Magazine Article


So Fun, So Fabulous, So SELIGER


So Fun, So Fabulous, So

TEXT BY ALICE B. MILLER • IMAGES BY MARK SELIGER Sheryl Crow, Martha's Vineyard, MA, for album package publicity Conan O'Brien, NYC, for Physiognomy Carlos Santana, San Francisco, CA, for Rolling Stone Jude Law, London, England, for GQ Vin Diesel, Lancaster, CA, for GQ Lauryn Hill, NYC, for Rolling Stone

There's something so bigger-than-life about a Mark Seliger image. During his 10 years as chief photographer for Rolling Stone, as well as the past six months as top photographer for Vanity Fair and GQ, Seliger has captured the spirit of hundreds of the most stunning stars of music and film with wit and whimsy, and an unfettered imagination.

Wild & Wonderful
One can only imagine what wildly, wonderful things happen at Seliger's shoots to come up with the smashing images he creates. When asked for his insight on the subject, he says, "I try to approach every shoot with a certain amount of intimacy and honesty. I get along pretty well with most of my subjects. Even though we work them really hard, there's usually a point when people let their guard down. It's a quick window, but if you have enough time to work with them and you open that door just a little bit, you'll get that kind of reaction."

To cultivate the mood and the results he's after requires a collaborative effort. "We try to take people to a place they want to go. You have to be pretty open-ended about it because if you invest everything in one way of working, eventually there's going to be a problem."

Exactly how much planning and pre-work goes into a Seliger shoot? It always depends on the nature of his subject, he explains. Some people are really inaccessible; they'd rather just talk to the publicist and call it a day. However, if you can get a willing subject who wants to come up with some ideas, you'll be really successful.

"There's a real luxury in being able to photograph people repeatedly, where you come back to them again and again," adds Seliger. "I've had some incredibly good shoots with Brad Pitt, Drew Barrymore, Lenny Kravitz, and Jennifer Lopez."

Given his choice, Seliger rather take it all outdoors, but there's a time and place for everything. "I'm not a really big studio guy. I like being outdoors, turning an outdoor world into some strange tableau. I find that to be a world I feel pretty comfortable with. I put lights on things you wouldn't normally put lights on. You have to be careful it doesn't look too obvious; it has to be unobtrusive."

Reinventing Icons
There's a certain looseness in Seliger's photographs, which communicates well in today's magazines, which he refers to as 'fanzines.' Says Seliger, "They supply the reader with this sort of 'bigger-than-life' idea of very familiar icons, faces. We have a great time reinventing where that icon is visually and that's what we do. We try to make it into something bigger, something fresh, something never seen before. Twisting it around, turning it upside down, making it straight, it just depends."

These days, Seliger splits his time between GQ and Vanity Fair. "It's a new relationship we've had for six months. At Rolling Stone, I was their main photographer, full time, for 10 years, so it was really peculiar leaving. First I had great trepidation doing something different, but when I did, it was like this great new ride."

While there may have been a bit more emphasis on music at Rolling Stone, the last four years was really split between music and movies and a little general interest. At Vanity Fair and GQ he also shoots fashion and movie sets.

"We just did a shoot on the Harry Potter set," says Seliger. "What a kick to be on a great set like that. You have all your ducks lined up because they've already done these great sets, costuming, and, of course, the actors. Essentially I'm just directing a little scenario, and everything's already there."

Even within the music realm, his range of subjects has become more expansive. "I just did four shoots for Vanity Fair. We worked with Ravi Shankar, B52s, Enrique Iglesias, and Burning Spear, which was great."

With his two magazines keeping him super busy, Seliger hand picks his advertising and promotional assignments. "We just finished an ad for Celebrity Cruises, did three shoots for Paul McCartney promoting his 'Drive America" tour and Driving Rain record packaging, helped Matchbox 20 with their record packaging, and worked with Willie Nelson."

The McCartney image on the cover of SP&D this month was part of that tour and record package. Shot at Pier 59 studio in New York, the car theme was Paul's idea. Team Seliger located a car collector on Long Island who had a 1960 Thunderbird in mint condition. It turns out Linda McCartney had owned a red T-bird when Paul met her. Big smiles on the set. It also turns out that McCartney actually jumped out of the car some 45 times as Seliger shot away with his Mamiya RZ67 and Fujichrome Provia film. A Briese lighting system was brought in to light McCartney and the T-bird.

The Vin Diesel "super hero" image (p. 13) was shot in the desert outside L.A. for GQ. The scenario was developed with great detail, down to the helicopter, rope, and 40-foot fireball, then captured on his Mamiya RZ67 with Kodak Portra film.

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