The portraits of Martin Schoeller 

Les portraits of Martin schoeller are known for their ultra-close-ups, with the tone, humor, and consistency of compositions that have rekindled the pages of many of America's and Europe's most cherished publications over the past 20 years. But these revealing photographs are just the most recognizable part of his surprisingly eventful work.


Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits

Martin schoeller has now racked up all the work that defies classification because he has ventured into every subculture except recent unseen events, social justice disruptions, celebrities and many other subcategories . As we see in Martin schoeller 1999–2019, these images are a veritable museum of recent history - a diverse, resourceful, dynamic, disciplined and conscientious project that is the work of a human perspective.

Martin Schoeller's approach 

“Like all portrait photographers, I try to capture the moment when the subject stops thinking. I try to go beyond the representation of the subject's face, in search of something unexpected. "- Martin schoeller  is a portrait photographer born 1968. He is a portrait painter known for his extreme close-up portraits.

Martin schoeller worked as an assistant toAnnie leibovitz in the years 1993–1996, and since 1998. His works have appeared in, among others, National Geographic, Time, Rolling Stone, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine. He joins Richard avedon inasmuch as portrait photographer in New Yorker in 1999. He continues to work in New York. Schoeller exhibits internationally and his photos are stored in collections, including the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.


Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits

Biography of Martin Schoeller

Martin schoeller is german. Very young, Martin Schoeller was influenced by the extraordinary work of portrait painter August Sander, known for his photographs of the poor, workers and bourgeois.

His gaze is then drawn to the extraordinary photos of Bernd and Hilla Becher, who then created the famous Becher school.

Martin Schoeller's work was exhibited at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is regularly discussed in the United States and Europe.



His portraits are exhibited and collected around the world. They have been the subject of several exhibitions and are part of the prestigious National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Schoeller's portraits give all human facial expressions a new dimension. This is why the existing portraits are their raison d'être, explains David Remnick, Pulitzer laureate in 1994 and director of the New Yorker Magazine.

Martin Schoeller's first book, Gros Plan, was published in 2005 by teNeues.

He continued his portraits for New Yorker, acquiring new series, commissioned by magazines or dictated by facial searches that attracted modern society. This is how I want to work on female bodybuilding champions. This is how the bodybuilders are created, a series of monographs in limited editions, much sought after by collectors of contemporary photography.



For bodybuilders, I try to show the weakness I see and feel in my models when I'm with them; he realized complex emotions hidden under an extremely functional physical mask. These women are a reflection of our modern desire for greatness, strength and aggressiveness; and be careful at all costs. We are in an excess age. Martin Schoeller lives and works in New York and is considered one of the masters of modern photography.

Martin Schoeller is best known for his series of close-up portraits that capture icons of American culture up close. From Clint Eastwood to Barack Obama, via Paris Hilton or Bill Murray, Martin Schoeller offers the viewer the fixation, in the eyes of these personalities who have become living monsters.

Definitely a new and uncompromising take on those faces you'd think you know by heart. His portraits offer the same tight frame and the same vivid, almost medical light of celebrities and strangers. In this way, he explores the universe of monozygotic twins during a series for National Geographic or women bodybuilding champions in bodybuilding.


Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits



Eric CANTO Photographe : Photos de concerts, portraits, pochettes d’albums.


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Bonus: Interview with Martin Schoeller

How did you get started with photography? How old were you when you started and what were you doing before that?

Martin Schoeller: I finished high school in Germany and had no idea what I wanted to be. Education in Germany is free, so I enrolled in college. Despite this, I hardly ever went there. 

I worked with a disabled man with multiple sclerosis. I took care of him, I went on vacation with him, I washed and fed him. I was basically a social worker. At night, I was a bartender and a waiter.

There are advantages in the European education system; you have health insurance and you can earn money without paying taxes. A friend of mine was applying to a photography school in Berlin and said, “Why don't you apply with me? Maybe they'll take us both and we can go together.

