~Meniscus Archives~
Spring 2005
Issue #7
The Mojo Issue

Issue #7 Home


Motivated by Guilt
Derek Meier
Guilt drove me out from beneath the covers of my dream machine. I would feel guilty if I didn't get out of bed. Though I'm fine with being in bed all day, for some reason I just can't stand to tell anyone else in the world that I slept until 2:30 in the afternoon.

Music Maestro, Please
Michael Levy
The question to ask oneself is: Have I truly been the maestro of the orchestrations in my life or have I let other people conduct all my compositions without any of my own legitimate personal input.

Jamcruise— An Assignment in the Life of Photographer Michael Weintrob
Jon Heinrich
What motivates photographer Michael Weintrob? Connections, music, and running his own photography business are just a few things that drive him. Weintrob shares his crazy experiences and philosophy with Meniscus Magazine.



Michael Weintrob's

Jon Heinrich

Published 3/31/05

Concluding a weekend of over 50 sets of music from pioneering musicians, The Trey Anastasio Band headlined the last set of Bonnaroo in June 2002. Occurring in the middle of Phish’s hiatus made it an epic moment for phans and band alike—and music photographer Michael Weintrob was there to capture the essence of the moment.

To close the action-packed weekend, Trey Anastasio came out on stage with his acoustic guitar. Weintrob explains what’s happening through his view finder: “I’m staring at Trey and he’s looking at the audience. After a rambling emotional speech—he was a mess—as he played the opening riff to Wilson: da naunt da naunt. Trey’s looking out to space when from behind me, 90,000 people yell back ‘W I L S O N!’”

As Weintrob explains this, he mimics the massive reflecting energy bouncing between crowd and stage. “Trey responds: da naunt da naunt; and the crowd roars back: ‘W I L S O N!’” Weintrob illustrates the echoing energy with his swaying hands and body. “I was in the middle of this powerful energy exchange between Trey and the audience. I witnessed what it was like to be Trey Anastasio for that moment—and what it was like to be the crowd. It was really one of those moments when I know everything in life is going to be alright.”

Many people might envy Michael Weintrob’s place as a prominent music photographer—with magaines like Down Beat, Relix and Rolling Stone on his résumé. But its not fun and games all the time. Although being a professional music photographer living in Brooklyn, NY is exponentially more fun than most jobs, it takes hard work and dedication; faith in the flow and the savoring of each moment to keep him on the path that he knows best. Michael rides the energy of music to stratospheric heights and captures the moment for thousands of people to share.

Path to the Peak Experience
After Michael’s father gave him his first ‘real’ camera, a Nikon 4004, he moved to Colorado and began following his drive to see live performances and to shoot as many concerts as possible. At that point, the early talent emerged. “A lot of people were coming up to me to say that I was really good,” recalls Weintrob. He realized he needed to do more of this. It simply had to be done.

“The rush that I would get when I was in front trying to capture the moment was just unparalleled. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before.”

As soon as the fledgling photographer realized his relationship with the lens, he decided to pour every ounce of his energy into it. Weintrob had to surrender to the fact that he and his camera were M.T.B.. “I always felt like I was supposed to be there, it was meant to be. It was my calling. All these doors started opening and things started happening.”

Another reason Weintrob couldn’t ignore the drive lies in the lessons he learned from his parents. Because his father had never owned his own business, Weintrob always wanted to do his own thing.

Not Always Smooth Sailing
One of the first things he learned is that being a professional artist comes with its fair share of struggles. The main aspect of dedicating your career to your art is that its not about money, its about doing what you love.

As sure as night follows day, with success comes failure. “I get really depressed sometimes. I have moments of severe highs and severe lows. I tasted success on the highest level of music photography when I had a double page spread in Rolling Stone... I’ve tasted success but it doesn’t happen every day,” says Weintrob. Normal life can be difficult on the freelance payroll always awaiting checks from record labels. No insurance, no job security, its easy to wonder about getting a supplemental job at a photography store.

But Weintrob knows better: “All my time and energy needs to be spent on this,” he says.

Despite his business challenges, when he’s out taking pictures he’s in his groove. “I’ll tell you what, “ hastens Weintrob, “when I’m working, when I was on that boat, I’m in my element. When I’m taking photographs, that’s me—that’s it.” Like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, this entrepreneur knows what needs to be done, but the demon inside sometimes gets in the way. But nothing a little will power can’t take care of.

Through dedication and focus, Michael has become quite a savvy businessman, now earning enough to make a living with his art. He’s learned that it’s all about how you choose to present yourself as an artist. One particular experience in his past, helped define what success means to this photographer’s mind.

