Roy Schweiger is a photographer and director based in NY. From the beginning he was always fascinated by the human face. He found the unique diversity that exists between one face and another. both inspiring and enigmatic. Over time he realized that he was mostly captivated by the light that can transform it, the shadows that shape and sculpt it and as any artist he wanted to express that. He began his career as a videographer working on short documentaries, capturing a cinematic point of view by presenting people s’ personal stories. While working through this medium he felt unchallenged and unsatisfied and it didn’t take long to realize that something was missing from his work. He began to realize that he was more interested in capturing an important instant, giving up movement in favor of finding the perfect moment. He found that he could tell an entire story in a captured instant.
Mr Schweiger moved to Milan in 2007 and opened a studio. He established himself in Italy’s Fashion Capitol by collaborating with prominent stylists and industry insiders on editorial stories. As awareness of his work increased he began working with local and international fashion houses including DSQUARED2, Zuhair Murad, Neil Barrett, Les Hommes and many others.
By the end of 2009 he was commissioned by Esquire magazine to shoot a retrospective story on Dolce&Gabbana for their upcoming 20th Anniversary. This opportunity was a high point in his career as the images were shot in Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s Portofino home, 4 months after Madonna’s 51st birthday party took place there. With the onset of the recession Roy felt the fashion and commercial worlds were facing great change in its direction and need., it was no longer just about reinvention, but creation of new mediums. Having started from a moving image background he decided to break the standard mediums, creating a new one, by merging both worlds into one visual product that combined photography and video allowing both mediums to coexist in one space. By applying animation to his photographs, utilizing the Parallax effect that is known in the post production world, he created moving frames and animated human movements. Individual photographs were transformed into an innovative defined product that took a new visual approach and spoke a different language to the fashion, commercial, and still life world. Mr Schweiger’s piece “Institutionalised”, an animated fashion film commissioned by DSQUARED2 for their Fall Winter 14′-15′ womenswear collection is an award winning fashion film in the La Jolla Fashion Film Awards (2014), London Fashion Film Awards (2015) and NYC Winter Fashion Film Awards (2015). The combination of still images that are given life through movement has become a signature. Mr Schweiger states “I believe I became a photographer the moment I stopped looking and started seeing”.
Hey Roy! Thanks so much for joining me. Can you tell me and our audience a little bit about yourself and your work?
Growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel had a major role in shaping my personality and the unique experience it had on my first half of my life. I was truly lucky for discovering my love for motion and photography fairly early on and right before I graduated high school. My grandfather who was the only person in the family who was not born In Israel was sent by his family in Bratislava, Slovakia to Israel at 15 years old just before WW2, He had a strong European influence on me and I embraced it. I was eager to learn from the best and somehow knew my calling was outside of Israel where fashion markets and beauty industries are stronger and established. The decision to move to Milan was instant, I knew I wanted to live in Italy even before visiting there. At times you know where you should be without a reasonable reason or explanation. I studied Italian for few months, took my savings and made Milan my home for the following decade. The pre Facebook and social media was somewhat more real and challenging at the same time, I met my mentor who guided and helped pave my way as a young photographer. I assisted several local and international well known photographers, I enjoyed paying attention to the dynamics between the creatives and clients and it opened my eyes and shaped my sensitivity to interactions and relationships in the fashion industry.
What inspires you when you photograph?
I’m fascinated by humans and humans’ energy. Its a great force that can elevate the room or shatter it with negative energy. The first thing I get inspired by is the people I work within the room and surrounded by when we share team creative work. Healthy communication and kindness set the energy and keep it high which is the first thing I’m inspired by and so do others who are also impacted equally. I was always inspired by unconventional human faces, locations around the world, beautiful shapes and forms, light and the human body while in movement. When we sell a dress or shoes or any other product, my mission is to sell an emotional, point of view that real life does not show us.
Reading at the bio on your website You stated: “I believe I became a photographer the moment I stopped looking and started seeing”. Can You tell us when did this happen to You? Was a process in time or there was some special situation that made you understand this?
Looking and Seeing is very different to me, looking might be something I look at and seeing exactly what it is , while seeing might be something I look at and imagining something else which interpreting in own way. I didn’t wake up one day feeling I made the switch, the process is different from one person to another based on one’s practice, ability to understand light and commitment to being consistent in doing so. I can’t put my finger on when exactly I started seeing my vision and style rather than looking at my subject without imagining an end result with certain light and composition. Photography like any other profession has rules, I remember wanting to lean them so I could break them through my own point of view which I mastered working with big photographers and then developing my own vision. The need to express myself made me pay attention to details, I took inspiration from many but always listened to my creative self. Once feeling more established in my style and light preference I developed a way of knowing what and how to create a photograph and I believe the process helped me seeing.
