By: Jeffrey Felner
I first came to know Roy through a mutual friend and colleague, Andrew Basile. I had already been well acquainted with his body of work before we first met, but it was during that first meeting that I realized and understood the innate and technical talents of this young man of vision…pun intended! The greats and icons of photography influence Roy, but he takes it a step further to give his work his own imprimatur. Whether in photography or any fashion related business, these instances of genuine talent become more and more rare. Sadly, there are too many who are of the “me too school,” which then becomes the “so what school,” causing me to sit up and take notice of Roy Schweiger and his skill set!
Roy’s credits include DSQUARED2, Neil Barrett, Les Hommes, Carlo Pignatelli, Philipp Plein, Gianfranco Ferre and Gaetano Navarra, Esquire Magazine, Dolce&Gabbana, Zuhair Murad, Mango, Galia Lahav (Israeli bridal), and Hickey Freeman to name a few. One cannot overlook his film, “Institutionalized,” an animated fashion film commissioned by DSQUARED2 for their Fall Winter 14′-‘15 women’s collection. It took home Best Film Awards at the La Jolla Fashion Film Awards in 2014, the London Fashion Film Awards in 2015, and the NYC Winter Fashion Film Awards in the same year.
In his own words, Roy, the artist, speaks to us in an unfiltered and fluid way, about his past, present, and future. Too often we overlook the originator of the image, as most of us are so visually stimulated that we forget or neglect to read who is responsible for said stimulation. I thought that Roy and his artistry should be singled out for VULKAN readers in my first exclusive interview of 2017.
Jeffrey Felner (JF): Who would you dream to work with and why?
Roy Schweiger (RS): When I was a little boy, I used to listen and dance to my father’s old vinyl collection and I vividly recall listening to Jason Donovan, Kylie Minogue, and Madonna. When Madonna started dancing on TV, I was copying her moves and later on, around the mid-80s, I was captivated with her looks, persona, and her star quality. Madonna continues to carry that star quality decades later, and if she asked me to work with her, I’d be there in a flash.
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
RS: I would be delighted to invite Madonna for dinner and as a surprise, I would invite her muse, David Bowie, to join us. David embodied a male and female spirit as Madonna stated and every time I hear his name or one of his songs, I immediately feel peace of mind. Next to be invited is Prince as I have so much respect for artists who constantly push the envelope and are here to bring freedom, love, and color with their performances. I would invite Tony Robbins-if you don’t know who that is then you should stop reading this and start reading about him on Google-an entrepreneur, best-selling author, philanthropist, and the nation’s #1 life and business strategist. I desperately want to be coached by Tony, hence I hope he’d have the time for this dinner invitation. The last person I would invite-I thought about it for a week-is Donald Trump because I also invited Tony Robbins and if ANYONE has the ability to transform a person, understand his rooted issues, and make him face them rather than ignore them, it’s him!
JF: What is on the horizon for Roy Schweiger, in terms of new projects and commissions?
RS: 2017 is heading towards fulfilling and pursuing personal accomplishments and career goals. I am looking forward to establishing an entity; a company that will offer multiple visual and consultancy services including still photography, motion, and creative direction, all alongside my friend and business partner. The company will be based in NYC and shall address and serve the needs of existing clients as well as attract new collaborations. We intend to push the envelope and create results that, via new mediums and new creative vocabulary, are tailored to obtain maximum results.
JF: What is your driving force that propels you every day? Do you have any mentors or icons that influence you?
RS: My driving force has been always about communication. It is my job to visually communicate with the world. At times, it seems like face-to-face communication is too demanding and complicated when online communication is always accessible whenever we need it. For me, there is no replacement for a 1 on 1 meeting or a phone call where I can listen and understand the other side and then reply and offer my thoughts…or in simpler terms, a dialogue between 2 people. I cherish mutual understanding that is born via in person communication, both in my personal and professional lives. I have learned how to keep my assumptions to myself before blurting them out. I hone my communication skills to keep them at the highest level possible in order to hear and be heard, and most importantly, to keep the past in the past
JF: Can you give us a brief rundown as to how you arrived at your present position? In other words, a bit of a resume!
