Bruce Weber’s Iconic South Beach Photoshoot

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Recently we had the opportunity to interview one of the male models that posed for the iconic 1986 Bruce Weber photoshoot on the roof of the Breakwater Hotel on Ocean Drive and 10th Street. Timothy Schnellenberger was 18 years old at the time his agent told him he needed to fly back to his hometown Miami, from the University of Colorado, for a Calvin Klein model casting call. He was surprised when he got the call back that he was chosen out of hundreds of applicants to pose for the new Obsession perfume ad campaign. Originally thought to be a one day assignment, it turned into five days. All twenty-five of the models chosen were required to be uniformly tanned for the shoot. After they arrived, they first spent a couple of days tanning on the roof of the hotel.

As far as meeting and working with Bruce Weber, Timothy remembers, “He was a great guy. He was casual about the shoot but extremely talented and professional. He treated everybody at the job with a lot of respect. I remember he only liked to use models that were unknown with an all- American image”. Posed on the very top ledge of the roof, we asked him how he got all the way up there….”I remember there was a wall back there. I just climbed up the wall and jumped up to the ledge. I spent the whole day up there and the heat was broiling but there were always crowds watching below”. When asked if the white sheets hanging down in the photo were used to cover their bodies until the shoot started, he replied “Not really. I think they were more of an artistic touch by Bruce Weber to create movement and flow to match the human bodies being photographed”.

Calvin Klein’s Obsession 1986 photoshoot on the roof of the Breakwater Hotel.

This photoshoot resulted in a large number of modeling shoots to happen in South Beach amidst a background of the Art Deco hotels that were being newly repainted and refurbished. The model and fashion shoots were a magnet that attracted celebrities and unique personalities to the hotels and to the nightlife of Miami Beach.

Also from that celebrated photoshoot, Timothy Schnellenberger’s modeling career propelled forward. For the next twelve years, he had many international jobs in different countries such as the Armani campaign in Italy, as well as jobs in Germany, Paris and New York. After modeling he was in real estate for many years and said he always wished he purchased one of the Art Deco hotels that were going for a song back in the 80s. A couple decades ago he started and still runs Healing Properties in Delray Beach, Florida which is a sober living recovery and residential community for men.

The Breakwater Hotel on Ocean Drive between 9th and 10th Street.
Photograph of Timothy Schnellenberger taken by Bruce Weber on the night of the Obsession photoshoot.

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