Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Interview with David Needleman


Hello David! Would you like to introduce yourself to my readers?
Hi Portis, sure, thank you. I’m David Needleman, I'm a photographer and I appreciate you taking the time.
That is quite alright. I actually stopped time to make time for this interview so technically it’s not taking up any time at all. Just don’t ask me how I do it or I might be subject to some sort of invasive government testing.

Talk me through an average day in the life of you?
Average is a strange word. An average day starts and ends with me taking my dog out for a long walk. Though, it happens to be the days that are anything but average, which have significantly defined my path and led me to where I am today.

Describe David as a child?
I was very much an introvert. I was anxious, yet aspirational.
Has much changed now that you are fully grown?
Well... I’m still somewhat neurotic, but I’ve evolved into a much more outgoing person than I’ve ever been.

Let’s flashback again (because I want to keep you on your toes) to 2001 when you began working at Steven Meisel’s studio – how was that for an experience, and would you say working for Steven Meisel helped shape your photographic style that we see today in your work?
Gaining that invaluable education and insight couldn’t help but influence how I see pictures, art, etc. I am fully certain how much it has influenced my professionalism and business sensibility. Learning from and watching Steven work for so many years has shaped so much of how I conduct myself as a working photographer in my every day.

How would you describe your photographic style?
It’s always evolving, I suppose. Whether a portrait or fashions spread; it’s clean, calculated, and I hope engaging on some level.

Your work most certainly is engaging. We’re going back in time again to the first ever photograph you captured, can you remember how old you were and what your subject was?
Yes exactly, I was about 12 years old. My parents gave me their old 1977 Nikon fm camera. It was the middle of winter on a Sunday at the beach with my family on Long Island. I took some pictures of my cousin that afternoon. At that moment, I knew.

Looking back at that moment did you feel then that photography was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
Yes, absolutely – there was no doubt in my mind. I became incredibly passionate about taking pictures, and knew I had to pursue this for the rest of my life.


I promise we will stay in the 'present' now. For those not so familiar with your work (most of my readers are more concerned with the new Adam Lambert album at the moment – insert eye roll) you are actually doing pretty well for yourself with your work having appeared in such fancy magazines as L'uomo Vogue, New York Times, Vanity Fair, V and Interview… to name but a few! Does it still feel weird today seeing something you have created in print? Or are you ‘over it’ at this point and it all feels quite normal to you?
No, never. I don't take any of it for granted. I know how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing with my life, and I am constantly grateful for it all. Every time I see something I’ve created in print, it gives me such motivation and drive to keep going. With each picture, I strive to be better and I am always looking for ways to improve. I’m very hard on myself.

I love your photographs of Ricky Martin for The Advocate - some gorgeous photography on display there. What was it like working with the man and do you take a different approach to photographing ‘entertainers’ than you would a model?
Thank you, I appreciate that. I loved working with Ricky. Such a genuinely kind and sincere man, really charming too. Oh yes, certainly I take a different approach while working with performers of any kind. I aim to balance myself off their dynamic and create an effortless interaction. With models, I approach it as more of a blank canvas, less interactive.



Other than Ricky of course, who have been some of your favourite models or personalities to photograph?
I’m fascinated by age and life experience, and love working with older people. That being said, I was very fortunate to have worked with the following people; Alex Katz, Elliot Erwitt, and Farley Granger. Simply just sharing the moment, having a glimpse into their lives, their history, and their work was incredibly inspiring for me. Will never forget it.

Where do you find inspiration for your work on a daily basis? Is it in music, art, a cup of coffee?
Truthfully, I find it while engaging and interacting with people in my every day. I gain so much just by listening to people speak.
In that case you better make sure and credit me as a source of inspiration for your next project! Who are some of your favourite photographers?
I love so many, but just to name a few; Irving Penn, Arnold Newman, Diane Arbus, Elliott Erwitt, Francesco Scavullo, Brigitte Lacombe, and Herb Ritz.


If you could choose to photograph one person tomorrow (anyone you like) who would you choose and why?
Oprah Winfrey, because I’m intrigued and impressed by her influence, power, philanthropy, and success.
A guilty pleasure you can’t seem to quit?
Refined sugar - I know that sounds pathetic and ridiculous…but, I cannot give it up!


Tell me about it! If you could be an animal for the day what animal would you be and what would you do?
I’d love to be a well and very groomed dog within a very nice family’s home. And, I would just plan to enjoy life on a very carefree and unconditional level with people who loved me.

Would you like to ask Portis Wasp a question?
May I ask what your favorite picture of mine is, and why? After seeing the images that you've chosen to showcase in the interview, I'm really interested.
Well.... I am a sucker for black and white portraits so that narrows it down, and I do love all the images I have attached in this interview but the one that really stands out for me is the photograph that doesn't really fit with any others here, your portrait of Uma Thurman. Whilst I would be uber-excited to spot any of your photos in a magazine, your one of Uma deserves to be on show in a swanky gallery. I could look at it for hours and still be just as content as when I first saw it. It is something quite special.

If the world were coming to an end and you were allowed one last kiss, who would be lucky enough to land on your lips and why?
That’s easy… My partner and other half, Evan. Why, because he makes me happy. Life should be about being happy.

What never fails to make you smile?
That’s easy as well. Returning home every evening to the welcoming pouncing of the frenetic craziness of my little dog, Irving.
Aw, I think I need an Irving in my life. Thanks David!


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