Out of the Mist: An Interview with The Grays Photographer Steve Weinrebe

Steve Weinrebe

The cover art of Whitley Strieber's new novel The Grays is very nearly pure white — a view through mist. Within the illuminated haze an indistinct humanoid figure is just barely visible. The fingers of its upraised hands seem a bit too long and thin to be human, and the face, if you can discern it, reveals the enormous eyes of an alien.

This image and others from the same set — dubbed the “Alien in Mist” series — were available for licensing via the stock photo archive Photonica (now Getty Images). Over the past year two different publishers chose this photograph for use as front cover art. First, in late 2005, Harvard University Press selected the image for Dr Susan Clancy's dismissal of the alien encounter phenomenon, Abducted, and now in 2006, Tor Books/Tom Doherty Associates selected it for Whitley Strieber's thriller, The Grays.

Steve Weinrebe is the photographer who created this image. President of Steve Weinrebe Productions, he has more than 30 years experience in commercial photography, photo-illustration, and digital imaging. His digitally produced and enhanced commercial art has been received by numerous advertising agencies and companies; his client list includes Bell Atlantic, GMAC, Capitol Cities/ABC, Digital Equipment, Fidelity Investments, IBM, JI Case, McNEIL-PPC, New Balance, Panasonic, Polaroid and QVC.

He is also an educator, having trained adult students in Adobe Photoshop at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia from 1988-1996. He has since provided training and consulting to corporate producers and marketers — including Dupont, Crown Cork & Seal, North American Publishing Co., and Johnson Controls — in the art and science of digital imaging, computer graphics, multimedia graphics and the world wide web. Steve holds a B.A. from Beloit College, as well as an MBA from Temple University. chatted with Steve in April 2006.

An image from your "Alien in Mist" series is being used as the front cover of Whitley Strieber's next novel, The Grays, which arrives in book stores this August. Could you could say something about this photo session? Perhaps you may like to say a few words about how you feel when your images are selected?

It's always a pleasure to see my work in print, and especially in such a nice treatment as 'The Grays' cover. I've been a professional photographer for 30 years and I still get a thrill out of seeing my work in a terrific layout. Usually I shoot for a planned layout ahead of time, but there's a nice serendipity to stock photography where an image can see many different uses.

The Alien in this photograph is a carefully constructed model, about 3 ft. high, that I commissioned from a terrific model maker, whom I knew from teaching, at the time, at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. My intention was to create a photo series that was reminiscent of one of my favorite movie genres, 1950's science fiction (which of course was itself rooted in the news of the day). I shot the series in the Spring of '97.

My inspiration for the overall character of the work came from a brilliant photo editor at Photonica (now part of Getty Images), who challenged me to do something different and have some fun at the same time. I photographed my Alien in street scenes, as well as studio scenes. While many of the images I made with the Alien were a little 'tongue in cheek', the Alien in Mist series really stuck with me. I always believed that the most haunting surrealism is just a small step removed from reality, so to have the Alien just appearing, coming out of the mist, without any props or other background, ended up very successful.

This seems to be the second book that this particular image has been used for in less than two years; it also appeared as the front cover of a book by Susan Clancy, which leads me to ask: In your opinion, which of these two covers did a better job using your source image?

As far as the two book covers you mentioned, I wouldn't be being strictly diplomatic by saying they are both very nicely done, and a good example of how a good designer can create a unique look, in this case two from the same photograph.¹

Hope this answers some questions. Nice web site. Look forward to reading 'The Grays' and seeing the movie!

Beyond thanks Steve Weinrebe for taking the time to share these thoughts. To see more of Steve Weinrebe's artwork visit

Notes: ¹ The designer of the cover of The Grays (responsible for the layout, the fonts, and image manipulation) was [TK] for Tor Books. The designer of the cover of Abducted was Tim Jones for Harvard University Press.

Out of the Mist: An Interview with The Grays' Photographer Steve Weinrebe
© 2006 Beyond Communion