Germany in NYC

Close up at Hasted Hunt Gallery

May 09, 2006

Martin Schoeller’s unique and distinctive style of making portraits is characterized by its directness. The model, often a celebrity (Jack Nicholson, Angelina Jolie), political figure (Bill Clinton) or athlete (lance Armstrong) faces the photographer squarely, and the image is cropped very tightly. It is as if the already forceful essence and intensity of their personality has been further compressed.

The most vial feature of Schoeller’s work is the mesmerizing way in which the subjects seem to be captured by the photographer and to transfix the viewer. The eyes are full of life. The artist’s technique is a combination of his directional skills and remarkable lighting. The work as been sometimes characterized as raw and unforgiving but it is in fact revealing and smart.

The influence of well-known German artists, his teachers Hilla and Bernd Becher is evident in the rigor and systematic approach to the making of these portraits. These typologies are made with a similar vision and precision to what the Bechers bring to their water towers and other series.

Martin Schoeller, who beagin his career in Germany, worked as an assistant for Annie Leibovitz from 1993 to 1996. He advanced as a freelance photographer producing portraits of people he met on the street. The work gained recognition for tits strong visual impact and from 1998 on, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Vibe and W, among others. Schoeller has been a contribuiting photographer for The New Yorker since 1999. The Editor, David Remnick, says in his introduction to Close Up:

“Celebrity is all about surface and saturation, and “the big heads” of Martin Schoeller push those qualities to the limit. They give the face, the human expression, a new dimension, and that’s why we keep looking at them. That’s what portraits are for, what they are all about. It is very hard not to look at long time at these faces, known and unknown, celebrities and ordinary people.”

American Photo named him one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” and in the last year alone, he has been profiled on television and in over 100 international publications ranging from Hello to The Economist and Photo District News.