Category Archives: Martin Schoeller

Lensculture interview with Martin Schoeller

Wanted to save this to my blog to ‘capture’ it somewhere for future reference.

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/martin-schoeller-question-your-subject-taking-portraits-of-johnny-cash-obama-and-more

Born in Germany, Schoeller had a failed attempt at making it in New York before beconing known for his portraits of famous people on the covers of magazines like GQ.  His work shares some of the aesthetic qualities used by Parr and Gilden – Close range and sometimes unflattering, saturated vibrant colour, and high Clarity for example.  It also shares characteristics with the deadpan genre as often of close up faces not expressing any particular expression or gaze of acknowledgement towards the lens.

However they do something deeper in respect of revealing who the person is.  They expose an honest and slightly vulnerable side that can only come from getting to know the subject well and making them feel at ease.

In interview Shoelller states that he takes three portraits in each sitting: a flattering one, a close up and something more conceptual. I like this approach for various reasons.  Firstly it shows pre planning and structure to the shoot.  He knows what he wants to achieve at the outset.  The various poses give him options if one suits a particular subject more than another.

Secondly it develops different artistic and commercial disciplines.  He is extracting maximum value from his time with the famous person before him, extending his artistic mind while bolstering his commercial portfolio.

Are they all as good as the other? Does it dilute Schoeller’s personal style as mixed and undefined? in a purist sense, maybe.  But in practical terms I think this is healthy.  He can always choose how to curate and publif the images to manage his consistency of style. But it keeps him aware and striving to experiment with new ideas.  In support of this philosophy, on being asked to give one piece of advice for other photographers, he offers the suggestion that we should take as many photographs as we can: to ‘do’ not just view the work of others and ‘edit the mediocre ones’ in post processing.  

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