Bruce Weber

Designers create the clothes. The fashion mood of the moment, however, is decided by the photographers. Over the past 30 years, there have been two whose images have changed our attitudes to dress, fashion and ourselves, whether we’ve actually seen their photographs or not. They are the late Helmut Newton and the very much alive Bruce Weber.
Newton made clothes so sexy that they looked pornographic. But Weber’s influence is more subtle – and probably longer-lasting. Like the photographer himself, the approach is laid-back and humorous. A large, bearded man who dresses like a lumberjack, Weber has a great zest for life. So do his photographs, which is why he has worked for designers as different as Ralph Lauren and Gianni Versace, as well as leading fashion magazines around the world. His speciality is the painstakingly choreographed picture that ends up looking like a casual snapshot.
The purpose is to catch an almost unnoticed moment of significance, with the models seemingly unaware and unposed.
Weber, famed for his Calvin Klein underwear ads, was the first to use men in women’s fashion shoots, and to tell stories that involved groups of people. He can’t resist adding dogs – often from his own pack of golden retrievers – children, old people and as many well-formed young men as he can pack in.
More than most photographers, he realises that clothes are about people and how they live, and that to make them attractive, a fashion shoot should create a sense of heightened, but always sexy, normality. Nobody does this better, which is why Weber continues as one of the enduring influences of our time.


(First published February 2006)