Photographer Daniel Eric Weiss was born in New York in 1987. Weiss exclusively shoots in black and white when documenting New York and opts for colors everywhere else. Fittingly, as the photographer is best known of his documentation of urban New York City. His romanticized images of the city, while contemporary, exude a sense of longing for something past. His most recent series, “Eternal Youth in Tompkins Square Park” captures youth in love, youth skateboarding, and youthfulness outside of Instagrammable, branded youth culture. It’s raw without the garish GMO-free and organic stickers. Weiss is currently based in New York.
How did “Eternal Youth in Tompkins Square Park” come to be?
I have been hanging out and skateboarding at Tompkins since 2000 or 2001. I grew up on the Upper West Side on 104th street, and I would take the train down to the park almost daily. I now live in the East Village and I still pass by the park everyday. This past summer I kept seeing a group of younger kids—of both boys and girls hanging out together. I thought it would be great to be able to get into their world and photograph them, seeing them as the next generation in this very special park. But I didn't want to approach it as a total stranger, I knew that wouldn’t work out how I wanted it to.
By chance I met Sabrina at a bar in Paris over the summer. I realized when I got back home that she was one of these kids I was interested in shooting. So Sabrina was the first person I shot for it and she helped connect me with her friends. I would try and shoot everyday around 5pm to keep the light consistent, when it got too dark I was done. I shot as many portraits as I could for the last 2 months of the summer.
When and how did your relationship with photography begin?
I have always been around cameras and interested in photography for as long as I can remember. Often messing around with my Aunt’s old Nikon on summer trips to Cape Cod when I was quite young. I took photo classes through high school and into college. I loved being in the darkroom and I never stopped shooting in black and white.
While your work spans many regions and times, your series shot in New York have an undeniably romantic feel to them—a sort of ode to the city today at the right moment before some aspect of it fades away. How would you describe the role of New York City in your photography and your role in capturing its essence today?
New York and especially the East Village is getting worse and worse in many ways. It's getting more difficult but I can still find moments when it feels the way I remember it as a kid growing up here - and that’s the feeling I like to have in my pictures. I continue to shoot here in black and white, everywhere else I shoot in color.
What do you usually shoot with?
Mamiya 7 or Leica M4.
How do you approach a situation you would like to capture? How do you find these moments?
Each situation is different and requires you to decide which way is best to get your picture, if you're lucky you choose the right one. That's often the fun part—though I've been getting better at knowing from the start which is the right way of going about it. These days it's rare that I see something or someone I really want to photograph, but if it’s a special moment or subject, I’ll do whatever I need to get the picture that I want.
Any future photography series in the works that you can share with us?
More portraits of kids in Tompkins this next spring/summer, I think it will turn into a book. I’m also getting back into the darkroom for the first time in years making some prints for a small edition of portfolio boxes called New York Photographs, which will come out in 2018.
Images courtesy of DANNY WEISS
interview PERWANA NAZIF
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