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bruce weber's life lessons

As part of 92Y's Fashion Icons series with Fern Wallis, Bruce Weber provided plenty food for thought. Reheating the nuggets of wisdom, Stuart Brumfitt invites us to continue the feast.

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Last week in New York, cuddly bear cub Bruce Weber (aka legendary photographer and beloved i-D contributor) talked to fashion maven Fern Mallis at the 92Y. In front of a crowd that included industry luminaries Ralph Lauren and Grace Coddington, the 68-going-on-19-year-old talked all about his life. Here’s what we learnt:

He loves Elizabeth Taylor
His roommate at boarding school had a cardboard cut-out of Elizabeth Taylor. They took it in turns to sleep with her. Then when he was a teenager, he would ring Taylor’s Las Vegas hotel to try and speak to her, eventually getting through to her publicist and saying, “Hi, my name’s Bruce Weber. It’s my Bah Mitzvah and I want to speak to Elizabeth and tell her that I love her!” They ended up working together and became close friends. “She was so flirtatious and very seductive. I miss that.” Actresses these days are never flirtatious, he says.

Bandanas are his religion
He started wearing his signature bandana when shooting in Australia with Grace Coddington because it was so hot that he needed a cold, wet cloth on his head to keep cool. It stuck. He has problems in Paris though – some restaurants try to make him take it off. His response? “It’s my religion.”

He loves a showtune
He and his sister knew every word to every Rodgers & Hammerstein song. Now he’s close friends with musical theatre maestro Stephen Sondheim.

He was once a model
“I was always late. I was worse than Naomi Campbell.”

He’s a Doctor Doolittle
He and his wife Nan have six gorgeous dogs who spend the winter in Miami. One is called River (after River Phoenix) and a rescue dog is called Billie Holiday. “As we get older, we only let three dogs sleep with us at a time.” His favourite elephant lives in California. He loves her because she let his dog sit on her and recognises him whenever he goes to visit.

He loves a dweeb
“I really like the geekiness of people. I find that attractive.”

Bruce on Ralph
Vintage clothes shopping with Ralph Lauren is the best: “He always finds the perfect jacket.” Oh, and instead of going to Africa to shoot the Ralph Lauren Safari campaign, they did it in Hawaii…and flew the animals in from Africa.

Kate Moss should move to Detroit
They shot there together: “She fits right into that city.”

He loves mischief-making
“I like a stylist who gets me in trouble” and Joe McKenna is the best partner in crime.

He hates shooting celebs
“I feel so bad that so many photographers are forced to photograph celebrities.”

Who would play him in a movie?
Richard Harris, or a young Brad Pitt.

Oh, and he had some advice for photographers... 
“Don’t get caught up in what you think you should be doing. Read books for inspiration. Don’t look at other photographers’ work or magazines. Find your own path.” “It’s more important that you’re a human being first, an artist second.”
“It’s not so serious taking pictures – it’s fun. I get sad when I see photographers with so much equipment, they can’t carry it by themselves.”