Gabriel Goldberg for DNA + An Interview With Ethan
I first saw Gabriel Goldberg's work in the current issue of Pref Mag and really liked what I saw... wondering why I hadn't seen his work before. Shortly after, I think the same week, I saw another shoot he'd done for the current issue of DNA (pictured here) and was equally impressed. But then, when I read that he'd just changed careers and taken up photography only a short time ago, his first camera - a Sony Cybershot, I was blown away. Being that I'm a fledgling photographer myself (hopefully in the making), I found myself intrigued by Gabriel, his story, and wanted to find out more about him. What I discovered was a truly humble individual, unsure that his work was yet worthy of the attention and admiration it was receiving, and someone destined for great success. INTERVIEW WITH GABRIEL GOLDBERG
So, Gabriel... tell me how you got started in photography. You changed careers?
Gabriel: I've always been interested in photography, starting in college--where I became obsessed with Herb Ritts' and Ellen Von Unwerth's work. I loved their sexy, grainy black and white images. Everybody always looked so damn beautiful. Anyway, since I got a degree in English--which is great, 'cause I actually use it every day--the logical thing seemed to go and be a writer/editor after graduating college. In 1997, two years after graduating, four friends and I started INSTINCT magazine. And while I was the Editor in Chief, I also became the default art director on photo shoots; which was great, because it gave me a reprieve from all the typing. Sometime in 2001, I was on a set with a photographer friend who got a phone call during the shoot. He handed me the camera and said, perhaps as a joke, "You can take a couple shots if you want." That was really the big turning point.
I bought my first digital camera in 2003, a Sony Cybershot, and made a bunch of not-so-great images. But it was an enjoyable hobby and I kept at it. In 2004, I had my third open heart surgery, and while in recovery, I had a kind of Touched-by-an-Angel moment, and realized that being a photographer was what I wanted to do with my life. And that life was too short not to do what you loved. So in 2005, I quit my big-money job at a publishing company and decided to go back to school. I applied to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and got in--which still surprises me, mind you--and have been in school a little over a year now.
Are there any particular photographers that you admire or draw inspiration from? What drives your creativity?
Gabriel: My fave photographers now are Annie Leibovitz, Steven Klein, and Craig McDean. Annie's portraiture work is the kind of thing I love to see and would love to do. She's so damn entertaining with the really produced work--that March 2007 Hollywood issue of "Vanity Fair," the one with the noir story, that was so cool looking and I loved it. Or the stuff she did on the "Marie Antoinette" set: Amazing. Everything Steven Klein does rocks. He just takes very cool, very sexy, very sleek photos. They just look so shiney, and them make me want to lick 'em. That Madonna-in-the-horse-stables story, and the accompanying video he did for her last concert: Incredible. And Craig McDean's fashion imagery just knocks me out. So, those are the big, mainstream three right now. But there really are so many photographers... When I first started shooting, I just wanted to BE David LaChapelle. He is, to my eyes, a super-creative and wildly entertaining photographer. I love the energy of his photos. And the outlandish, outrageousness of them.
As for what inspires me, anything sexy really. I'm obsessed with beautiful women. I really wish I knew how to photograph them better. But on a more generic level, just hearing a cool tune on the radio--you know those songs that just kinda make you feel GOOD. Down there? Yeah, those are inspiring; like Goldfrapp's "Number 1." Or Junior Boys' "Under the Sun." Or a scene out of one of Wong Kar Wai's movies. Those are so visually appealing to me. Or, to go way back in the day to the things that first started making me see more cinematically, that Herb Ritts video for Chris Isaak's tune, "Wicked Game." That thing knocked me out. And his video for Janet Jackson's "Love Will Never Do Without You." Same for David Fincher's "Express Yourself" video for Madonna, and the one he did for "Freedom 90" by George Michael.
Where do your greatest photographic interests lie - editorial, fashion, art, etc.? Where would you like your career to take you?
Gabriel: I'm still in school, and learning new things everyday, and being surprised by what I like to shoot and how. For instance, I'm taking this Product Lighting class this term. It's seriously intense--sometimes we spend a whole day just trying to take ONE SHOT--and not at all something I thought I was going to like, but I'm actually really enjoying it. Plus, the teacher's great; he's like Macguvyer when it comes to lighting--he could probably make a ring flash with a cell phone and CD. So, I'm not sure yet exactly what I want to do, but it'll probably involve people--mostly because when you're shooting products, the conversation tends to be very one-sided. I originally thought I wanted to get into fashion, but I'm liking the style of what I suppose you could call editorial portraiture. As for my ultimate goal, well, to shoot for "Vanity Fair" and "W." Anything beyond that is just icing on the dream cake.
What can we expect next from Gabriel Goldberg?
Gabriel: I'm currently in my 4th term at Art Center, which is the halfway point. I'm vascillating between wanting to drop out after 6th term and assisting, and graduating. Technically, I feel like I still know nothing. What I see in my head as the shot I want to make very rarely actually ends up inside my camera. But that's why I'm in school. And I'm enjoying being a student again.
As for what's next? I've no idea actually. I've got spreads in two foreign magazine's this summer: The Aussie mag DNA (July issue), and the French PREF (July/August issue). That's ridiculously exciting, and I hope I'll get to shoot more for them. But I really have a ways to go in honing my skills, so I'm just gonna keep at it and hopefully you won't be running into me at a Sear's portrait studio any time soon.