May 2 - June 20, 2014
Kevin Westenberg's contact with Triggerfinger was quite coincidental. The woman selling him a suit at the Dries Van Noten store in Antwerp was the link to Ruben Block, and years later this short conversation resulted in a shoot at the Metropoolhotel in Brussels. It's a small world after all.
Kevin Westenberg loves it. That is why thirty years ago he moved from the US to London: to meet people and move around freely. He studied architecture, but did not see himself behind a drawing table for the rest of his life. He bought his first camera when he was studying in Copenhagen as part of his architecture training. The influence of his studies is noticeable in his use of space and light. The camera held more secrets for him though, and Westenberg became one of the great rock photographers of our times thank to his work with (take a deep breath) Arctic Monkeys, Robert Plant, U2, Editors, Paul Weller, Rufus Wainwright and Coldplay. He toured four months with the last band.
All these years later he does not regret his choice. 'As an architect I would have needed more discipline, I think. That’s not my thing. Being a photographer was one big adventure. I never experienced my limited technical background as a frustration, because I was able to work with absolute innocence. In those days you could still do that.'
The climate has changed over the years, and not exactly how he wants, but Westenberg has remained true to himself. His objective is still the creation of classic timeless images. He usually works with analogue film and loves black & white photography the most. 'I want to be a photographer, not a recorder of pictures. I can put a completely different feeling in a roll of film than when I work digitally. Philosophically I am not a fan of the digital revolution either. I believe you need to make an effort to achieve your goal.' His intense use of light, colour and composition produce intense, charged pictures.
The essence, for him, is to touch the artist's soul. This is why his pictures are mostly headshots of artists, they hardly ever focus on the context. In the expression of the face, the look of the eyes, or even the grip of the hands, he searches who is an artist.' He is driven more by his love for photography than his passion for music 'Every photographer looks for this purity. We want to record the person when he is still fresh, not bitter yet and ruined by the business.'
That is why he refers to his camera as 'a flower'. He wants to get the best out of people. Not just musicians. He also photographs directors and actors. Last year he managed to photograph music producer Rick Rubin which made him happy as a child.
'It’s not as easy now. I remember just going up to Robert Plant in the pub. That’s not cool anymore. Whereas before the artists willingly accepted the image Kevin created of them, celebrities nowadays are driven by the search for a unique place in the landscape. It is all more corporate business now.
But Kevin still manages to make classics of the album covers he shoots.Pay attention to the photographs of the young British singer Jake Bugg. He 'found' him in a small club. 'We did a shoot immediately. Unspoiled, innocent still. If he ever becomes great, they will be like the old Dylan photos.