A photographic close-up is perhaps the purest form of portraiture, creating a confrontation between the viewer and the subject that daily interaction makes impossible, or at least impolite. In a close-up, the impact stems solely from the static subject’s expression or apparent lack thereof, so the viewer is challenged to read a face without the benefit of the environmental cues we naturally use to form our interpersonal reactions.
After seeing Bernd and Hilla Becher’s water tower series in 1991, I was inspired by the idea of photographing a large group of subjects in the exact same style. The pictures in my “Close Up” series have all been taken from similar angles and with the same equipment, but here I have tried to bring out personality and capture individuality in a search for a flash of vulnerability and integrity. The greatest challenge in taking these images lies in the attempt to arrest the subtle moment that flickers between expressions and movements of which the subject is unaware. As a portrait photographer, I record the instant the subject stops thinking about being photographed, striving to get beyond the practiced facial performance, reaching for something unplanned. While trying to be as objective as possible, I acknowledge that every gesture is still an act of artifice.
Martin Schöeller (NYC) is a freelance photographer was an assistant to noted photographer Annie Leibovitz for three years in the early nineties. Martin has had solo shows at Boca Raton Museum of Art (Bacon Raton, FL), Das Kennedy-Museum (Berlin, Germany), National Portrait Gallery (Canberra, Australia), Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery (NYC), and others. His work has also been exhibited at group shows including at the Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA), National Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC), Anneberg Space for Photography (Los Angeles, CA), Deutsches Hygiene Museum (Dresden, Germany). Martin’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and W. His monographs include Fotografie Portfolio #54 (Stern, 2008), Female Body Builders (Pond Press, 2005), and Close Up (teNeues Publishing Group, 2005). Martin has received numerous awards and honors and his work is included in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.