Martin Schoeller has exhibited his portraits internationally and has received numerous awards. His photographs have appeared in many prominent magazines, including the New Yorker, Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ), Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone.
A native of Germany who now lives and works in New York, Schoeller honed his skills by working with Annie Leibovitz. “Watching her deal with all of the elements that have to come together—subjects, lighting, production, weather, styling, location—gave me an insight into what it takes to be a portrait photographer,” he explains.
Equally important for Schoeller was the photography of the German minimalists Bernd and Hilla Becher, who “inspired me to take a series of pictures, to build a platform that allows you to compare.” Schoeller’s portraiture brings viewers eye-to-eye with the well known and the anonymous. His close-up style emphasizes the facial features, both studied and unstudied, of his subjects—presidential candidates, Pirahã tribesmen, movie stars, and artists—leveling them in an inherently democratic fashion. Schoeller’s photographs challenge us to identify the qualities that may, under varying circumstances, either distinguish individuals or link them together, raising a critical question: What is the nature of the categories that we use to compare and contrast?
Schoeller recently spoke at the National Portrait Gallery, where he discussed his work in “Portraiture Now: Feature Photography.” This exhibition closed on September 27, 2009, but you can still view the online exhibition.
Listen to Martin Schoeller's gallery talk (29:24)
Jack Nicholson / Martin Schoeller / Digital C-print, 2002 / Published in Entertainment Weekly, January 3, 2003 / Collection of the artist, courtesy Hasted Hunt, New York City / © Martin Schoeller