Todd Weaver’s editorial and portrait photography is distinguished by a dreamy use of expressive color, textured backgrounds and evocative settings. But when he acquired a fairly uncommon machine — a 50-year-old Olympus Pen FT half-frame camera — he was inspired to perform an experiment. The vintage soul of his new gear got him thinking about the classic, old-school things people both eschew and fetishize about shooting on film, especially in black-and-white.
He’d also been pondering a way to chronicle the plurality of unique individuals that populate his personal and professional community in Los Angeles. Something about the camera clicked (no pun intended) and Weaver realized the creative exercises and technical experiments that were on his mind could combine for the perfect project. The synchronicitous result is Weaver’s first monograph, the new book 36, a sleek, jazzy, classic and absolutely lively portfolio of candid, intimate, black-and-white portraits that is not only a stunning and optimistic object but a moving historical document.
“I have been lucky enough to have forged friendships with a number of extraordinary people,” explains Weaver, whose circle includes musicians Devendra Banhart, Father John Misty and Rodrigo Amarante; choreographers and dancers Ryan Heffington, Jasmine Albuquerque and Mecca Andrews; and artists Elena Stonaker and Ariana Papademetropoulos. “These are artists I respect,” Weaver says, “not just for their talents but for their humanity and passion. And I wanted to do it,” he laughs, “while we were all still young and beautiful.”
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The book’s title, 36, refers both to the number of frames Weaver captured of each subject and to the number of subjects he photographed. Basically, imagine each photo session as an airy, room-sized photo booth. Because of certain camera settings, Weaver engineered 3-minute series of 36 total exposures, and encouraged his subjects to move freely around the space and express themselves as they pleased. From the shy to the extroverted, soulful, winsome, enigmatic, awkward and magnetic, each film strip–style layout dances like a musical score on the page.
The up-close portraits provide a sense of character to these creative humans; what sitter and outro author Rodrigo Amarante meant when he wrote, “Weaver was making something that we all want to create, what art is supposed to bring to life, the ultimate tool: an unpredictable mirror.”