INSTRUMENTHEAD | FAME Studios to host Michel Weintrob’s immersive photo exhibit

As part of the GRAMMYs pop up week, the photographer will be answering questions and signing his new book


This week, the Grammys are being held in New York City for the first time in almost 20 years.

To celebrate, the legendary FAME Studios is hosting a pop-up of incredible live performances — one of which is photographer Michael Weintrob's INSTRUMENTHEAD exhibition on Friday.

Weintrob will host a lecture followed by a Q&A and book signing for his new coffee table book at 66 Greenwich Avenue in West Village. Popdust will also be livestreaming the Q&A — moderated by Binky Griptite — via Facebook live. In addition to his talk there will be live-performances by artists such as Peter Levin, Scott Sharard, and Emily Duff throughout the week.

Quite literally, INSTRUMENTHEAD contains portraits of musicians with guitars, violins, and other instruments covering their heads. This somewhat quirky project is definitely interesting and whimsical to say the least. Even Weintrob himself admits that his inspiration for the project had escaped even him for a period of time. Since 1998, Michael Weintrob has shot over 5,000 artist portraits and live music professionally — in his INSTRUMENTHEAD project alone, he shot almost 400 in his Brooklyn studio. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Spin, Mojo, Billboard, Relix, Downbeat and Jazz Times among other publications.Michael recently released his book, INSTRUMENTHEAD through his own publishing company, Magnet Bound Press and has toured the US including an exhibition at FAME Studios headquarters in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. His book has also received an Independent Publishers Award for Outstanding Design. Weintrob's inspiration for his innovative project began when he was a student at Colorado State University and the house photographer at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins. While he was taking portraits of the Derek Trucks Band backstage he asked the bass player to put his bass down his shirt.Although he did not pursue this strange inspiration immediately, it became the basis of a collection of photos of 366 musicians that was INSTRUMENTHEAD. Funded by more than $50,000 through the Indiegogo platform, Weintrob's book has become wildly popular among musicians and designers alike.

Weintrob has taken photos of musicians like Bootsy Collins, Johnny Winter, the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart, Junior Brown, Sam Bush and Kyle Hollingsworth all holding their instruments over their head. In his work, he alludes to the centrality of the instruments themselves, placing them above the musician even. While there are frontmen in the book, Weintrob says most of the photos are of sidemen. In an interview with Westword, Weintrob says, "The instruments are just an extension of who they if it wasn't for those instruments and how good they are on those instruments, they wouldn't be who they are. The catchphrase for it is 'That's where their heads are really at.'"During a week celebrating the incredible talents of contemporary musicians, INSTRUMENTHEAD is a poignant reminder of both the transcendent talent and humbling temporality of musicians and their muses. Weintrob expands and contracts the barriers between the artist and their instrument in a candid way.

Amber Wang is a freelance writer for Popdust. She also writes for other sites such as Gearbrain and Trueself, along with being a student at NYU.

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Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman.

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did.

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny.

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid.

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper.

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.


That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.


So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.