Mar 11, 2016

Behind the Lens: An Interview with Steve Weinik

by: Meg Wolensky

Behind the Lens: An Interview with Steve Weinik 

At Mural Arts, we believe it’s important to take a moment to get to know your team and to highlight their strengths. This week we’re featuring Steve Weinik, Mural Arts’ incredibly talented Staff Photographer and Senior Manager for Digital Media & Technology. Steve helps the Mural Arts story come alive with vivid photographs of our murals and events. This week, we find out what it’s like behind the lens at Mural Arts.

Meg: So, I’ve heard you’re a Philly native – how did you end up photographing murals for Mural Arts?

Steve: Yes, I grew up in Northwest Philly, Germantown and Mount Airy. I remember seeing murals in various stages of completion around Philadelphia from very early on in my life. I remember driving over the Spring Garden Bridge when I was a kid, and my dad pointing out a mural and telling me all about Jane Golden’s impact around the city. He’d read about her in the Inquirer.

I’ve been with Mural Arts since I graduated from UPenn in 2005. I started as office manager. Since then, my role has transformed many times between administrative and technology roles, and now as our Staff Photographer with the Communications Department.

The North Philadelphia Beacon Project by James Burns. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Meg: Wow, so you’ve really worked all over the organization. Why does photography appeal to you the most as a medium to communicate our mission?

Steve: Visuals come first when telling our story. We grab people’s attention with an interesting image or video and then try to leverage that into telling our deeper narrative. We’re a visual arts organization, and images are a big part of the way we communicate who we are, what we do, and how art ignites change. We have a wealth of interesting imagery that speaks to the incredible quality of our artists and the projects that they create. I have the pleasure of documenting their work and I do my best to preserve the beauty and integrity of the work. The volume of content that we have makes sharing what we do visually the most natural option. An image grabs you instantly. It’s an opening to tell a richer story.

Showing Face project participants prepare for the photo shoot that will create content for the billboards. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Meg: Any particularly memorable experiences from being out in the field taking photographs?

Steve: Philadelphia is a lot of small towns, clustered into a big city. When I travel to our project sites, which are in every neighborhood, I’ll often stick out as a stranger. When people see me taking pictures of houses and buildings, it can cause some distrust, but when I tell people I’m with Mural Arts, I’m accepted, pretty much universally. There’s a lot of love for Mural Arts and it gives me a level of access and trust that I probably would have a more difficult time gaining otherwise. Mural Arts makes me an ambassador of the organization and of the city.

Philly Painting by Haas & Hahn. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Meg: Now when you’re not in the office or out photographing murals, I know you have other creative interests. Any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?

Steve: So, two things happened in 2012 that shifted my focus slightly. I decided to move into the Communications department and then I had a kid! Now most of my free time is spent with my family, but my son is starting to get a little bit older and I’m beginning to feel the itch to start embarking on my own projects again.

The last big film project that I worked on spanned from 2005 to 2012. I helped create a documentary film about the Toynbee Tiles, which are also public art in their own way. In late 2010, the film got accepted to the Sundance film festival and the project got way bigger than our four-person team ever thought it would be. We thought it might show at festivals, but we never dreamed that it would show at one of the biggest film festivals in the world. I’m hoping to start carving out a little more time for projects like that.

Meg: Thank you so much for sharing!

Photo by Steve Weinik.

If you’d like to check out more of Steve’s work, you can see his photographs all over our website or on Steve’s Instagram.

Last updated: Mar 23, 2016

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