are writing and singing about in the song.
We talked about the lyrics and talked about (laughs) having
a party, you know. I really wanted to show what the kind
of parties were like that I used to go to. We found a
house where the owner wasn’t there much, and I think the man
not being there gave a spirit of when I’d go to friends houses
and we’d stay for two days. I wanted to give something
like that back to a lot of kids who couldn’t really do
what I did when I was that age.
You’d go to parties like the one in the video?
Yeah! I used to have a lot of, you know, eccentric friends.
And I was really inspired by the attitude of the way
parties were in European films when I was growing up, the
kind of things where people would stay for days. In American
films they were always like a huge fraternity party but
in French and Italian films...
That sort of beautiful over-indulgence?
Right. And I really felt the song was about that loss
of abandonee, and that fear of indulgence that is so
prevalent now. We have to behave differently now, but we
can’t be afraid to look at things and to dream.
Why were there animals there?
In certain films especially French films of Renoir—there was
always a country animal brought as a pet. Like in the Bertolucci
film where Dominique Sanda comes into the house on a horse. I
always loved animals in houses, especially animals that don’t
really belong in houses. I kind of love the fantasy of it.
In the video are we supposed to see Neil and Chris as
fitting into the party, or are they observing it from the inside?
I always felt when I met them that they were like London kids
on the street and I fell that no matter how old they are, or
will be, they’ll always have that wonderful child attitude about
the way they see things. So it was really a little bit about
the way I fell they see things. It was a little bit from their
mind: “is the party really happening?”, “ho’s upstairs in
the bubble bath?”, “who’s in the bedroom?”, “are the dancers
really here?” or “are we sleeping on the staircases?”.
You tried to get Chris to dance, didn’t you?
Yeah, and I saw him dance and he got real shy. It’s kind or
refreshing, because most musicians are desperate to be in
every scene of their video. Also, a lot of rock stars and pop
stars do videos and never talk to the kids in them: they show
up and are escorted in by a bodyguard and do a scene then go
back to the trailer. Neil and Chris were banging out.
Is it frustrating making something a video—that is by its very
nature a slave to the music?
I think if I got a chance to do another I would talk to
the people I was making it with and see if I could use
the format of the music in a slightly different way. Maybe
in the future people will say “come into the studio whilst
we’re recording this song,” or even that a song might
be written for a specific video. At the moment you are a
slave to the music, but if you like the song that’s alright.
And I really love the song.
iterally 23 included an interview between Neil Tennant and Robbie
Williams. Part of the interview dealed with Bruce Weber and the two
videos he made with Pet Shop Boys:
He’s a gorgeous person. We’ve done two videos with him.
And then Se a vida é.
Was that him as well?
Yeah he did the one in the water theme park. Yeah, he’s great.
Who came up with the idea for Being boring?
Him. Chris and I had some very complicated idea, and Bruce
Weber said [puts on very convincing American accent], “No,
I think we should do it in a house in Long Island, get all
these kids, just have a party and film it.” And we said, “Urm,
yeah, OK. Fine.”
It did look beautiful and the thing is about those things where
you get kids in to have a party, it can always look as though
it’s really naff. Like if you get a house party with Janet
Jackson, I don’t want to slag anybody off ‘cause I’ll probably go
to America and get shot. But it always looks very contrived.
That one didn’t.
You know why it wasn’t contrived, because firstly he’s brilliant
at casting, and he got all these great looking kids of all
different kinds of looks, not just traditionally good looking people.
And also we did it in one day in this house and had two film
crews. And it was fun. It was fun, the whole thing was really enjoyable.
Was it expensive?
At that point, it was the most expensive video we’d ever made.
Well, this was 1990. It was about 150,000 quid.
short, but interesting tidbit about Bruce Weber could be found in the
Pet Shop Boys versus America book:
“Bruce Weber,” says Neil, “though the show was ‘gorgeous.’”
“That’s a very him word”, says Chris.
Information about the video.
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