Daniel Silbert, born in the wonderful year of ‘83, has agreed to be interrogated for an interview with Threadsence! I couldn’t have been more grateful for this musician (guitarist for Steel Train) and photographer to put aside some time to chat it up with me! Mr. Silbert grew up in New Jersey, where he and Steel Train are still based today. I was always a huge fan of his music (think 16-year-old groupie), but now I am also in love with his photography. So I’m going to put some of that Steel Train fan-girl spirit away and let everyone get acquainted with his wonderful photography. Here we go for another interview! Say Cheese!
J-Daniel, thank you so much for your time today.
DS: Always a pleasure, Jade.
J-Okay, so photography seems to be the hobby to be into…When did you start taking it a bit more serious…and why?
DS: I know!! It seems that everywhere you look there is someone with a camera, and most of the time it’s just an iphone which actually (given the app) takes great pictures…I started taking photographs about 6 years ago, but I really started getting serious with it about 4 years ago…I was on tour with my band (Steel Train) and having this urge to document my life and the life of my friends…it all sort of snowballed from there.
J-I see. So what is your favorite camera to use? What do you recommend for beginners if I– I mean–others want to try and take some shots of my/their own?
DS: My favorite camera to use is a Leica m9…it is a full sensor digital rangefinder…so everything is manual and it feels like shooting film, except its digital. For beginners I would recommend a Canon rebel or whatever the equivalent is for Nikon. Those cameras are great because they can be a point and shoot but also can be fully manual when you learn how to use it..
J-Sounds good. I’m taking notes on that! You know, I love all of your pictures. I see that your subject matter consists of mainly “People”, “Places”, “Children”, and “Music”. Which is your favorite to capture?
DS: First of all thank you!! That’s so nice of you. For my website I created those four categories to simplify it. However, I guess most of my shooting does fall into one of those categories. If I had to pick one I guess it would be people. I love portraits and getting to capture peoples true emotions in one photograph.. it’s a challenge that I love. Having said that, Music photography is especially exciting also because there is always something unique and exciting to capture during a performance. And since I’m literally at a show most nights of my life, I get to play, then I get to shoot.
J-That’s really cool. Being a musician must have a lot of perks if you’re a photographer!…But you seem to have a wide variety of photos as well. You’ve recently added “Children” pictures to your website. It really adds so much to your collection. What sparked your interest in “Children” photography, and how is it different from photographing regular people?
DS: It’s actually a bizarre situation…My mother had some friends over who just moved into the neighborhood and they brought their one-year-old son…I came home just as they were leaving and had my camera with me so I decided to take a few shots of him crawling in my backyard. Later that night I sent the shots to his mother and she was blown away. She said I would be crazy to not take pictures of children and families when I’m home from tour. So actually she has been helping me a lot with getting involved with children and family photography. Too many families have those awful family portraits where they are all in jeans and a white shirt…you know those…terrible.. so i’m doing my part to fix that.
J-That’s really cool. Yes, please stop the matching T-shirt family photo trend! My family and I are so guilty of not only taking those, but hanging them up on our walls (eek!). So you do concerts, you do family photos…Are your photos taken more in the moment when you see something that you like? Or do you have something already set in your mind that you are looking for in the physical world? Is it more about the preparation or being ready for the perfect image to come together to be captured before it is gone?
DS: It actually is both. If I’m doing a shoot for someone or a band then it’s more of a preplanned scene based on our collaboration…But at the same time always being open for that special moment is vital because it’s all about a photo that doesn’t look like a picture but a moment.Most of the time I actually shoot without any preconceived notions, just always looking around to see what unfolds. After a while your eye sort of trains itself to frame and see the photo before its taken. Sometimes it’s luck. Just being in the right place at the right time.
J-Very modest. C’mon. We know it’s not all luck! It has got to take a lot of work! What is the most challenging aspect of photography for you?