Your first work for a big Fashion House was with DSQUARED2 in 2007. Since then is almost 15 Years of work. How do you see your own evolution over this period of time?
I arrived to Milan in 2006, a period in time without social media or other online self promotional platforms. I didn’t have an iPhone nor did I check my emails on the cellphone I had. As a young photographer, The sense of satisfaction was when my work was published in a magazine or a billboard and sort of let that do the silent promotional work for you. When Facebook came in I remember working on my very first exhibition and closed myself in the studio with the team for few days and just created with no desire of sharing anything online. There was a sense of privacy that kept a certain level of quality that none was interested in sharing or sharing too early. I was walking around for meetings with my heavy custom made black leather portfolio, showcasing work on a laptop seemed unprofessional. The print had great significance that contributed to the way you would promote yourself. Evolution has been always within us as a society and happened if we liked it or not, sooner or later it effects us all and the old ways get blurry with the new ways until fully implemented. Social media was born out of evolution and with that many small and big changes along the way that reshaped every creative person out there. I think the most significant tool social media has always had was using one’s voice smartly and efficiently to impact others. Exposing our personal story rather than just personal work.
Can you tell me about your process? What goes through your mind when you’re offered a job?
My job as a photographer is to enhance the experience behind the product or person that I work with. This method always allowed me to expand boundaries , take creative risks and let my work become innovative as I go. There was a time, several years before the social media world emerged where I started engaging with animation and tested some unfamiliar and unconventional techniques. I tried to figure out how I can incorporate it in my work and will it even look like something that can speak my visual language and style. Slowly I mastered the Parallax Technique, it allowed me to create real animated movement in my photography so the end result was animated video pieces. The process was applied on still images without filming any footage. About more than a year later I felt conformable enough with my delivery and started introducing the service to clients such DSQUARED2 and Zuhair Murad. I debut with Dsquared2 FW 2014 very first animated video which received a nomination as Best Visual Effects at the La Jolla Fashion Film Awards 2014. By the beginning of 2015 we photographed the Zuhair Murad Fall 2015 collection which also turned into motion animation video. Little did I know that social media was about to heavily change the way we work and promote ourselves, The innovative process and refined end results seemed very relevant to many areas in my line of work. From there I continue to showcase it to other fashion houses, advertising agencies and global cosmetic companies that maintained open mind when it came to innovation which was essential for global consumer. From Hickey Freeman FW15, Marc Jacobs FW18, Disney’s Lion King Makeup Collection to Estee Lauder Companies, the innovative process seemed to catch fire thanks to social media. The perfect storm of polished visuals, innovative animation and modern delivery seemed to be the type of material every brand was after in order to keep being relevant to their consumers and clients.
Do You travel a lot for your shoots? If so, Do you have a favorite or memorable location that you seem to keep returning to?
Most memorable and absolutely favorite location is The Dead Sea that is located in both Israel and Jordan, When you are in one side you can see the other right in front of you. This magical natural lake is located more than 400 meters bellow sea level which makes it the lowest place on earth, The salt crystals all over surface creates absolutely stunning reflections and tones. It is 10 times as salty as the ocean for which fish and plans cannot live in, hence its name. This biblical place was naturally formed thousands of years ago and every time I visit it seems like It is changing its form and proximity to the land. The salt has therapeutical minerals and vitamins which are used by all the factories around and distribute to the rest of the world for decades and little by little it is recedes and disappears. As a kid I would reach my hand and pick natural mud from the bottom of the lake, now a days it can only be found in the stores so mankind definitely has somewhat exploited its wonders.
Let’s talk a little bit about the technical aspect of your job. Can you run us through a typical shoot?
A shoot always starts with planning on a visual level. The creative/art director and I discuss the purpose and clients’ desires and lay it out in a form of a mood board divided in sections so the clients and the rest of the creative team are on the same page. A visual mood board is essential just like verbal communication. it glues all elements together so there isn’t any miscommunication and issues understanding it later on. If the shoot is planned to take place on location, its important I’d take some references from the location to convey my point of view . The wardrobe samples will have its own section in the mood board as well as makeup and hair examples to maintain balance with the rest of the elements. Another thing that is essential for a mood board is inspiration photos that would give direction of where we want the photo shoot to go.
What about the day of the shoot?
The day of the shoot would start with a short brief, going through all the points we initially discussed during the dialog around the mood board and prepare the set. The nature of a photo shoots is always unexpected, the idea is to let things happen organically and to remember that a mood board sets the visual communication of the day while the day of the shoot may present better and greater possibilities and opportunities and I’m always alert for those moments as when may happen in a split second.
Thank Roy for sharing your experience and thoughts with us.
Biagio De Giovanni Editor-in-Chief FADDY Magazine
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