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Bruce Weber.

B 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).



A n interview with Bruce Weber was conducted for Literally 5:

    Literally:
    What did you know about Pet Shop Boys?

    Bruce Weber:
    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?

    Pirelli 1998 calendar.

    Literally:
    What had you deduced from their videos and photographs?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.

    Literally:
    You thought they were very English?

    Bruce Weber:
    Yes.

    Literally:
    What about them seen like that?

    Bruce Weber:
    Oh... you know... (laughs) they like black.

    Calvin Klein advert.

    Literally:
    What did you thought when you first met them?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.

    Literally:
    What they’re going to look like?

    Bruce Weber:
    Exactly.

    Literally:
    Why had you not done a video before?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.

    Literally:
    Before you discussed it with them, what did you pick up that the song was about?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.

    Literally:
    You’d go to parties like the one in the video?

    Bruce Weber:
    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...

    Literally:
    That sort of beautiful over-indulgence?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.

    Dog.

    Literally:
    Why were there animals there?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.

    Literally:
    In the video are we supposed to see Neil and Chris as fitting into the party, or are they observing it from the inside?

    Bruce Weber:
    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?”.

    Literally:
    You tried to get Chris to dance, didn’t you?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.

    Pirelli 1998 calendar.

    Literally:
    Is it frustrating making something a video—that is by its very nature a slave to the music?

    Bruce Weber:
    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.



L 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:

    Neil Tennant:
    He’s a gorgeous person. We’ve done two videos with him.

    Robbie Williams:
    Being boring.

    Neil Tennant:
    And then Se a vida é.

    Robbie Williams:
    Was that him as well?

    Neil Tennant:
    Yeah he did the one in the water theme park. Yeah, he’s great.

    Robbie Williams:
    Who came up with the idea for Being boring?

    Neil Tennant:
    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.”

    Robbie Williams:
    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.

    Neil Tennant:
    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.

    Calvin Klein advert.

    Robbie Williams:
    Was it expensive?

    Neil Tennant:
    At that point, it was the most expensive video we’d ever made.

    Robbie Williams:
    Which was?

    Neil Tennant:
    Well, this was 1990. It was about 150,000 quid.



A  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.




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