10 minutes with Wesley Mann
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?
In 2003, when I was 20, I managed to get an internship within the photo dept of VIBE magazine. Portfolios would come in on Wednesdays and I would often sift through the enormous pile of fresh work, soaking it all in, forming my opinions and then make photocopies of the work I liked. I was certainly drawn to the portrait work I was seeing, which felt reality based and possessed a noticeable lack of pretension. Fashion, beauty and pretty much anything pop was a big turnoff. Instead artists like Dan Winters, Taryn Simon, Dana Lixenberg, Danielle Levitt and Robert Maxwell appealed to my sensibility.
One of the VIBE photo editors had worked closely with Martin Schoeller and offered to help me get a foot in the door, which led me to intern over the course of a summer. I was still in school but felt very strongly about learning to become an assistant. After some time, I sensed that a spot on Martin’s crew would be an invaluable experience so I begged him for a position and he reluctantly agreed. Although I was fired after roughly a year, the good taste I got of Martin’s world left me convinced to pursue photography as a career.
What is it about being a photographer that you love the most, and what do you wish you could change?
There’s a certain state of consciousness I can sometimes achieve when I’m with a subject, where I’m able to be in the moment and think and react with clarity…It feels amazing.
I wish I could scale back the amount of time I spend in front of a screen. It’s beginning to define what “being a photographer” is like these days.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Follow my heart…also to try to better enjoy the struggle of rising up.
Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?
Borrow whatever equipment you need from the people you work for, studios (or anyone else that you can forge a relationship with) so you can shoot when you have free time. Assist for people whose work you’re genuinely attracted to; seek them out, bounce around a lot (fashion, still life, portrait), don’t just stick with one person. Also take the time to work with someone who’s at the very early stages of their own career, it’ll give you the most useful situational-experience for when you yourself are starting off.
(Wesley is based in New York. See more of his work, here.)