Rare is the magazine cover now that features a model, but if this month is anything to go by, we may be seeing a resurgence of the trend. Vogue offered up a septet of famous faces on its celebrated March cover, and V Man goes all in for Spring, with four different covers promising “Bruce Weber’s Absolute Beginners,” four new male models—Carson Aldridge, Jacob Hankin, Jules Horn, and Jake Lahrman—who are no less commanding for being relative unknowns. “[VMAN editor-in-chief Stephen Gan] and I were talking about this idea of photographing models again versus personalities, and I was kind of sad that people don’t do more models,” Weber explains of the genesis of this feature, which also includes 11 other models inside. “Models work hard and they love the experience, so it came from a very simple thing.”
Weber speaks of some of the differences between shooting models and personalities—he admits that he prefers shooting models, and older ones at that—but it is obvious that in today’s age of social media, the lines between the two are increasingly blurred, something that is no surprise to Weber, who has always emphasized the unique personalities of his subjects over his decades-long career. “They’re not just selling clothes,” he explains of models today. “I think they’re putting their own life into the pictures, and most photographers are using a little bit of that in their photographs.” He points as an example at Lahrman, whom he first shot with his brothers last year in a feature incorporating some of the siblings’ own song lyrics. “He’s an artist and a really beautiful writer and a real sweetheart,” Weber says. “All these guys are really nice, the kind of guys you’d like to have a beer with and actually know for a while. They remind me a lot of the guys who used to model when I first started, guys that I still know today and still photograph. I’m hoping that I know a lot of these guys for that long.”
Similarly, each of the stars of this feature is listed alongside his outside occupation, from high school student and hockey player to TV producer and nuclear mechanic. “When the magazine got the list of what they do, they called up my archives and asked, ‘Do these people really do some of these things?’ But it’s true,” he laughs. “I don’t really think about a girl or a guy as a model so much as a subject for photography. I think that word ‘model’ is so overused and has so many bad connotations, so I don’t want to make them seem like they’re not an individual, because they are.”
And individuals though they are, they all share one thing—which they also have in common with the scores of other models whose careers Weber has launched: “that desire, like a great athlete, just to want to make it great.” More than his keen eye, it is perhaps precisely because Weber can see the personality within that has led to his impressive track record over his time in the industry. “They want to be there on top, not on top of their career so much, but they want to have photographs that they can look back on and be really proud that they got to do them and express themselves,” he explains. “I’m one of the few guys who photograph a lot of older people that they photographed years before and I think sometimes some of the best pictures I’ve taken of the men and women I’ve photographed are the ones that I took 20 years after I met them.”
Take an exclusive first look at Weber’s covers and feature, out March 2, below and preorder your copy at VMagazineShop.com.