Several years ago, Michael met a fellow music photographer at a festival selling pictures out of his truck in the parking lot. They were amazing pictures of Stevie Ray Vaughn, but Michael realized he didn’t want to be the guy selling $10 prints in the parking lot. Michael decided he wanted to put his photographs on the pages of magazines and in galleries—an audience of millions.

With this goal in mind, Michael began collecting shots from every show he could get to. Eventually he had such an impressive collection, that magazines such as Down Beat and Relix could not ignore him.

But one thing he learned along the way came from another photographer in Austin, Texas at the South by Southwest music festival, during Michael’s senior year of college. Any good protégé is always looking for a mentor, so Michael embraced the opportunity to ask a key question. “I asked him, if you could offer me one piece of advice as a professional photographer, what would it be?” Weintrob recalls this wise photographer’s advice: “Anyone can take pictures,” he said, “learn how to sell them.”

Honing his eye for the last nine years has taught Weintrob to recognize energy exchange. He saw it epitomized during the Trey set at Bonnaroo and this past January he experienced a culmination of the flow, floating through the Caribbean on Jamcruise .

Jamcruise: “Greatest party of all time in the history of parties.”
Now after 9 years of hard work, and a little fun, he is becoming well known on the scene. This past January 1800 fans and over a dozen bands took off from Jacksonville, FL to spend a week in the Caribbean. The week was a perfect example of the amazing progress Weintrob’s career has made.

“I got to do a portrait of 50 of my favorite musicians all together!” explains Weintrob. “People like John Fishman, the guys from String Cheese Incident, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Oteil Burbridge; some of the biggest jambands out there. I’ve been working for the last 9 years to get hooked up with these people, and now I’m there.”

The photographic climax of the Jamcruise weekend—and possibly his whole career—happened during the group shot of all the musicians. In many ways, it was an intense experience. “I had to go tell the other photographers that they couldn’t come to the shoot. It was my thing.”

But unable to resist dozens of amazing musicians, the other photographers still snuck in.

At first, Weintrob took offense to their disregard of his request. Because copyright law and exclusivity play such a large role in the salability of photographs, Weintrob was understandably upset.

However, after he put his business sense aside for a moment, and really thought about it in a positive light, he thought better of it. “At first I thought it was bullshit that the other photographers got pictures of my shot, but actually, it was really cool.”

Weintrob tells the bright side of the story: “I set this thing up. I was running around telling all the musicians to come out on the back deck. Then all of a sudden 50 musicians show up! Col. Bruce Hampton talking to John Fishman; Jeff Kaufman talking to DJ Logic; Fareed Haque talking to Peter Rowan.” A lot of these people probably wanted to speak with each other and Weintrob’s impromptu party was their opportunity to talk.

Then it came time to capture the moment. “The pressure was on. I had to get everyone set up just in time for the sun to come down to the perfect level,” Weintrob explains. “I got some shots from the front and then I ran up to the top and it was taking me a moment to get my fish-eye lens on my camera, then I said, ‘OK everybody, look at me!’ And then everybody looked at me and started screaming on my command. ‘OK, One...Two...Three...’.”

Pausing Time
What if we were hit by a tsunami today? Are you fulfilled by life? Weintrob captures experiences in the moment. In fact, just taking the time to capture that moment is enough—because he was also truly living it.

“I sometimes think to myself, what if my house burned down? And I lost all of my stuff. What would I do if I don’t have a backup of all my film?” Weintrob ponders, looking around his crowded Brooklyn apartment and studio.

He relates to the Buddhist sand paintings. “They’re the most intricate thing in the whole world. They’re all Zen’d out doing it for weeks at a time. Then, as if it was never there, they blow it away.” Maybe if it all disappeared, it would be okay. It did exist—and it was a Zen moment.

Throughout all of Michael Weintrob’s career, he’s never taken a photo class—it’s all been sheer drive. But he’s no stranger to doubt. “I have these moments where I wonder if I should get another job, then, just when I think its getting too late, I run into another opportunity. I just trust my instincts. A lot of the things I do are not pre-meditated. I don’t have a set schedule and that’s when I accomplish things. I’ll be walking down the street in a daze and something will just pop out at me. I’ll wander in and this wonderful thing will come of it.”

“When I’m about to go photograph a concert, the feeling that I get is unexplainable. And when I think about it, it gets me really really excited....Standing there, the lights are about ready to go out. The musicians are about ready to walk on stage and I’m standing up between the front row and the stage and its almost like I’m in an alternate world. It's like the state right between REM sleep and being awake; in the middle there, in this limbo place. There’s people on stage and people in the crowd but you’re trapped somewhere else.”

To see Michael’s work, check out his multiple exposure project in the gallery, or his own website at www.groovetography.com


Meniscus Magazine © 2005. All material is property of respective artists.