Martin Schoeller made me understand what it meant to be a great portrait photographer.
I’ll always remember the first time I met him: 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 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!
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 Martin’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’s ability to connect and make people comfortable that he got powerful and celebrated people to sit on that stool!
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, nor claims to do so. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.