Juror’s Choice winner James Weber fell into his photography career by accident. While studying to be a writer, Weber chose Photography 101 as his non-major elective. That choice completely altered his trajectory, embarking him on a new career. The expenses associated with photography at the time factored into his decision to join the Navy at 19.
"My family has a long history of military service. My grandfather mentioned that they have photographers in the Navy and that maybe I should look into it. So, I went down to my local Navy Recruiter’s office, took the test and told them I wanted to be a Navy photographer. They said they had never put one in. I told them to call me when they wanted to. Three months later, I was in boot camp. I did two tours in the Navy, three years in Japan, and three years in Hawaii. In that time, I had a lot of great experiences. I shot from helicopters, on submarines, from planes, and even a WWII Battleship. It was an amazing experience and great introduction into photography."
Juror's Choice, Anna I
After his time in the Navy, Weber began to make a name for himself as a commercial photographer, eventually growing a very successful business. While his commercial clients keep him busy these days, he continues to produce personal work, most recently working with tintype portraits. “I think to some degree, you don’t have a choice if one influences the other. Once you’ve been shooting for a while, some things become second nature. It’s a part of how you see the world. I’ve been told that some of my portraits have a ‘fashion’ feel about them. I’m sure that’s a crossover from my fashion work that I do.”
In recent years Weber searched for a way to incorporate more craft into photography. His discovery of wet plate collodion set him on a new path. He views photographic chemistry as a “powerful and somewhat magical thing” and is awed by the appearance of an image on sheet of tin. He enjoys the process immensely, finding beauty in the depth of the images and the act of making each object. Hand crafted and one-of-a-kind by nature, each plate is appreciated for its unique qualities. Weber also loves the relationship he develops with his subjects. “I also feel a connection with my subjects when I shoot large format wet plate that is subtlety different than when I shoot digitally. I think that the people I’m shooting feel there is something special about this too, and that affects how they are in front of the camera.”
Originally inspired to pursue this project by Renaissance painters, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli in particular, Weber also finds himself pushed to keep creating and innovating in his work by the community of artists around him in New York. Many of his friends work in various mediums and are a constant source of inspiration to hone his craft and to continue creating and sharing his work. And really, that is one of Weber’s definitions of success in art: “If I was able to continue creating my work, that would be the first part of success. I think that sharing my work with others is the other part of success. In sharing my work with others, I’m introduced to new, often wonderful people and experiences. That in turn, sometimes takes me off in a direction I had not thought of before.”
Expressions: Contemporary Portraiture is on view through April 26, 2014.