The Weekly Edit Interview
David Needleman

- - The Daily Edit

New York Observer’s Scene Magazine

Photographer: David Needleman
Art Director: Dean Quigley
Stylist: Erin Walsh
Makeup: Christian McCulloch
Hair: Marco Santini
Retouching: Smooch NYC

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Heidi:  What brings you to LA?
Being from New York my entire life, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the pace of things out there.  Plus, the weather is very seductive, too.  Truthfully, I happen to love working in Los Angeles, so I very much hope to be spending more and more time out West over the next few years.

 

What were the 3 most valuable things you learned working at Steven Meisel Studio?

After college, Steven was pretty much the only photographer I’ve ever worked for and learned from, so the majority of my education came from him and his remarkable studio.  I notice the longer I’ve been on my own now, the more I’m able to reflect on how incredible of an experience it really was.  That said, I gained a very strong awareness and understanding of loyalty, and to uphold a standard of respect and professionalism with regards to the context of the industry.  Secondly, my time there taught me to understand the importance of communication as it relates to the collaborative process, and to value the subtleties and nuances that may occur within the process, on a creative level.  Lastly, it constantly reminded me and still does every day, of how fortunate I was (and still am), to have experienced so much invaluable guidance, insight, and direction from so many incredibly talented and smart people along the way.  For all this, I’m so thankful and appreciative, as it has helped me to mold the idea of what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go within my career.

What was your first editorial assignment and how much did you prepare?

My first editorial assignment was to photograph a portrait of the actress, Jamie-Lynn Sigler (at that time, from HBO’s The Sopranos) for Abercrombie & Fitch’s A&F Quarterly in 2004.  As preparation, I remember photocopying a bunch of Irving Penn pictures from various books, and making a large file with a p-touch label, titling it the actress’ name.  I remember having a great deal of anxiety the night before, and staying up throughout the evening with anticipation — I maybe slept for 2 hours and can remember watching the sun come up that morning.  Believe me, I’m far less anxious today.

 

Your portraits have a very intimate, revealing quality to them, how do you get your subjects to open up and drop their guard to catch that moment?

Thank you, Heidi.  It’s not always my intent, but one way or another, I find that the connection just happens between my subjects and I.  I like to be present and in the moment with them, and do my best to observe, listen, and even try to empathize with them if I can.  When I’m taking pictures, it’s about gaining that mutual respect for each other.

How tight of an edit do you give the PE typically?

Generally, I try to release as few pictures as possible.  Maybe it’s usually my top 3 to 5 choices from each particular picture or composition.  Though, I make sure to never release anything I wouldn’t want to be published.

 

(outtake from this shoot)

Who has influenced you in the past, and continues to influence you to go forward?

I’ve been influenced by so many wonderful people in my life.  Though as far as photographers go, I’ve always been inspired by; Herb Ritts, Arnold Newman, Francesco Scavullo, David Bailey, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Brigitte Lacombe, Irving Penn (my dog happens to be kind of named after him), and of course, Steven Meisel, too.  But, after surviving cancer about 5 years ago, I feel like my point of reference and perspective on how I see things and what drives me forward has changed or evolved a great deal.  Life itself — just being alive tends to inspire, influence, and motivate me to go forward with that ongoing passion, appreciation, and excitement about doing what I am doing.  Also, it prevents my ambition from getting the best of me.

 

Heidi Volpe

There Are 2 Comments On This Article.

  1. Having ones’ dog “kind of named” after them…now that’s quite a compliment indeed.

  2. david’s work is a huge inspiration. such beautiful and intimate portrait work. thank you for sharing this!