DS: Post production by far…Now every photo you see is touched up and edited…all to varying degrees. I have so many different programs all for different desired effects. There is always more you can learn with Photoshop – it’s ENDLESS!!! I try to keep my editing to a minimum because I like a photo to look like a photo not a piece of art–which is something beautiful in itself–but creating a post effect is important in giving a vibe to the photograph. Another challenging aspect is making sure that the client is happy with the outcome. Balancing their desires with my creativity can sometimes be tricky. I’ll see a shot one way but know that the client wants it another.
J-Very true. You can’t please everyone! Are there any specific photographers/photographs that inspire you and your photography?
DS: There are a few photographers that inspire me and my work heavily…Herman Leonard, Annie Leibovitz, Danny Clinch, Alex Prager and Henri Cartier-Bresson… the list goes on and on. As far as specific photographs there are a few that come to mind. Elliot Erwitt’s California Kiss…The shot of the sailor kissing the woman at times square(not sure who the photographer is) and I have a picture in my room of Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash (taken by Henry Diltz) sitting in a car in 1969 having an intense moment. And since I am obsessed with Joni Mitchell I have made up dozens of different scenarios as to what was going on at that particular moment.
J-I love California Kiss. Very awesome photograph…speaking of awesome (haha), how does Steel Train feel about your photography? How do you balance being in a band that produces marvelous sounding tunes while still taking stunning photos?
DS: They couldn’t be more supportive. While the band is first priority for everyone, we each have other hobbies and careers. Evan ( bass player) is a screenwriter. He is constantly working on scripts in the van during 10 hour drives, and when we are off, he lives in LA and focuses 100% on screenwriting. Jack (singer and guitar player) has another band called Fun. I feel so lucky to be passionate about 2 things that have both turned out to be careers for me. Balancing music and photography for me is easy, it’s balancing music and my personal life that gets tricky sometimes.
J-That’s really cool. It sounds like everyone is able to balance their lives well around their passions. When you’re not filling in the roles of guitar player and photographer, what are you doing? I’ve heard rumors about you being a ninja and using your karate to fight crime…or maybe it was just that you have a black belt, I forget. I have also heard that you play some mean tennis (and from a very reliable source, that you have a wicked serve). Is this true?
DS: Haha. I actually am a black belt…if you talk to any of my friends about it, they will immediately start laughing but it’s not funny!!! Well maybe a little…I also love playing sports…it used to be baseball, basketball and yes, tennis…I actually went to a sleepover tennis camp for two weeks when I was younger (that’s where the wicked serve came from and thanks for the compliment…coming from you, it means a lot). I love sports but it seems the older I get, the more injured I get. Like two weeks ago I played a pick up basketball game in my town and within the first 10 minutes I jammed my thumb. It actually still hurts…I immediately realized why I don’t do this more. Being away a lot makes me appreciate my home and my family, so when I am home I spend a lot of time with my grandparents and family…I do love the going out for tour though!
J-Tell us more about “A Time To Shine” and what we can expect when we visit the site.
DS: “A Time to Shine” started because I had all these images from the road that needed somewhere to go…it is basically my documentation of life in Steel Train seen through my camera or my iphone (TTV app is the best) trust me! Sometimes there will be a funny quote someone said or a photo of Evan sleeping with his eyes open.
J-Okay, good deal. I always stalk…I mean, go check out what’s going on over there. It’s so interesting and fun. So what’s going on now? Any projects (photography-wise or music-wise) coming up in near the future that you can tell us about?
DS: I’ve been really busy with my photography while I’m home, doing shoots and personal projects…but Steel Train is working on a new record which is always exciting. That’s really all I can say at the moment about that, but there is more to come soon!
J-And just because we all love good music, what music are you bobbing your head to these days?
DS: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen, Robyn, Tegan and Sara but most importantly the best thing I’ve been listening to is The Book of Mormon musical…It is literally the best, funniest, most genius thing out there. Now if only I can get tickets…
J-Haha, that’s right. You were actually the one who introduced me to that musical. Being from Utah, I feel like I can fully appreciate it! Awesome. Well, again, thank you so so much for your time today.
DS: Don’t worry about it! Thank you!
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