Mark “Weissguy” Weiss is a world-renowned photographer who has traveled the globe photographing legends from Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, and Mötley Crüe to Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, and KISS. Weiss’s iconic images capture the artists onstage, backstage, and behind the scenes. He visually documented historic events including the US Festival, Live Aid, the Moscow Music Peace Festival, and the PMRC hearings in Washington, DC. His photographs have been published in thousands of magazines worldwide, and he is responsible for two of the era’s defining album covers, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry. His inimitable photographs helped craft the visual imagery of rock and metal in the 1980s.
I was thirteen years old when I got my first camera. Being a photographer was not something that had ever crossed my mind. At the time, I was just trying to make a few extra bucks mowing lawns. It was 1973. I was a kid growing up in Matawan, New Jersey, a suburb an hour outside of New York City. We were a middle-class family—my mother worked in public relations, and my father was a door-to-door salesman selling aluminum siding. It was my dad’s experience that helped me in my lawn-mowing business. He told me, “Make them like you. When they open the door, connect with their eyes; then introduce yourself and be sincere. Always let them think you’re there to help make their lives better.”
Soon, I had a steady list of five customers a week. Still, I was always looking for more. One day, I knocked on the door of a neighbor with a seriously unkempt lawn: “Hi, my name is Mark. I live down the street. I noticed your lawn is a bit long. Can I help you by cutting it?” The man told me that he cut his own lawn. I quickly responded, with a smirk, “It doesn’t look like it. Is your mower not working?” He smiled and told me if I mowed his yard for the season, he’d give me a camera. Then he went back inside and came out holding a Bell & Howell Canon FP. It looked to me like it was worth a million bucks. I said, “Sure,” and after a few cuts, he gave me the camera.
Now that I had the camera, I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to use it. My eighth grade year was ending. There was a photography class with a darkroom at my school, and I asked the teacher if he could give me a crash course in developing film and printing. Everything looked so cool to me in that darkroom. Entering through the cylinder-like door, it felt like I was being transported into another dimension amid red lights, trays filled with chemicals, and glowin- the-dark timers. I watched in disbelief as a piece of blank paper transformed into an image before my eyes. The whole process was magical. – MARK WEISS (excerpt from THE DECADE THAT ROCKED)