I had thought photographers were geeks until then. Whenever I threw a party in high school, the photographers would stand in the corner, waiting for someone to embarrass themselves, run away and take pictures.

I never really liked photographers; I have always considered them to be voyeurs. But my friend applied for school and I thought, “Why not? It might be cool. " 

My attitude was that they weren't likely to accept me anyway. The odds were one in twenty and 800 people applied. They gave us some assignments, and I completed all of those assignments in the time they gave us. In the end, they accepted me and not my friend.


Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits


Did you have a talent as a visual artist that you didn't know you had?

Martin Schoeller: I was upset that they accepted me. Looking back, I don't think my photos were any better than my friends. Yet for some reason I was selected. I was flattered.

I was like, “Oh my god. Maybe this is something I could be good at if I really try. My dad always said I had a good eye. I didn't know what he meant by that, but he always felt that I had a good sense for furniture, spaces and design; good taste.


Later you came to New York and helped Annie Leibovitz. How did it happen and what did you learn?

Martin Schoeller: When I finished my photography studies, I helped a still life photographer in Frankfurt, then I worked for a very famous photographer in Hamburg, who fired me after three months.

I was completely overwhelmed by the situation. I didn't know anyone could work this hard. The workload and the responsibilities were incredible. It was a combination of things that didn't work.

What I take away from this is that helping is so much work for so little money, you have to work for someone you respect and would love to do someday. My three favorite photographers at the time were Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel and Irving Penn.

I saved 2,000 $, moved to New York, and called them all. Nothing happened. I ran out of money and had to go home and work for the disabled man again.

I came back a few months later after saving some money and finding a free job for a month for a still life photographer. He knew someone who worked in Annie's studio and things worked out.

I had sent so many applications and finally someone at Annie's told me to come and introduce myself. And at the time, Annie had just fired someone. The first assistant liked me very much. He told Annie that he thought I would be a good assistant, so I started as a third assistant and worked for her for three years.

Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits


Did you become a second or first assistant later?

Martin Schoeller: Yes. Shortly after starting, the second helper left, and soon after, the first helper left. I was again caught in a situation where I was completely over my head. It made the job quite tense with Annie.


Was it intense work as a first assistant?

Martin Schoeller: Yeah, it was very intense. You learn so much to work with Annie because she gives you so much responsibility. I was in charge of the lighting for her. It is very particular in its lighting, but it is not very technical.

She doesn't always know how to achieve what she wants, but she does know what she wants - which is most important. The problem was that sometimes I couldn't make her happy, and she would say, “No, I don't like that lighting. I tried very hard to please him, but I didn't always succeed.

So you learned a lot from her. I heard that she had learned her lighting from her assistants.

Martin Schoeller: Yes, but my predecessors left so soon after I started that I didn't have time to learn from them.

Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits


It was difficult, but did you learn a lot?

Martin Schoeller: I learned so much from her. I always say I would never have had the career I had without working with her.


Did contacts help you talk in your first job?

Martin Schoeller: No, I think the contacts of professional photographers are often overrated. By working with Annie, you are working with the types of magazines that wouldn't hire you as a young photographer.

No photographer gets their first job with Vanity Fair or advertising agencies. There may be an exception in the fashion world, but as a photographer you start with business magazines and a smaller budget.


You were alone, but his name didn't help at first ?

Martin Schoeller: It helped me a bit. People were always curious to hear what was going on behind the scenes at Annie's studio. It probably helped me get more in-person interviews when they heard I was working with Annie Leibovitz.

However, each photo editor is ultimately responsible for the photos you deliver, and they don't want to show the editor a poor photograph.


You had to have the job.

Martin Schoeller: Yeah, you gotta have the job.


Where did your fine art ideas come from, like twins and female bodybuilders? What was the motivation for doing these series?

Martin Schoeller: The female bodybuilders came from one of my assistants. He loved weight training, although I can't say the same. He showed me a magazine one day and I ran into these female bodybuilders and I was just in shock.

