MEGA PHOTOGRAPHER BRUCE WEBER TALKS US THROUGH HIS LATEST COMPENDIUM INSPIRED BY AN ENDLESS FASCINATION WITH THE U.S.A.
You’ve been publishing an annual journal for 13 years now. How did this edition come together?
Bruce Weber It was tough. We’re always very nervous about whether we’re making the right decisions. Sometimes it feels like we’re jumping into a swimming pool with no water! I share an editorship with Nan Bush, Nathan Kilcer—who is also our art director—Matthew Richards, and Skylar Pittman, and we’re all quite opinionated. It can be daunting because we all have so many ideas, and a lot of them come from outer space.
Why Born Ready?
BW The title came from a conversation I was having with an athlete who is a close friend of mine. He lives in Chicago and he’s always training for marathons. I said to him, “What makes you feel that you can do this marathon—it seems like a longer run than you’re used to.” And he said, “I was born ready.” I thought about that as a title and how it applies not only to athletics but also to creative thought—being able to take yourself into a world where you can make a story in your head that means something to you and to your own history.
What’s your favorite part of the publishing process?
BW The research always gives us a lot of laughs, especially when we start on a story and think, Oh, my God! Maybe this isn’t right for us! But if you look through the book, you’ll see that everyone we’ve featured was definitely born ready. They have that sort of DNA in their personality that makes them game for anything, which is something we all admire.
Who are the cute kids on the slipcase?
BW That’s a picture by Sean Thomas, who grew up in Nebraska, which is Willa Cather country. She’s my favorite writer, so I was really excited. It all started from an idea Nathan and I had about asking a photographer to shoot the senior prom of their hometown high school. When Sean came back with the pictures and we all admired them so much, we said, “Go back and do some more. Find out more about those kids!” Most editors at magazines don’t get to do that anymore. Most stories in magazines are four to six pages at the most, but with this collection we get to be indulgent. We have an awful lot of fun. These days it seems people always want a quick read, so I’m always very flattered when they come and tell me that they’ve read the latest All-American, especially those who received it as a Christmas gift. After they open all their presents in the morning and hang out with their family or their pets in the afternoon, they make themselves a hot toddy and lie on the couch and read it, and that’s the way that they end their day. I always think that’s a really great thing that can happen.
What about the vintage shot on the inside cover?
BW I was working on a story about Micky Wolfson and the Wolfsonian Museum, and I went to his storage unit, which is quite incredible. It has all different paintings and photographs, furniture from all different periods in America, and I found that snapshot of a young boy who looked a little like Micky Wolfson, a little like Truman Capote, and also sort of looked a lot like all of us who work on this journal! We talked about how fun it would be to put the photograph on this issue, because I felt like if I ever had a child it would look just like him.
ALL-AMERICAN VOLUME XIII: BORN READY BY BRUCE WEBER IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM TENEUS ($125, TENEUES.COM)
PHOTO COURTESY OF BRENDAN JAMES COVER PHOTOGRPAHY SEAN THOMAS