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, Schoeller, who now lives and works in New York, 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 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, in equal measure, the facial features, both studied and unstudied, of his subjects—presidential candidates and Pirahã tribespeople, 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 very nature of the categories we use to compare and contrast
View an audio slideshow by the New Yorker, featuring Martin Schoeller and Steve Pyke
Listen to a gallery talk by Martin Schoeller, on the museum's blog
Schoeller photographed Barack Obama for a December 2004 feature on “Men of the Year,” in Gentleman’s Quarterly, where a variant of this photograph appeared. Reflecting upon the success of his address at the 2004 Democratic convention, Obama, who would go on to win the presidential election in 2008, observed: “The reason you do this stuff is not to . . . get your face in a magazine . . . You do this stuff because you care about the epic struggle to make America what it can be.”
Well known for creating photographs of herself adopting a broad range of personas, Cindy Sherman’s own face is surprisingly unfamiliar. Originally published with a New Yorker profile of Sherman by Calvin Tomkins addressing “Her Secret Identities,” Schoeller’s portrait unmasks the influential artist.
Schoeller’s portrait of John McCain was shot for Men’s Vogue in November 2004, but the photograph did not run. However, the commission itself, and the portrait that grew out of it, testify to McCain’s importance in contemporary American politics. Even before entering the political arena, McCain demonstrated great fortitude and commitment to his country by enduring five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. A long-time Republican with an independent streak, McCain was the winner of the party’s presidential nomination in 2008.
“I’ve always sort of liked that there were two of me—the person people think I am and the person I actually am.” Jack Nicholson made this remark during an interview published by Entertainment Weekly shortly after the 2002 release of About Schmidt, in which he played the title role. Schoeller’s portrait of the actor, published with the interview, accentuates the gap between the actor’s public and private persona, implicitly asking us to decide which one we see here.
One of several photographs Martin Schoeller has shot of Angelina Jolie for Entertainment Weekly, this image was not published by the magazine. However, Schoeller’s portrait, which has appeared elsewhere, captures the actress’s legendary beauty, and suggests, through Jolie’s focused eyes and firm expression, the energy and determination that has enabled her to combine raising a large family with a demanding professional life.
Part of a series on female bodybuilders, this photograph showing Christine Roth’s finely tuned physique reflects how the female body can be transformed through personal effort.
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