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Martin Schoeller (born March 12, 1968 in Munich) is a German photographer. He is most famous for his extreme close-ups of celebrities. By working with soft neon light he manages to reproduce reality in an almost cruelly objective way.
Martin Schoeller Biography
From early on, Martin Schoeller was exposed to the influence of August Sander’s countless portraits of the poor, the working class and the bourgeoisie taken at the beginning of the 20th century. Additionally, he was drawn to the spectacular photos taken by Bernd and Hilla Becher (founders of the well-known Becher School).
From 1993 to 1996, Martin Schoeller worked as an assistant for Annie Leibovitz, but then left to pursue a freelance career. He took photos of people he came across on the street. It was the visual energy of his pictures that helped him get internationally recognized.
From 1998 on, his portraits graced the covers of magazines like Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, W. and Vanity Fair. One year later he joined Richard Avedon to work for the widely read magazine The New Yorker. His work was presented at the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing and can be regularly seen in exhibitions in the United States and in Europe.
His first photo collection, Close Up, was published by teNeues in 2005. Schoeller’s pictures are collected and exhibited all over the world. Some of them belong to the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Schoeller’s photos “(…) give the face, the human expression, a new dimension, and that’s why we keep looking at them. That’s what portraits are for, what they are all about”, says David Remnick, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and editor of the New Yorker Magazine.
He continued to take photos for the New Yorker, but also started taking photo series for other magazines or just randomly capturing faces of modern society for private use. This is for example how his photo series Female Bodybuilders came into existence – a limited collection that is most sought after by collectors of contemporary photography.
With Female Bodybuilders “(…) I am trying to show the vulnerability that I see and feel in the subjects when I am with them, to get to the complex emotions behind a mask of extreme physical expression. These women mirror our modern cultural hunger for size, aggression, and attention at any cost. We are in the age of Bigness.”
Martin Schoeller lives and works in New York. He is considered one of the finest masters of contemporary photography.
Martin Schoeller is most famous for his photo series Close Up showing American celebrities within spitting distance.
From Clint Eastwood to Paris Hilton and Bill Murray: Martin Schoeller invites the spectator to look at celebrities that at this distance seem like monsters come alive. A neutral, completely objective way of capturing faces we all thought we knew by heart.
Martin Schoeller’s portraits always show the most intimate details illuminated by soft neon light regardless of whether he takes pictures of celebrities or complete strangers. As in his photo series Female Bodybuilders, he also uses this distinctive close-up portrait style to examine sets of identical twins published in the National Geographic.
Martin Schoeller, Close Up: Portraits, 1998-2005, Collector's Edition, teNeues, 2005.
Martin Schoeller, Female Bodybuilders, Thames & Hudson, 2008.
Martin Schoeller, Martin Schoeller (Stern Portfolio), teNeues, 2009.
Martin Schoeller, Identical: Portraits of Twins, teNeues, 2012.