One of the most interesting things about rock and roll is always the story of how we discovered it. The events and circumstances that turned us on and drove us right out of our skulls when it came to pursuing notoriety, bands, girls and anything else attached to three chords of heavy guitar riffage. Many of us have tough luck stories. Several are still sitting at the local gin mill on a Thursday night banging away at an acoustic guitar while their childhood buddy is playing Giants Stadium. It’s true and happens all the time. But there are the few who find a way out. The few who put it together and make their own destiny happen no matter who says its right wrong or upside down. They are the elite entrepreneurs at the head of the list. And Mark Weiss is one of those guys.
His story is classic. A 14-year-old kid new to a cold Jersey town and looking to fit in. He made pocket money cutting lawns while an interest in photography began. Weiss worked out a trade with a neighbor who had a Bell and Howell camera and for an entire season he cut his teeth (and a lot of grass) on the 35mm wonder, setting up the homestead bathroom as a darkroom and generally using the family as test subjects for his budding shutter experiments. He eventually brought his brother (a motocross enthusiast) into the game using his fast-paced daredevil action to sharpen his shooting skills.
It wasn’t long till his brother opened the door to rock and roll with a Sly And The Family Stone concert and the rest, as they say, is history. It started pretty fast and kept right on going. Weiss began by taking shots at concerts and running home to develop them and hustle back to the venue to sell them out front, which was extremely forward thinking for a little kid, but eventually all good things come to an end and Mark allegedly spent a night in jail for selling shots of KISS outside of Madison Square Garden. That overnight stay in the clink only strengthened Mark’s resolve and the very next day he was standing at the editor desk for Circus Magazine with a portfolio of his work and the steely-eyed resolve of Clint Eastwood.
As luck would have it, he was immediately welcomed by a deadline weary editor (sounds familiar) and given the opportunity to go out and find them something they could use, which came in the form of Aerosmith, and Mark landing a prestigious 1978 Steven Tyler centerfold as his first real gig. After that, it snowballed for Weiss. He landed the staff photographer job at Circus and started shooting covers and features, which led to work with some of rock and roll’s biggest icons.
From Keith Richards and Jerry Garcia to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Mark Weiss has been on the scene capturing musical greats all over the world. His knowledge of historical timelines is genuine and I’m sure someday he will write a book about the well-rounded life he’s experienced to date. Not too shabby for a kid that started out hawking photos on Penn Plaza.
And while Mark still travels the world shooting important sessions for artists like Gwen Stefani, Ozzie Osborne and Accept, he also calls Monmouth County his home and has started his very own gallery here in Tinton Falls. He invited a bunch of his closest friends and industry types to view his work and we were all dually impressed by what we saw.
Tonight’s gallery exhibit was a three-fold event for me. One, it was a display of Mark’s awesome talents as one of rock’s biggest photographers. Two, it was a chance for the attendees to actually experience the expansive studio that was rolled out right before their eyes and three, to introduce bands and musicians to the possibilities of expanding their image past the amateurish Facebook and MySpace levels and into the realm of the big time.
Weiss has entered into a partnership with Nick Strickland and Tom Gilmour, the two other cutting edge creatives at the studio. Strickland and Gilmour are part of Primal Stare Studios in Tinton Falls and are featured experts in the art of high impact commercial, industrial and industry related photography and design for everything from restaurant concepts to architectural campaigns and more. Nick, Tom and Mark decided to team up and offer their combined talents not only to high level clients, but also to the entry-level performers from our locale. The huge Primal Stare rooms are professionally equipped with the latest lighting and stage equipment, giving bands and artists the perfect platform to shoot outrageous stills and live action video for their ultimate “the next step” move.
When the three initially got together, it was Nick and Tom that suggested that Mark target local groups looking for quality shots and while Weiss agreed that it was something he wanted to do, the vibe out there was that with his extensive background he would be too expensive. So they came back and said, “Let us run the business end, you can use the studio whenever you want. We’ll come up with some promo while you create and take it from there.” The end result of that brainstorming is “Vision Of Your Sound Sessions,” a photography contest package that picks a lucky band to get the royal in-house treatment. This is the perfect introduction to Weiss and Primal Stares’ solid offer of affordable photography and image consultation.
The band Tasting Grace has already used the team and recently rented Primal Stare Studios to do a video for their upcoming single. They will also be using Weiss for their own still shots while they shoot their video project. Tasting Grace is a perfect example of a band that not only puts great care into their live and recorded sound, but also front loads their image and it’s paying off well for these North Jersey rockers. Hopefully, with bands like this paving the way other performers will follow suit and help kick this service into gear.
While Mark Weiss is the real rock and roll deal, he also is proficient with pop, hip-hop, celebrity-based portraits and more. All you have to do is go to his site and take a look to know what this guy has accomplished. Bands that are serious about what they do would be wise to check out his historic portfolio and consider how this might enhance their image. Yea, your brother can shoot some shots for free and that’s what they’ll look like, or you can take this route and put it in the hands of a pro for a little bit of dough.
Weiss says, “Between Primal Stare donating cutting edge work space and my photography experience, we’re hoping that bands will see the value in this offer and spread the word to their friends and fellow musicians. And this is a sliding scale kind of thing that fits everyone’s budget, so I was excited for them to come up with the suggestion where I could come in minus all the leg work and do what I do best and hopefully help out area bands and really turn this in to something cool.”