Martin Schoeller: Up Close and Personal
Mole and Thomas' larger-than-life recreations of famous US icons may be awe-inspiring from afar, but there's nothing like looking into the eyes of a real person. In portrait photographer Martin Schoeller's appropriately titled "Close Up", viewers get up close and personal with Hollywood stars and celebrities in a refreshing and almost overly in-depth manner.
Martin Schoeller is a commercial portrait photographer whose images have graced the covers of Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, and many others. Some of his earlier photographs have the personal feel of Annie Leibovitz who was actually his mentor when started working in the industry in the early 1990s.
One of his most notable projects is his book, Female Bodybuilders, which is an unflinching look at award winning female bodybuilders. The series makes use of hard light and close up views, something that Schoeller is known for in his portraits.
Schoeller's most famous work is an ongoing series of extremely up-close portraits of celebrities entitled, "Close Up". Schoeller began his now famous series in the late 1990s when his career was just taking off. While he worked and continues to work in the typical portrait photography fashion, he made a name for himself by taking an objective and almost dead-pan view of both celebrities and ordinary people. He began taking a portrait every week, amassing a portfolio of faces that are now famously copied in the industry.
In Schoeller's style, the subject's face covers almost the entire length of the image, giving viewers an unprecedented view of all of every facial expression (or lack thereof). The tight view coupled with the two strobe lights directly in-front of the subject and Schoeller's medium format camera also has the secondary effect of exposing all of the celebrities' pores, wrinkles and scars.
Schoeller's images are close-up, but they aren't intimate; they don't expose the subject's character or personality but rather give an unbiased view of the celebrity as a canvas on which the face happens to be. This view is shocking at first, but it gives viewers an unique look at what these famous personalities would be like if they were standing two inches in front of you.
These images may be unromantic, but they are at the very least honest. They don't pretend to be anything other than what they appear to be. The backdrop is plain, the lighting is even, and the subjects are present. It might not be much, but that's what a good portrait is all about, plain and simple.
Martin Schoeller's minimalist website is here, which is only a jumping off point to other websites that host his close up portraits. You can also get up close and personal with his celebrity subjects in the book, Martin Schoeller Close Up: Portraits, 1998-2005 or Martin Schoeller: Stern Portfolio. Don't forget about his other project, Female Bodybuilders.