Cover image for Physiognomy : the Mark Seliger photographs
Physiognomy : the Mark Seliger photographs
Seliger, Mark.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, [1999]

Physical Description:
224 pages : chiefly illustrations ; 36 cm
General Note:
"A Bulfinch Press Book."

"A Rolling Stone Press Book"--P. 224.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TR681.M4 S4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



Mark Seliger's award-winning photographs of musicians, actors, politicians, authors, comedians and athletes bring to life the celebrities who mattered in the 1990s. This volume is a showcase of his work. Renowned for researching his subjects, Seliger seeks to come up with unexpected, imaginative ways to depict these personalities and to create unforgettable images. Whether a clownish Jerry Seinfield costumed as Buster Keaton or a candid Mick Jagger in a world-weary close-up, he aims to avoid the formulaic in his approach.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Avedon and Seliger are primarily studio photographers, and Davidson may not have a studio, yet all three are fine portraitists. Avedon's dramatically presentational style characteristically features subjects starkly outlined by a blank backdrop who look outward or, in multifigure shots, at one another; every wrinkle, pore, and hair is sharply recorded. Taking the backdrop with him or shooting outdoors when the sky could serve instead, Avedon obtained the portraits in The Sixties. Commitment seems to radiate from them all. A few show representatives of famous types of the era, such as the U.S. soldier in Vietnam and the Vietnamese scarred by napalm. But persons famous then, like the U.S. mission council in Saigon and the era's top fashion models, as well as many sixties icons of one sort or another--rock and movie stars, political activists and politicians, and "revolutionary" artists--predominate, accompanied by great swatches from journalist Arbus' interviews with many of them. These are photographs worthy of a new wing at the National Portrait Gallery. With a bigger reputation as a documentarian, Davidson produces portraits very different from Avedon's. He meets subjects where they live and work, tries to connect with them and break down their reserve, and wanders about them, snapping the shutter, as he works. He freely uses a wide-angle lens to capture more of a subject's surroundings, even if the subject then appears distorted. Complaints about distortion are silenced by results like the bowl-like picture of Cal Ripken, in which the central image is the arabesque of his hand meeting a kid's giving him a ball to sign, or that of Noam Chomsky, head elongated but hand projecting appealingly at the viewer. These are candid, as opposed to Avedon's formal portraits, but no less charged with revealed emotion. One kind of candor that Davidson, shooting in public, doesn't record but that Avedon in the studio does is nudity. So does Seliger, but more coyly. Genitals aren't on view because, whereas displaying them connoted honesty and authenticity in the sixties, now it makes virtually no statement. Besides, Seliger, who is Rolling Stone's photographer of choice, often so immerses a subject in costumery, makeup, and lurid color that exposed skin is the last thing noticed. When the props aren't around, Seliger often has a subject do something showy: Leonardo DiCaprio mugs and pushes up a muscle in a skinny arm; Ashley Judd does a cartwheel. Bare or baroque, these artificial, emotionally undisclosing pictures work because their subjects are show people, except for one: Bill Clinton, and he wears . . . blue denims. --Ray Olson