Why would a woman do something like that to herself, to look more like a man?

I went to a weight training competition with my friend and talked to some of the ladies. I saw that they were often mothers with children and full time jobs. I felt very intrigued. I found their looks and their life stories interesting, so I spent five years finding these professional bodybuilders at all the different competitions across the country.

Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits


Where did the idea for twins come from?

Martin Schoeller: The twins were a mission for National Geographic. National Geographic did an issue on the twins and hired me to photograph them. When I first heard about the mission, I thought, “Oh my god, the twins.

Isn't that the oldest thing in photography? But I'm not saying no to National Geographic; it's an excellent magazine.

They sent me to Twinsburg, Ohio, where they have a twin festival every year. When I took the first Polaroids and put them side by side, the attraction of two different people who looked so strangely alike made me think:

“Hmm, maybe that's something different. It was the idea of photographing twins separately and not together as a single entity. I found it more and more fascinating.

Once the mission was over, everyone seemed so intrigued by these twins, so I continued with the work. I found two pairs of twins where one of them had sex reassignment surgery.

I have found identical quadruplets which is extremely rare. Then I developed all of this in a book; this is how this book was born.


How interesting do you find works of art compared to trade missions?

Martin Schoeller: I don't really think of the terms fine art and artist and photographer. I see myself as a photographer. I think I'm more of a photographer than an artist, because I think the goal of a true artist should be to come up with an idea that has never been done before. This is my definition of an artist. I think there are very few photographers I would call artists.

I think most of them are just photographers. Well, not just the photographers, but they don't match the artists' bill. This is why there is not so much photography in museums.

Would you say the definitions are commercial-assignments, then artist?

I think a lot of people are happy with the fact that they see themselves as artists; it becomes a big part of their identity. I don't feel this need. I am not ashamed to advertise.

I am happy to see my work in museums and to be sold in galleries. As a photographer, you are just trying to create the best work possible, no matter what the assignment.


What are the pros and cons of being so busy? Are there any drawbacks?

Martin Schoeller: I think what people underestimate is that the more missions you have, the more crew you need. You have a responsibility to your employees. You find yourself in situations where you have to make a lot of money to keep that machine you built.

I heard once when I was working with Annie that she had 50,000 or 80,000 $ overhead per month to clean up just to break even. That was 20 years ago too. You have to make a lot of money just to break even.

You need to do even more to keep some to yourself. It gets easier, but not really. If someone is a sole proprietorship, they can keep all of the profits.

Martin Schoeller photographer: Portraits


Is it difficult to refuse to work at this stage?

Martin Schoeller: I consider myself very lucky to have continuously had so much work. But that's often not the case if I have three jobs a week. As a photographer who has been around for a long time, you are kind of taken for granted. People love your job, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're giving you a job. You come with certain associations.

For example, maybe you did an expensive shoot for someone three years ago when magazines had more money. My fees are the same as everyone else, but maybe I did some intense filming.

Now everyone thinks of you as an expensive photographer. Plus, people love to meet new people. They don't necessarily want to hire someone who works for the competition.

So there is never a point where you can move along the coast - although Annie does have one with her contracts. But it is very rare.

Martin Schoeller: It's very rare, yes. These contracts can always expire at the end of a year. There is no guarantee in photography. I always say to young photographers, “Don't think you've got a Vanity Fair cover and you're done; you are as good as your last photo.

You can take ten great photos and people will say you are good. Yet that is what they expect from you. If you take two or three bad photos, people remember them more than they remember the good ones.


How did you meet Hasted Kraeutler?

Martin Schoeller: I don't quite remember how they found me, or if I found them. It has been so long since I forgot how we were presented.


Is the relationship going well? They have run a few of your shows.

Martin Schoeller: Everything is fine. The thing with personal projects is if you break them down financially, they're a complete money pit. You are never going to get the money you spend on those photos back.


Are the shows expensive?

