Text & Interview: Alec Coiro
Photos Courtesy of Todd Weaver
Todd Weaver’s photography tells a story through its subject matter, extremes of color, and play with shade and Chiaroscuro. He hits all the touchstones of the discipline, everything from portraiture, commercial work, editorial work, and his own personal explorations, which are my personal favorites. While Weaver uses a digital camera for his commercial work to a very expert effect, for his more personal work he shoots on film and looking at these images it’s clear he takes full advantage of the medium. Take for example his “night time” photos: he uses double exposure, impressionist fields of rain refracted color, focus both crisp and blurred to recreate the vibrant feeling of being young and alive in Los Angeles. L.A. itself is one of the major through lines in Weaver’s work. He’s lived there for over two decades, but remains dedicated to exploring the totality of the state both as a photographer, a curious Californian, and—notably—as a surfer. Check out his “water” series for the full surfing effect, and for the full story check out our interview below.
Am I right that you’re based out of L.A.? Is that where you’re originally from? Is there a California tint to your aesthetic?
Yes, I live in LA. Have been for 23 years now. I adore this city and the life I live here. My girlfriend Maximilla Lukacs and I live in Echo Park, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. We live in a Victorian built in 1895. For LA, that’s ancient.
And yes, there is very much a California tint to my aesthetic. It’s unavoidable because most of my photographs were taken in and of California. I think it’s the most incredible place in the world. I’m obsessed. I love exploring its beaches, mountains, and desert. Maximilla and I take trips up the coast several times a year. Some of our favorite places are Big Sur, Sequoia, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. I will try my hardest to explore the entire state before I die but I don’t know if one lifetime is long enough. It’s such a rich place! Yes, I’m in love.
I’m originally from Kansas City. Born and raised there with the exception of a glorious two years living in Colorado.
You do commercial work, personal work, portraiture, as well as other types of photography. Do you find yourself wearing different hats when you’re making different types of images, or is it all part of a whole?
I think the biggest difference in my approach is probably from a technical standpoint. Aesthetically I try to stay consistent but I think it’s always going to be a little different for jobs because I shoot most of them digitally. Most of my personal work is shot on film. There was a time when I got my first digital camera that I stopped shooting film and went wild with the ability of shooting almost without an end but I grew tired of shooting so many pictures!! I have to experience some life without a camera attached to my eye. I like the limitations of film, having a limited amount to shoot with 36 exposures per roll of film. I’m a lot more selective with what I photograph. Limitations feed creativity.
I'm a lot more selective with what I photograph. Limitations feed creativity.
What are you pursuits outside of photography?
My biggest obsession right now is surfing. I just started 2 years ago and can’t seem to get enough of it. It may also be reason for my biggest regret; for not starting to surf when I moved here 23 years ago. I would be so good by now! I try to go twice a week, as long as my schedule and the waves permit. It’s become my main exercise. It also stems from a deep connection I feel to the ocean. The ocean feels like it’s a part of me and I am a part of it. The first 10 years I lived in LA I barely went to the beach. But the last 10 to 13 years I have been going once or twice a week to swim and body surf. This lead me to buy an underwater film camera, a Nikonos, 4 years ago. I obsessed over it for a couple of summers by trying to capture this aquatic experience and examine water. I think It’s such a deep part of who we are as humans.
I also love to read. Currently finishing up Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. It’s my favorite book of his so far. Besides that, I take walks around Los Angeles with my lady and we travel a good bit. And I love to garden. We luckily have a huge back yard where we grow tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables.
What type of equipment do you use to make your images, and how varied is your “toolkit”?
I use a Canon 5D Mark 3 with 2 zoom lenses for almost all of my jobs and then I have way too many film cameras to talk about. Only because it’s become a running joke with my girlfriend. I can’t help it. They have become so cheap it’s hard not to buy them. Especially because all of the classic cameras that I use to covet as a young photographer are a few hundred bucks now. I shoot polaroids(while supplies last ) on a Mamiya RZ. I shoot landscapes and double exposures on a Mamiya 7 II rangefinder. My everyday go to camera is a Nikon N90. And I recently bought a Nikon F4 that is a real beauty. And I have a plethora of point and shoot film cameras: a couple of Yashicas(T3 and T4), a Nikon L35AF, and an Olympus Epic Stylus. (and maybe a few more, eeek). Oh god…..as you can see, maybe my girlfriend is right, it’s way more cameras than anyone needs. I need help!!