Martin Schoeller made me understand what it meant to be a great portrait photographer.


I’ll always remember the first time I met Martin Schoeller: his rep at the time had contacted me to work with him on an ongoing Nike campaign. I went to meet him in his studio in Tribeca. I was nervous, and walking through that big loft of his, all the way to his desk, took what felt like an eternity. I guess the meeting went well because the next time I saw him was at the airport on our way to wherever the job was taking us!

If you know me, you know I’m pretty reserved — I definitely don’t open up right off the bat — and yet, I found myself telling my life story to this stranger (a client no less!) within a couple of hours. At some point, I caught myself and was like, “What the hell is going on? Why am I saying all this stuff to this guy?”

And then, I saw it happen time and time again on set. Martin Schoeller has this inane ability to connect with people, anybody, everybody, and to draw them out. For the introvert that I am, it is a seemingly magical quality!


A man in a white suit wearing bright red lipstick
Actor George Clooney, looking straight at the camera
Actress Cate Blanchett looking straight at the camera

Martin Schoeller became famous for his close-up portraits, where everyone, from Jack Nicholson to a six-month-old baby, is photographed with the same exact symmetry.

Being in front of a camera is always a bit uncomfortable for most people, but nothing compared to Schoeller’s set-up. Imagine sitting on a small stool, with curtains or V-flats creating a narrow space around you, two large lights on both sides and a big camera’s lens inches away from your face!

It’s a testament to Martin Schoeller’s ability to connect and make people comfortable that he got powerful and celebrated people to sit on that stool!

Bill Murray jokingly hiding behind a curtain in a hotel suite

His “big head portraits” have been the subject of many gallery shows and books. But I also love how his portraiture has evolved over the years. His images are smart and witty; they make you stop and think (or chuckle).

I have to thank him for making me discover The New Yorker (which is the best magazine ever!). He worked with them for a long time and, out of curiosity, I picked up a copy to see his photos and I got hooked! So, thank you Martin!

© Martin Schoeller

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Martin Schoeller. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.