Behind The Lens: Zev Weinstein

Behind The Lens: Zev Weinstein

Work experience kid interviews his favourite photographers, next up - Zev Weinstein.

Hey, I'm Dexter Wright and I am doing my work experience at Pilerats. I am a small time photographer and love photography and those who are involved with it. I have reached out to a few of my favourite photographers and will be bringing you a new interview every week as part of a new series - Behind The Lens.

Zev Weinstein is a Western Australian photographer with a dark, artsy feel to his photos. His photos confuse you, entice you and leave you craving more. He shoots music, surfing, travel and portraits, and yet still has time for an interview. I sent Zev an email with a few questions and asked for a few photos in return. Check out his responses and those photos down below:

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Who put the first camera in your hands?

It was my dad when I was about three years old; he gave me a Fisher Price Perfect Shot for Christmas. They take 110 film and have two viewfinders for each eye with two handles on each side. If you looked at one now you would probably think it’s just a toy and be amazed it actually takes photos, but I was obsessed with it. Apparently I carried it everywhere and he would have to take me out all the time for photo walks, they would try and encourage me to take photos of flowers or something nice but I just wanted to shoot weird stuff, like rocks fences or dogs, not much has changed.

What camera are you currently messing with?

I’m thinking about shooting some stuff with this Fisher Price camera after you reminded me about it, but right now mostly my Hasselblad 501cm, 6x6 is a beautiful format to work with especially for portraits and if you use it right you can achieve a tack sharp quality that rivals any digital camera. When you're shooting a little lower while looking down into the viewfinder and not at your subject as much it definitely allows people to get a little more lost in there own world and that’s when something genuine usually happens.

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Your portraits all have a sense of emotion and character to them, do you have a favourite person to shoot?

I can't say I have a favourite person in peticular that I keep coming back to, but I do have a certain kind of person I look for. When I was in Shanghai shooting for a photography workshop/book/film I would basically just walk the streets everyday until something interesting happened. One day I was walking through Yangpu near the university we were staying at and this fruit merchant named Ji yelled at me and started demanding I photograph him, he lost his arm in a cotton machine accident as I would later find out. What I was really interested in however was his face, he had this really rugged iconic face like a Chinese Clint Eastwood, I could instantly tell there was a story behind him, so for the next few days I would go back to learn about his life and take portraits of him. What made that situation work was Ji had this sort of timeless charisma and sense of humour to him even despite all the hardships of his life. Not only did he have a story he wanted to share but he was comfortable enough with himself to forget about the camera to some extent even if it was pointed right at him. It's that kind of person that I'm interested; in the kind of character you can take a photo of and when you see it think "that could be anywhere" - a photo that has that timeless feeling to it.

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What’s the one shot that got away?

Last year in Indonesia I was driving around on my scooter a lot looking for photos. I managed to shoot about 15 rolls of film, however when I came home half of them were ruined due to a big crack in my Paterson tank, many bizarre and wonderful images were lost from that trip. But great shots are passing me by constantly, every time I go out with no camera moments are lost, especially when your travelling you need to be really focused, moments always arise when you least expect them to or when it's really inconvenient, like on an Indo trip a few years back we were coming home from the hills all half asleep and suddenly we drove past a huge cock fight. They're not hard to find in Bali or anywhere in Indonesia but I had never seen one before so I demanded we stop the car so I could jump out to get amongst the chaos. 100 or so Indonesian dudes all smoking their giant clove cigarettes yelling and making bets, only problem was I had no camera on me for some stupid reason.

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Who is your biggest inspiration in photography?

There’s so many amazing photographers who have influenced me over the years I couldn’t just name one, of course there’s the greats like Henri Cartier Bresson, Garry Winogrand, William Klein, Joseph Koudelka, Lee Fried Lander is a big one, and Danny Lyon or Robert Frank... But there’s also photographers like Max Pam who is a big influence of mine, he’s a very successful photographer from Perth who lectured at ECU and curated the library there. The time I’ve spent searching through the amazing collection at ECU has led me to discover more contemporary photographers like Jim Goldberg, Wolfgang Tillman’s, Steven Shaw, Alec Soth or Daido Moryiama and Ed Templeton, who have all served as great inspiration to my photographs. Last year in Shanghai I was lucky enough to gain some mentorship from conflict photographer Philip Blenkinsop, that was a big changing point for me, basically the boot camp of photo journalism. I quickly realised you can't get a great photograph by standing in one spot like a doll and snapping a single frame, you have to dance around a situation and search for the shot. Phillips' style is visually very strong, full of content and blinding truths and he’s not afraid to tell you if what you're doing is absolute shit, so you can put aside your own ego and there’s no quicker way to progress.

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If you had to choose out of every photo you have taken, which would be your favourite?

Probably the photo I made of my friend Luke Mclean in his backyard a few ago, I think we were bored and needed a photo for uni so I just started shooting him. Nothing specifically special was going on at the time but the lighting was nice and for a few frames his personality really came out, that’s when I got the close up portrait of him staring into the camera. One of my favourite things about photography is definitely the ability to turn a totally normal moment into something bizarre or magical, plus he definitely has that sort of timeless personality I was talking about.

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Do you listen to music while you edit? If so what album or band in particular?

I’m almost always listening to music while I edit I think I would go mad if I didn’t. The music depends on what kind of photo I’m editing, if it's gig stuff or grungy snap shots then usually bands like The Bad Brains, The Cramps, Iggy Pop or King Gizzard or local guys like the Spunloves, but sometimes I'll need something more mellow like earlier this year I was painting this huge Xerox print of my grandmother on her death bed and I basically just had On Melancholy Hill by the Gorrilaz playing on loop the whole time.

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Do you prefer sunrise or sunset to shoot?

Sunset all the way.

Your Instagram is loaded full of your travel shots, is there a place/country/location that springs to mind as the most exciting to shoot?

I still have so many places I need to travel but at this point definitely Indonesia. Everything I want to take photos of is there, you can go to the crowded spots and get amongst the chaos and bizarre happenings of the city or head for the coast and score great waves then take photos of the locals. With 18,307 islands of people, city, and surf the possibilities are endless. It’s definitely a point of interest for so many reasons - economic, environmental, human rights. And just the downright weird and beautiful shit that goes down there on a daily basis.

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Any up and coming photographers we should be checking out?

There’s a great crew of local photographers in Perth who are doing great things like Sam Eastcot, Ebony Talijancich, Lach Parkin, Duncan Wright, Graham Miller or Jake Rothman. One of my favourite contemporary photographers however who I wouldn’t exactly say is an up and comer as he’s already working for Magnum but he is quite young would be Sohrab Hura, a photojournalist from Delhi. He truly has an element of magic in his work and none of it is staged, you can tell he really searches for his photographs, walks the streets for hours. I like photographs you can look at, and it will take you minutes to even figure out what’s happening, or you cant figure it out at all, then you have to create your own story.

Follow Zev Weinstein: INSTAGRAM