Whichever genre you choose to shoot reflects the majority of who you are. It’s hard to imagine a street photographer suddenly turning coat for a glamour portfolio mid-career — or vice versa. It’s an obvious point, I know, but I’d say it’s what probably divides all the genres into their respective photographers. If you’re cerebral and free-associative, your photographs might lean toward being moody and dramatic. If you’re analytical and fastidious, you might be attracted to geometric design and abstract form. If you’re easy-going and energetic, your photographs might look like these captured by Day 19.
Day 19 makes photographs that look like advertisements for the most thrilling life ever lived. In some of their very best, I’ve actually shook my head and wondered if I’m missing out on some cinematic adventure. The thrills are that contagious. Jeremey and Claire Weiss, the artistic and romantic partners behind Day 19, must have a serious grip on fast-living. And although they were both late bloomers to photography, having started studying in their early twenties, they’ve now collected a impressive resume, having worked with, among many others, Nike, Rockstar Games, Vibe, and Rolling Stone.
In this interview, Jeremy Weiss explains how Day 19 started, talks about their adventures with photography, and reveals how they’re able to create such energetic photographs.
I really love the energy captured in your work. How did you get your start?
Thanks. We were both late bloomers to photography. I took a photo class at the local community college because a fan zine called Anti-Matter wanted to run a photo I had took at a Split Lip show but requested it printed with a sloppy border, I had no idea what that meant, so I enrolled in a printing class to try to get some answers. From there, I fell in love with taking pictures, as did Claire, so we packed up and moved to Boston where we found a little trade school we could afford. We were in our early 20s when we moved to Boston, and even though we were both studying photography in school, we never really saw photography as something that anyone could make a living doing. We were just having fun taking photos of our friends and turning them in as assignments. I got my first paying gigs shooting bands when we first moved to Los Angeles after realizing I would never make it as an assistant. Claire was waiting tables while I would go on the road with bands, selling merchandise for an hour. That left 23 hours of great photo opportunities, so that’s what we did until advertising fell on our lap in the late 2000s. We both thought we’d be working for a small newspaper somewhere.
How would you describe your work?
I guess the best answer is honest. We are flies on the wall and are capturing what’s really happening around us. It’s our job to make sure what is happening on set is interesting and fun. We direct the talent in a way that is real and authentic which allows us to capture the action in a documentary and approachable style.
Day XIX is an artistic as well as a romantic partnership. I read that you and Claire are each other’s greatest influences. How did you two meet? How do each of you inspire and help the other photographically?
This is true! We met in New Jersey when I used to manage a skateboard/snowboard shop. I moved west to pursue a career in snowboarding, but when that thankfully went nowhere I moved back to New Jersey, and we rekindled our fondness of each other. That was 18 years ago. We do really well with playing off of each other. If she takes a photo I dig, I try to top her and vice-versa.
How does that artistic competition work out? Do you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
It’s a friendly competition. Years ago, one of us would shoot and the other would have more of an art director role. Then we realized we both just wanted to shoot constantly, so one would shoot film and one would shoot digital and then it just became we are both just constantly shooting whatever camera we grab. Artistic competition is healthy. A lot of times on big campaign shoots you can burn out a bit, and having someone else there shooting with you and seeing what’s going through their head gives you an idea, and you take it from there and at the end you realize we are just playing off of each the whole day.
As I was looking through your portfolio, I started wondering out loud if I was missing out on some great adventure that’s happening all around me. This image is just one example. How are you able to capture such energy? How was this specific image made from start to finish?
That’s a fun one. Titled “Bower”, which means bath/shower. And most baths have showers, so wouldn’t most baths technically be bowers? Anyways, that was a trip in Mexico with a bunch of friends years ago. After a day of drinking, we all decided to take a shower together and chant “bower, bower, bower” repeatedly. Good ol’ drunk times in Mexico is pretty much how that photo was made start to finish.
I imagine you two are able to connect almost instantly with nearly anyone. What’s your usual about approach to direction? How do you constantly find these relaxed, fun-loving moments?
