INTERVIEW: Photographer Ben Lieber

Pic by Eli Ritter

Hi Benjamin, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

– Great – very busy year, feel like I haven’t stopped moving since last New Years- wouldn’t have it any other way though.

So what did it come first – music or photography?

 – I started playing in bands early on in high school, before I even owned a camera. Music has always been the main thing, and I think it always will be. The bridge between music and photography didn’t come for me until I started to travel the US and was inspired by the change of scenery and motivated to document it all.

Aside from your job, how does your background as a musician yourself helps you with your work as a photographer?

– I think that because of my extensive background as a musician, when I work with other artists and aim to represent their music through a visual element, I have a really good understanding of what the artist is looking for, and what maybe have been frustrating things in the past working with others that don’t have the musicians perspective; there’s things about being IN a band that can’t be put into words, it’s more of a gut feeling that’s unique to every group; and it’s the biggest goal in the world to have that shine through when working on imagery. In the world today an image is the first representation of an artist’s music you experience, not the music. It absolutely has to speak of what the artist does. When I apply this mindset to my own personal adventure photography documenting my musical travels, I take it very much to heart; what I’m experiencing out on the road is very real, very intense feelings, happiness, exploration, loneliness, a dire need to share my eyeballs with someone so it doesn’t get lost in my head. That’s the artist’s experience; I can only aspire to channel that into what I put onto a negative.

What have you learned from your experience touring the states and beyond and getting meet different cultures and people in general?

-Nobody is as important as they may seem; we’re all little specs of dust in this big dance of life. Every single person has something truly unique to offer the world that absolutely 100% NO ONE else can offer; simply because they are not that person. I think the point of life is to figure out what that is that you possess, harness it, and explode into a million sunrays all over the world. Do what you do best, do it really hard, do it on nights and weekends and for no money because you love it that much.

How did you come up with the idea for Glimpses Into Heaven? Was this book something you’ve been toying with for a while or it just randomly happen? What was the process like on what would the content be? On what elements did you based the content featured on this book?

-Like I said earlier, I started touring the country at age 16 and pretty early on I became inspired to document my adventures. My aunt gifted me her old 35mm camera and I just started bringing it with me on tours. I didn’t know what I was doing, I never went to photography school or anything like that; I had a few friends, Eli Ritter (my bandmate) and Brett Ballachino (fellow photographer friend) mostly, who were more knowledgeable about cameras that kinda showed me that basics of working a manual camera. But once I got that down it was just trial and error until I got better. I started to notice I had a unique eye for specific things, color palettes on buildings, unique stark shadows, cool cars, etc. Everything you see in the book. And I was really busy with touring full time and just was taking these photos as something to do in my downtime during the days, so I just kinda started stock-piling the images. I didn’t feel a need to share them with anyone; to the rest of the world, I was a musician, not a photographer, and bridging that gap has been one of the hardest things about getting into this as a second career. I didn’t wanna have to divide myself like that; to some people they know me as a musician, to others as this other type of artist; that is so lame and pointless. Figuring out how to show everyone that I am proud and up front about doing both and they can and will work together beautifully (exhibit A this book) was a really interesting bridge to cross. Towards the middle of this year, I was reflecting on old work and just noticed how much imagery I had saved up over the years of touring. It was a bit daunting at first; 5 years of work needing to be sifted through and figured out. I have always loved print, a lot of my visual work for artists I try to incorporate print mediums whenever possible; I just love the tangibility and realness of it. The same reason I mostly shoot on film. It’s just real, in your hand. When thinking about what my first photo book would be about, it only makes sense to my life that it would be about this entire other side of me that needed to be explained. Once that clicked for me it was like a lightbulb turning on. I was really inspired by the idea and spent pretty much the entire second half of this year working on it; going through all the work, figuring out the best ways to pair things to tell my story. It was not easy and was a really long, drawn out process (I’m thankful I’m finished haha) but I’m super proud of it.

Were you in some way going beyond the archetype of a photo-book?

-It’s definitely more than just a photo book; it tells my story as a musician through imagery. If you take the mindset of, “this is where he was/what he was seeing as he was out making efforts to play music for the world” the book has a lot more depth. Coupled with various poetry entries from over the years as well, it’s really an open book (pun intended) to my deeper thoughts the past 4-5 years.

How did you come up with the idea of having some poetry in it instead of just some info text?

-I have always written word to cope; just like writing lyrics to a song or snapping a photo of something you find pretty, you experience these things in life and you feel this need to document it, in some way, or else it will be lost in the nothingness of time forever. That thought terrifies me. I have to write about it, photograph it, sing about it; SOMETHING so it will live on. Like I said earlier, we are all completely unique and one of those characteristics of uniqueness is the lenses in which we view the world; not only is your own incredibly valuable, but so is that of the others around you, which you can benefit from and grow. But that takes a constant effort from everyone involved; we all have to actively export, personify, illuminate what we see and feel. How can I expect someone else to teach me things I don’t know if I don’t make consistent efforts to share what I do to others?

What would you call the most challenging aspect of doing this book?

-The sheer mass of work I had to go through; just years and years of unsorted images (I should’ve been better with that) needing to be revisited. It was a lot. Also, print formatting is a hellhole I very much despise.

When and where can people catch on?

-My band is called Head North, you can find us anywhere you experience music. My photo work is all under my full name, @benjaminmlieber ; follow me wherever, reach out, tell me what you think. If you’re an artist yourself, I’d love to work with you.

My website: www.benjaminlieber.net

What else is happening next in Benjamin Lieber’s world?

-I’m going on a much needed family vacation for the holiday 🙂 and then back to work in the new year.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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