RS: I am not another “my father bought me a camera for my birthday” kind of photographer, but for some reason, I recall stealing one from him so I could play with it when he was at work. He had an old Sony video camera and used it to film when he was traveling with my mother. I was 6 when I realized I was able to view the world through a tiny viewfinder. I was obsessed and fascinated by the human face. A few years later, I decided to challenge myself by entering a Communication in Cinema 3 year course, where I took a cameraman position with a small crew that produced short commercials and documentaries. Having returned to class with newly edited material, the instructor went through the footage and within a few minutes he stopped the tape and said, “that was a point of view of an artist…whose piece is this?” The crew pointed at me, and I felt all eyes staring at me and I froze. That was definitely a motivational moment, which set my career in motion. While working through this medium, I felt unchallenged and unsatisfied and sensed a void within. I began to realize that I was more interested in capturing a moment and that I was ready to give up movement in favor of finding a singular, perfect image. I found that I could tell an entire story in a captured instant and at that point, I began taking photographs of people. I am obsessed with the human face and I now possess the experience and the ability to transform faces using daylight in different ways.
After relocating to Europe, I decided I needed a change, a challenge, a redefining of myself, which meant I must understand the artist within me. I was in desperate need to unleash my hidden work style and decided to venture to Milan where I opened my first studio at 25. At this point, I was doing test shoots and shooting editorials and found myself engaging and developing strong work relationships with local and international professionals within the Italian fashion industry. I had the privilege to work with major fashion houses, celebrities, and local/international fashion designers. I visited their headquarters frequently and was present while they were casting and fitting the most noted supermodels of our times. I was privileged to be shooting backstage, directly for the designers, such as DSQUARED2, Neil Barrett, Les Hommes, Carlo Pignatelli, Philipp Plein, Gianfranco Ferre and Gaetano Navarra. By the end of 2009, I was commissioned by Esquire Magazine to shoot a retrospective story on Dolce&Gabbana for their upcoming 20th Anniversary. This opportunity was a high point in my career as the images were shot in Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s Portofino home. With the onset of the recession, I sensed a great change and shift in the world of fashion and commercial photography, so it was no longer just about reinvention, but creation of new mediums. Having started from a moving image background, I decided to break the standard mediums by merging both worlds into one visual product that combined photography and video, allowing them both to coexist in one space. By applying animation to my photographs, utilizing the Parallax effect that is known in the postproduction world, I created moving frames adding animated human movements. Suddenly, individual photographs were transformed into an innovative defined product that took a new visual approach and had a new visual vocabulary.
My piece “Institutionalized,” an animated fashion film commissioned by DSQUARED2 for Fall Winter 14′-‘15 womenswear collection, was an award winning fashion film at the La Jolla Fashion Film Awards in 2014, at the London Fashion Film Awards in 2015 and NYC Winter Fashion Film Awards in the same year. The combination of still images that are given life through movement has become a signature.
2015 also marked the closing of my studio in Milan and moving to NYC and within a couple of months, I landed my first commissioned job, which was a video campaign for Hickey Freeman menswear. The project marked the first American luxury fashion brand to commission a moving image and Parallax motion effect for their S/S campaign. The trajectory of my work continues to grow with being commissioned by several high profile fashion brands such as Zuhair Murad, Mango, Galia Lahav (Israeli bridal) and several repeat jobs with Hickey Freeman.
Time passed and an amazing opportunity rose with the largest amount of models I have ever shot in one photo shoot, in one single day, a huge on location production with Creative Director, Andrew Basile, who was responsible for the concept. Imagine it was 65 people on set, from which 45 of them were models and extras; the Dance Marathon shoot was in Long Island City and produced 2 different stories, which were published by L’Officiel Singapore and Monrowe Magazine.
Edited by: Rebecca Besnos
Photography courtesy of Roy Schweiger
Jeffrey Felner, a native New Yorker, has had a long and continuing career within the world of fashion. His experience spans every facet of fashion, design, and style, focusing on the top tier. The 21st century has allowed Mr. Felner to expand his fashion knowledge by reviewing books for the “New York Journal of Books,” as well as contributing to several online magazines, all the while running his own blog. One of his main interests is interviewing the famous, the almost famous, and legends of these industries.