We are pretty relaxed, easy-going people. We go into all shoots treating it like we are just just hanging out with friends documenting the adventure. Our job is literally to document people hanging out. We try not to overly direct the talent on shoots, we really just try to set up situations and move around capturing little moments of those situations. We are constantly moving around, going off with one or two models or shooting side-by-side.
The David Lynch portrait is really great. I read it was done for free. Could you talk about that process? What was it shot with?
Thanks! It was shot for Shepard Fairey and Roger Gastman’s old magazine Swindle. Shepard would trade shoots for prints since the magazine was barely scraping by and we’d pay rent by selling them on eBay (shhh, don’t tell him). We decided to shoot only 4×5 film for it. We shot 3 or 4 shots and asked if he wanted to smoke and he said of course. We shot 4 more of him smoking. The shoot was only about 20 minutes and most of the time was spent talking about cigarettes and coffee. After we shot him, he shook our hands and said that it was a great pleasure watching us work and walked off into his backyard. It was pretty nerve-racking only shooting 8 frames of an icon, but this is one of my all time favorite shots one of us has taken. This was actually the first negative of the shoot we looked at when we got it back from the lab, and we were so stoked on it we didn’t look at the others.
Day XIX also shoots advertising. These photographs look just as energetic as your other work. I especially like your ones of 2NE1. How were you able to get these great images in such a busy location? How did that shoot go?
The 2NE1 shoot was great. It was shot in Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, one of the busiest intersections in the world. You don’t need permits to shoot there but you just can’t be in the crosswalk when the no walking sign comes on. So we basically hurried back and forth across the street every couple of minutes until word got out that they were there and the mobs of fans showed up. That was our first time in Japan and we completely fell in love with the place. We were there for a week and a half and I don’t feel like we even dented one neighborhood of one city. It’s insane.
There are many personal images in Claire’s sketchbooks. I especially like the color head shots like this one. Are these photographs of friends and family? What’s her approach?
The photos you are referencing are from a series she did years ago with a Holga and a flash. We were living in Boston and lived in a house that was the hub of a lot of rad shit. People were constantly stopping by or meeting there to go on to the next thing, so Claire would just shoot everyone who would come through.
Your Polaroid project is really great. Is this an extension of Claire’s sketchbooks? Could you explain your aims with it?
Thanks you again! I’ll give you the long version of it. About 7 or 8 years ago, our good buddy Dan Monick gave me a couple boxes of 4X5 Polaroid he wasn’t going to use. We still owned a 4×5 camera we had to buy in school. We dusted it off and brought it to a friend’s pool party. There was no plan to do a series yet, just messing around with some free film. I asked to shoot our friend Dallas’ son Audio up against the wall. I told him he needed to be very still because once I put the film in I wouldn’t be able to see through the camera anymore to adjust the focus. Audio sat there completely still for a good 30 seconds and just as I was about to click the shutter he stuck his tongue out.
After that day, we had the idea to start shooting these portraits whenever we had a day off. Claire shoots one and I shoot one and that’s it, then we decide who’s we like better. It was a great excuse to get in touch with people you think are doing cool shit and spend a little time with them. It’s basically a series of portraits of people that we think are contributing something cool to the world. In the first couple years of it, we were shooting people almost every day and then Polaroid stopped making film. There’s a book in the works but I’ve been saying that for too long now. It was an extension of projects we had both done in the past. Claire’s one you referenced and one I had going on for awhile. We have a ton of sketchbooks we put work into. Most people haven’t seen them but there are tons. Sometimes one sketchbook would be a single cohesive project or sometimes its just taped down photos with writing and drawings and stuff.
What’s the greatest photography/life advice you’ve received thus far in your career?
When I was in county college in New Jersey and learning to print pictures, I would carry a box around of all these 5×7 photos I had shot that I was super proud of at the time. I grew up skating in New York most nights and someone pointed out Larry Clark (I had no idea who he was at the time) and said he was a famous photographer. I introduced myself and asked if he’d look at my box of photos. There were about 35-40 photos in there and after looking all he said was “get closer”. I still don’t know if he meant get physically closer or mentally but it’s stuck with me.
Be sure to check out all of Day XIX’s work on their website!