Oh yes. I probably spent 250,000 $ for the bodybuilder project. I never even wanted to add it up. I think I sold maybe three prints for 10,000 $ each. The gallery receives half of it, so I made 15,000 $ in sales of prints.


It's a real labor of love. 

Martin Schoeller: Yeah. That's why I always tell young photographers that being an art photographer is not a good idea; there are very few who can make a living from it.


Are you considering any personal fine art projects at this time?

Martin Schoeller: I had a project that I put on hold. I have a five year old at home and have a hard time leaving him for a long time. But maybe this coming year I could go visit another indigenous group - hopefully for National Geographic - and put it together in book form someday.

Which country would you visit?

Martin Schoeller: We'll see. Probably still the Amazon. Or Brazil. We will see.


What kind of equipment do you use in terms of cameras and lighting?

Martin Schoeller: I always shoot all my close-ups on film with an RZ, 6 × 7 and 140, on Portra 800.


So the movie always gives you something you like best.  Yeah. I also have a Phase One camera. I used to film everything until about three years ago. My all-time favorite camera has to be the Fuji 6 × 9, with the 90mm lens. It is a rangefinder device.

It's like an oversized Leica. I find it easy to concentrate. I have always loved this camera. I have five. I used them exclusively for all horizontal photos. I used an RZ for the verticals and Fuji 6 × 9 for the horizontals.


Why do you have five?

Martin Schoeller: I would take three on the road, but some would be broken. I have one under repair, the one I thought should be replaced, and then gave one to my assistant when he left. I probably bought more like seven or eight.


Do you also shoot digitally?

  Martin schoeller : Yes, now I have gone digital. I have always preached analog photography because I felt the skin tones were better with film; it is more indulgent and more natural; more three-dimensional if you shoot on film. My old assistant convinced me to try these digital cameras, and we tried a bunch of them.

I came across Phase One - at the time it was a Mamiya with Phase One returning - and I have to say it was the first time I felt the skin tones were really, really good.


How long ago was that?

Martin Schoeller: About three years ago.


So you use digital for the medium format - you don't do 35mm?

Martin Schoeller: I have a digital Nikon, but I rarely use it. I use it if I need to shoot anything at high speed like running or jumping; things where you need to be able to take ten frames per second. Normally I shoot with 80 megapixel IQ280 film. Sometimes it's a big pain in the ass. But when the camera is working and everything is working, it's almost like shooting a 4 × 5.


Have you ever shot in 4 × 5?

Martin Schoeller: No, but I shot a lot in 8 × 10. All the bodybuilders I photographed in 8 × 10. That's why the project was so expensive.


What company do you use for lighting and what specific lights do you use? I know you use Kino's.

Martin Schoeller: I use the Kino Flo for my close-up. For the strobe, I use the Profoto Acute's. They are lighter and easier to travel. But ultimately, whatever flashes is fine with me.


Have you tried the Profoto monolights, the D1?

Martin Schoeller: No, I've never tried that. I'm always afraid my lights will go out.


How do you like living in the United States against Germany? What do you like or dislike about America and what is Germany missing?

Martin Schoeller: Every time I'm here I praise Germany and equality in Germany. All the infrastructure is working: 80% people are in union, everyone has health insurance, the economy is doing well, you can go anywhere by train, the highways are better and the gap between rich and poor is not so drastic, and we don't have wars.

Living in New York, I sometimes feel like I'm living in a third world country. There are deep potholes in the middle of New York City. And when you go to Queens there is so much trash on the road. I think, overall, that the European system is better than the American system; it is more fair. But every time I'm in Germany, I want to come back to the United States because I miss the sense of optimism and humor.

Germans like to complain. It's a bit heavier and slower. It takes half a day to complete the paperwork to rent equipment in Germany. He lacks the speed and lightness of living in the United States and the spontaneity that comes with it.


Are you a citizen now?

Martin Schoeller: No, I still only have a green card. Germans don't like dual nationality.



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