Photographer Weber focuses on Berlinale

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BERLIN -- If you want to show the face or the faces of Berlin, you can do worse than bring Bruce Weber to town.

The 61-year-old photographer, whose work for Rolling Stone magazine, GQ and fashion powerhouses like Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren safely keeps him at the zenith of his profession, comes across as a friendly Hemingway, with his close white beard and colorful skullcap. What is most striking, though, is his natural curiosity about the arts, people and in this special case, Berlin itself.

The results of Weber's six-day-shoot in snowy November can now be seen during a photo exhibition and in the oversized pages of the Manipulator, a groundbreaking lifestyle magazine that is adding another issue after being off the market for a decade.

For his contribution, Weber has not only photographed German actors -- among them Till Schweiger, Hanna Schygulla ("The Edge of Heaven"), Martina Gedeck and Sebastian Koch ("The Lives of Others") and Hannah Herzsprung ("Four Minutes") -- but also Berlin's favorite bear Knut and regular folks: "Today I just met this couple", he explains with what seems genuine awe. "He was about six foot seven and his girlfriend was probably five foot one. And they were the most beautiful couple."

As for the actors, Weber was especially impressed with Gedeck, whom he calls "the Anna Magnani of Germany" and her "The Lives of Others" co-star Sebastian Koch, whom he considers "a wonderful individual."

As for the city itself, Weber offers nothing but praise -- especially when he remembers the Berlin he visited in 1965: "It was much colder -- not the weather, but the feeling. People seemed so unhappy on the street."

Today's Berlin, by contrast, reminds him of New York during his film school days: "It was much more open than it is now. When I say open I mean people have a desire to see something. I think Berlin is very different than the rest of Germany. The people are different. They have this pride about this city."

As for his experience, documenting a city in stills, Weber likens it to filmmaking itself: "It was almost as if we were taking pictures to make our own movie about Berlin."

With one important distinction, though: "I always think the difference between photography and filmmaking is, you're not standing at the newsstand when the photographs come out."

Apparently, since Weber will not be able to attend the Vernissage Opening Night for the Manipulator on Sunday, presented by Studio Babelsberg, nor come for the screening of his short film "Wine and Cupcakes".

But at least he'll be more than adequately represented by his work.
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