Photographer Theo Weiner discusses his new book “Murder”

Why would the photographer spend a few years with NYPD homicide detectives?

For Theo Weiner, it comes down to his interest in detective myths in American culture that go along with the myth of the West or baseball. “It’s an interesting subculture with so many traditions and codes and things passed down from generation to generation – the way they do their work, the way they dress, the way they talk, the culture.”

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The images in Homicide, his new volume published by Rizzoli, explore the type of person who chooses a job where they must deal with life and death on a daily basis. From 2018 to 2020, Wiener was committed to leading the Brooklyn North NYPD, gaining an insider’s view on top-tier detectives’ knowledge of local neighborhoods, the inner workings of the city, how to listen to information gathering, forming relationships and their ability to read between the lines. “They have such a deep understanding of people,” Weiner said. “They have such a feeling to talk to people. All these guys can talk to anyone. Anyone… It’s a feeling that you either have or you don’t feel.”

Brooklyn North investigators also oversee the area with the highest murder rate in New York City. In 2020, 102 murders were reported in Brooklyn North compared to 65 in 2019, which is a 56.9 percent increase, according to the New York Police Department.

NYPD investigators gave the photographer access to their work.  Image source: Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

NYPD investigators gave the photographer access to their work. Image source: Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

Photo by Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

Many know the Lens Man for his work on Document Journal, ID, Self Service, M, Le Monde and Rolling Stone, as well as fashion assignments for Chanel And other luxury homes. Maintain commercial and editorial work while immersed in NYPD detectives. He said his ten-hour shifts are with them—”When you’re with them, time seems to slow down and there isn’t. It’s almost as if time doesn’t exist for them either, because they’re so around. Things happen at any moment. There really isn’t an hour. It’s not like [anyone can predict] “Oh, a murder will happen in 20 minutes.” You just never know. Time is not a big part of the equation for a day in their day, and their day out [existence.]”

Whether it was a detective, a grumpy detective, or a detective sitting in their office chairs, Wiener captured the hours in between with his photos. Of course, there are also horrific, bloodstained images of crime scenes and covered corpses. More cinematic clips can be seen in surveillance footage in unmarked cars, city skylines and aerial views of public housing. Occasionally, banners or graffiti add another dimension to the work body.

Aerial shot of Brooklyn from the movie

Aerial shot of Brooklyn from the movie “Murder.” Image source: Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

Photo by Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

Needless to say, seeing a corpse for the first time etched into his memory, as was everything else he had absorbed that day. Never mind, photographic evidence. He said switching gears from shooting advertisements or editorials in a photo studio during the day to interviewing Brooklyn investigators was “disturbing.” But the contrast also brought “more clarity to my eyes. It only creates black and white,” Weiner added.

He said that being with investigators and knowing that something with big consequences could happen at any given moment “is very hard to walk away from as a photographer.” “…Life and death literally happen [in their presence.] And it’s always around the corner, so when do you stop, because it never stops.”

Having since returned to editing and advertising, he said the Brooklyn North experience hasn’t diminished his current work. “It’s not because I’m a photographer. Photography he is Photography to me. Everything has its own image. I try not to let one thing tell another. I just focus on what I’m doing in that moment or at least try to be. Because after this, everything will be trivial. Weiner said.

His cover shot for Sigourney Weaver for Document will be released soon.

Asked how the public’s perception of law enforcement officials, which has changed in the past two years, might affect the reception of “murders,” Weiner said it’s hard to say. A person who only hears about the book without seeing it may have reservations, but has maintained that the book itself is a documentation. “It’s neither for nor against. I never wanted it to be any kind of political statement. Homicide investigators are really in a category for themselves. They are there after the fact. They are investigators. They don’t make arrests,” he said.

When asked what he wants people to know about them, Wiener said, “It’s up to you. There’s really no answer to that question.”

The photographer spent more than two years with NYPD investigators.  Image source: Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

The photographer spent more than two years with NYPD investigators. Image source: Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

Photo by Theo Weiner/Courtesy Rizzoli

The photographer was obsessed with movies growing up and also read a good deal of true crime books and CVs. According to the more cinematic images in his new book, Wenner wants to delve into the movies and works on something along these lines without revealing anything else. For investigators in Brooklyn North, Weiner said, “They look like they came straight out of central casting. They’re very cinematic to begin with. This atmosphere feels like a movie—the lighting in the offices, everything.”

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