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Michael Weintrob has done it all in the world of music photography.  Alabama born, his passion for live music has taken himGregg all over the world to photograph musicians in their element.  Considered one of the best live music photographers in the business,  his photos have landed in Rolling Stone, Billboard, People, Spin, Mojo, and just about every publication in between.  He was the house photographer for Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a time.  But it wasn’t until Todd Smalley from the Derek Trucks Band stuck his bass down his pants that Michael found his current path; Instrumenthead.  Instrumenthead is a surrealistic look at musicians without showing their faces.  But there is rarely any mistaking who’s behind the instrument.  Michael and the artist take great pains in letting the image speak to who the musician really is. Michael will be in Macon at the opening of his new show at Gallery West on Friday, October 2.  The exhibit, which will showcase some of Michael’s most recent work as well as some of his older, most famous shots, will be up through the 24th.   Michael has also recently kicked off a campaign on indiegogo, to help fund a new coffee table book that will showcase his work over the last few decades.  You can support this project via his website; weintrobphotography.com.

Interview by Brad Evans

Artist Michael Weintrob
Artist Michael Weintrob

You started out doing live photography, before you moved into portraits, but in the beginning, how did you get musicians to buy into stuffing their instruments down their shirt/pants?  Well it was definitely a question I asked myself.  How am I going to get them to do that?  I knew a million musicians.  I’d been shooting live concerts for so many years.  So I’d call them up and pitch the idea.  I’d give them some free promotional shots they could use, and they were all game.  When money isn’t changing hands it becomes collaboration.  And we’d have a conversation beforehand, and I’d ask them “what makes you, you?” How are people going to know that it’s you. I’d ask them to bring things that represent that. So they show up with all these different things. With a lot of them, their instruments are a big part of who they are.  They’ve been playing them for so long that they are just a part of their identity. And others we’ll play on their names. Take Binky Griptite, from the Dap Kings for example.  There is a pacifier in the image, which is another name for a Binky, and he’s wearing a crown for the Dap Kings.  So you can find a lot of different things in the images themselves that help tell the story.  It’s been a great exchange.  The instrument head has been a vehicle to create these great images, but I’ve also been able to shoot normal photos of these musicians holding all their stuff.  I do that leading up to the instrument head photo. The session could be 2 hours and the instrumenthead shot could take two minutes.  You have to build that up to ask a musician to hold their instrument down their shirt and in their pants.

You’ve shot over 500 artists for instrument head, every one of them incredible in their own right.  Who was Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 10.34.09 AMyour favorite artist to work with?

Look, I’ve had an incredible time. I love them all for different reasons. Bootsy Collins for example.  He’s so hilarious.  He’s such a character.  All my camera gear had gotten stolen before I shot him.  He was just so understanding and comical and helped me feel better about it, and his images are some of my best images ever, I think, even though I was shooting on borrowed equipment!

You’ve taken a lot of portraits of folks that have had some connection to Macon.  Have you ever been here? I’ve never been to Macon, Georgia.  I’m so excited to be there.  I’m most excited that Kirk is bringing me into his space.  I’ve always seen him on the scene.  When I shot the Allman Brothers I got to interact with him.  Then I found out he’s an amazing photographer. He was always so cool to me.  I think he understood me.  He’s come to my place in New York to talk about his journey. We’ve been on very similar paths the last few years.  So it’s great to be merging energies in this away.  And I’m looking forward to experiencing Macon.

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