magine this. You have the biggest celebrities on the planet come to your studio so you can photograph them the way youwant. No art directors, no publicists anywhere around. Sound like an artistic dream? Dreams come true if you’re Mark Seliger, Amarillo-born and Houston-raised photographer-to-the-stars with his book, In My Stairwell. Here, in an exclusive to us, we go behind the lens to see celebrities through Seliger’s eyes.
He’s almost become a legend in his own time. Mark Seliger has photographed over one hundred Rolling Stone covers, has contributed regularly to the covers of GQ and Vogue as well as shooting editorial for Vogue Hommes, Interview and British Elle. And has the career cache’ to make time and do things that move his soul, like this book. “Mark’s exhibit and book, In My Stairwell, has superstar power,” says Kelly Fielding of the Fielding-Lecht Gallery in Austin, who, along with Melissa Ladd and Suzanne Lecht, brought the show to Texas. “What we didn’t realize until we started hanging the show was that Mark works with a great stillness and sense of place, forcing your attention to the motion of the subject. Even the slightest movements in the subject’s hands or facial expressions are evident in this work. That type of image, along with the depth and warmth of platinum/palladium print-making, creates something quite special,” Fielding continues.
Motion really does drive the work in Seliger’s exhibit and book. That’s pretty obvious. But it’s his selection of subjects and how they present themselves in the photographs… to name a few, faces as familiar as Mary Louise Parker, Susan Sarandon, Tony Bennett, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and faces that may not be as familiar such as performance artist Matthew Barney, pop artist Jeff Koons, skater Tony Hawke and photographer Peter Beard. But that’s Seliger’s point. His subject is the main thing, famous or just plain infamous. ”The Stairwell project was an opportunity for me to create a collection of portraits of artists, ranging from peripheral to mainstream, to make a record of our times,” says Seliger. “The Stairwell environment became the common denominator that related the subjects to one another, which they could either make into a personal space for themselves or use it as a background simply to be documented."
Lance Avery Morgan: Mark, this is a remarkable exhibit that really brings the book to life…congratulations. The first thing it reminded me of was how Irving Penn shot his subjects in a vortex corner for Vogue in the 1950s.
Mark Seliger: I got this notion after photographing David Bowie, Julia Roberts, and Paul McCartney that, well, wouldn’t it be great if I did it in the fashion of the photographers that I admired? Like when Richard Avedon would deconstruct in terms of what their environments were. The background, in this case, the stairwell, just became a canvas where people could use it as a stage… or either had to confront themselves. The stairwell is more theatrical than just a white background so it can become anything.