Kevin Westenberg

Interview mit Kevin Westenberg

Name: Kevin Westenberg
Es gibt nur wenige Fotografen, die U2 außerhalb von Presseterminen und Konzertauftritten ablichten dürfen. Eine Ausnahme stellt der US-Amerikaner Kevin Westenberg dar. Neben Corbijn hat er das Gesicht von U2 im neuen Jahrtausend deutlich mitgeprägt: so hat er unter anderem die Coverphotos für die 'Stuck in a moment'-Single und die 7 EP aufgenommen. erhielt nun die Möglichkeit Kevin Westenberg in einem Interview zu seiner Arbeit mit U2 als auch zu seinen anderen Projekten zu befragen.

Ever asked yourself that there are also some other cool rock photographers around in this world instead of the usual ones, who take pictures of U2? Yes, there are.

Kevin Westenberg has absolutely no reason to hide hisself behind a curtain when being compared with other big names in that business as he is surely a big name as well: If you look at his client list you’ll notice fast, that Westenberg has worked for so many well known world-famous musicians that our irish rockers U2 can defenitily be seen as just another on his long client list. I’m sure that almost everyone of us has already seen at least one of his photos in a booklet in his own album collection at home without really knowing it.

And when you send a mail to express your compliments you normally never receive any reply from such people and so you are asking yourself later: Did anyone ever read my mail? Well, sometimes that’s different. Kevin seems to have read his mail and instead of just going over it he took time, wrote back and thanked me. Sadly most professional photographers don’t take that time and beside that they usually refuse to answer any questions for their client’s fan websites – but here’s the difference between Westenberg and "some other photographers": He took that time and during our communication he presented hisself as a very reliable and totally nice and polite person. From what I noticed Westenberg seems to be the opposite of what most people expect: He is keeping his word and answers his mail not behaving snobbish at all.

So we took the chance and asked Kevin – who is currently looking forward to bring the "Idyll Worship" gallery show to Germany as well – some questions about his general work and how it is to work with one of the big names in music business: U2. To me this has been a premier: I was speaking the first time in my life to a person who’s meet Elvis Presley in person and even didn’t know yet about it.
May we ask first: Where are you right now answering these questions and what have you already done this day, what are your plans for the rest of it? What will you do tomorrow?

Kevin Westenberg:
I’m in Los Angeles, California working on a shoot with Norah Jones. My friend Kim is flying into L.A. tonight for the weekend
What do you prefer: to stage-manage rock stars in a studio or shooting them live on stage? Is there a major difference for you?

Kevin Westenberg:
I MUCH prefer working on "set" shoots in all sorts of locations. When you're traveling with a band or musician to a great location for a special dedicated shoot then everyone is there to focus on just this one thing. It usually gives great results.
What is more satisfying: a good album cover or a massively run editorial/title page?

Kevin Westenberg:
Album Cover. It lasts forever.
What's the photo you are absolutely proud of? Is there any favorite album artwork by yourself (or from someone else) you say "this is the über-work" I'm absolutely admiring and probably will never top with any of my future jobs?

Kevin Westenberg:
This changes all the time for me. Undefinable.
Let's talk a bit about your philosophy and principal mission statement when working for clients. How do you approach new clients and where do you see your job? Is there anything you do completely different to other famous photographers?

Kevin Westenberg:
Mission statement? Am I famous??? My overall philosophy is to try and create "classic" images with each artist I come into contact with. Of course you're at the will of the circumstances surrounding each individual. I now try to pick and choose situations much more carefully than in the past to try and avoid bad shootings.
Let's now go into the detail: How do you prepare yourself for the sessions? Is there and what is your plan in case of a predefined result when speaking with clients? Do you already have such a result in your mind before you start or do you simply start working and see what the sessions brings out? Do you listen to your clients' music to prepare for a shooting?

Kevin Westenberg:
Prep? Lots of Meditation. I try to set up a situation where you have the best location and best chance to get a great result and then I make it up as I go along. Yes. The music is VERY important also. I have to like the music.
Up to now most of your U2 photographs emerged from the studio or from live appearances of the band. If you could choose absolutely free is there any particular outdoor location you're dreaming of?

Kevin Westenberg:
New Zealand and or certain parts of Australia.
Which member of U2 is the most simple to shoot and who poses a challenge?

Kevin Westenberg:
The most simple would have to be EDGE as he gives great camera! So many shots of him I like. Adam is probably the toughest only because I want to try to get more expressiveness and it's a bit tough sometimes.
If you had absolutely no limits - especially in time - would you prefer doing an intense shooting with the whole band U2 or would it rather excite you to do four detailed portrait sittings?

Kevin Westenberg:
I've done both and I feel they work best as a unit. They play off each other quite well and will let me experiment with positioning. Individual shots are tougher actually. I don’t feel i’ve done a very good job overall in the times we’ve shot because usually the time and locations have not been ideal.
What's your all-time favorite U2 song and album?

Kevin Westenberg:
Bad, The Unforgettable Fire.
Is there any funny thing you have kept in mind when working with a client you are able to share with us here? And who has been the person you worked with which impressed you most by something particular?

Kevin Westenberg:
BB Thornton invited me to come up to his and Angelina Jolie’s place to take ‘intimate’ shots of them together but I declined... My all time favorite client has been BB King. He’s a real, true living legend. They say that rock is based in the blues and BB is the King of the blues. He’s still playing and started before Elvis. Come on the guys an absolute legend! A real gentleman.
As there are a lot of hobby photographers in our fan community could you tell us a bit about your equipment, especially about the cameras you're using for concert shots? Do you still use conventional cameras or only digital ones? Which equipment do you in person use most? And last, speaking of knowhow: What are the three most important DO's and DON'Ts you would tell beginners in photography?

Kevin Westenberg:
Mamiya RZ for everything. Film ONLY. No digital. 90% of the job is learning how to deal with money, business issues and rejection. If you can't handle that then you should find another career. Just because you man to expose something correctly once and got one good image doesn't mean you're a master. Keep that EGO in will destroy you. NO FEAR.
You appeared in a commercial named "the shot" for the Canon 350 D / digital rebel XT. What was the attraction for you to take part in an advertising spot?

Kevin Westenberg:
Yes. I thought that it would help the profile and bring more people to the website which has been a big part of furthering the career. I wanted my friend Chris Cunningham to direct as I thought it should be very dark and mysterious. There wasn’t the budget unfortunately but I still feel it works well as a piece. I like it.
Does it bother you if fans want to take a photo with you?

Kevin Westenberg:
Have you ever considered to direct music videos or whole rock shows for your clients (f. i. like some dutch photographer is doing from time to time)?

Kevin Westenberg:
I´not interested. More of a challenge to produce the perfect still image.
Lots of artists and celebrities posed in front of your camera. Is there anybody you haven't had yet you would be dying to photograph? What are your plans you want to achieve in your life and haven't achieved yet?

Kevin Westenberg:
Too many to mention here. I’m just warming up here!
We thank you for the interview!

Interview: Phaser für, Redaktion: Phaser, Sun, cbrain

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