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Martin Schoeller: Close

2019.09.15 - 11.24



Do you know what you look like close up? How do you feel about being photographed at close quarters? How would you shape up in a Martin Schoeller portrait?
As the prevalence of facial beautifying apps for use on mobile phones suggests, most people are not so comfortable with close up, super high resoliution photography. It seems we want amazing technology but not necessarily to be subject to the degree of exposure it represents. But if you flinch from a camera close to your face, how do you think you might feel if you were famous? This is a premise that German photographer Martin Schoeller put to the test in a series of portraits which subsequently made him world-famous.
“Close” presents over 60 of Martin Schoeller’s signature portraits, many of which belong to his infamous Close up series. This includes the faces of some of the world’s most influential and famous figures from across all sectors of society. Here, we find stars of the art and entertainment industries, heads of state, politicians, business leaders, and sports personalities: actor George Clooney, singer Adele, former US president Barack Obama, Germany chancellor Angela Merkel, innovators Bills Gates and Elon Musk, and tennis player Roger Federer…
Schoeller has said, “It’s maybe a reflection of my personality that I feel comfortable being close to somebody. I always felt that subject itself really was the most essential part about a person, stripping away the clothes, stripping away any backgrounds, really focusing in on that person.” These portraits are some of Schoeller’s most successful because we are asked to confront the true selves of people who we admire, even idolize, and who are far removed from our lives. Schoeller’s photographs give us access that is extraordinary, privileged, breath-taking.
Getting close means sharing your true self, flaws and all, with someone else who totally accepts us, Schoeller’s subjects clearly accept him. Ordinary people are often dazzled or intimidated by the beautiful and the powerful. From this angle, we can say that Schoeller’s approach is a great leveler of humanity. We are all the same close up. It is what lies within that makes us different.


SCoP would like to thank Martin for working with us on the show, and to his agent in Hamburg, Anke Degenhard-Drinkhahn. Thanks also to Sion Millet at Bloc Productions in Shanghai for initially proposing Martin’s work for SCoP, and making the necessary introductions. Our thanks also go to Doris Ernst and the team at the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Shanghai.



Martin Schoeller (1968-)

Martin Schoeller is an award-winning portrait photographer renowned for extreme-close up portraits. Familiar faces are treated with the same levels of scrutiny as the un-famous. The unknown and the too-well-known meet on a level platform that enables comparison, where a viewer’s existing notions of celebrity, value, and honesty are challenged.
    Schoeller worked as an assistant to Annie Leibovitz from 1993 to 1996. He advanced as a freelance photographer, producing portraits of people he met on the street. His work gained recognition for its strong visual impact and since 1998, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, National Geographic, TIME, GQ, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. Schoeller joined Richard Avedon as a contributing portrait photographer at the New Yorker in 1999, where he continues to produce award-winning images. His portraits are exhibited and collected internationally, including in several solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States and are included in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He studied at Lette Verein in Berlin and lives and works in New York City.

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