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Mark Seliger

Thirty Years Behind the Camera


Kathy McCarver Root opened KMR Arts 11 years ago and since has constantly raised the bar on the creative shows she mounts. Whether it be an exhibition by a new and upcoming artist or photographer or a well-established one, there is always a unique slant or a special aspect that makes the show unique. Case in point: her latest exhibition of Mark Seliger’s photographs.

Seliger is among the most sought-after editorial, celebrity and fashion photographers working today. He has photographed some of the most important and influential people of the 20th and 21st centuries, from Amy Schumer, Jim Carrey, Kurt Cobain, Mohammad Ali and the Dali Lama to Tony Bennett, Susan Sarandon, David Byrne, Johnny Depp and Willie Nelson. He’s shot more than 125 covers for Rolling Stone, where he was chief photographer from 1992 until he went to Condé Nast in 2002.

“I have known Mark for 30 years, since we met in the late ’80s when we were both at Esquire magazine,” says Root. “We then met again when I was at US Weekly and he was at Rolling Stone, both magazines being owned by Jann Wenner at the time. I’ve always kept in touch with him and we started talking last year about doing a show at KMR Arts. It seemed the perfect opportunity since his 30-year retrospective book, Mark Seliger Photographs, was published in May.”

Seliger grew up in Houston, Texas, and attended the High School for Performing and Visual Arts where he first became interested in photography and was enrolled in a media technology program. While in school he worked half days for a local commercial photographer.

“The turning point for me was in college,” explains Seliger, “where I studied documentary portraiture under a wonderful professor named James Newbury. I then worked as a photo assistant in Houston for a year. Then I came to New York City. I thought I would be there for six months but I never left. I started shooting little jobs for Rolling Stone in 1987 and was assigned a portfolio for their 25th anniversary edition. It went so well that immediately after that they asked me to sign on as their chief photographer.”

And Seliger has never looked back. The photographs he has taken are timeless visualizations of society and his work has covered a wide range of subjects from pop idols past and present to the most important political figures of our time. Seliger captures the subjects in their own atmosphere, giving the audiences a classic look at what the group or artist is really like. There is no attempt to idolize the subject. His style of photography combines classic style with a modern look.

“I think there are two aspects of Mark’s talent that make him special,” says Root.” One is his meticulous artistry which is a perfect example of the combination of art and commerce. Technically he’s brilliant; creatively he has these great ideas that he can actually execute. I think he really pushes himself to maintain a level of perfection and originality that drives him in every portrait he takes.”

“What I really love about photography is that it’s an instantaneous way of creating and the possibilities are finite,” Seliger says. “It has an immediacy which is different from pretty much any other art from. There’s a real opportunity to create a concept that taps into who people are and what they represent. Often it is about what the subject is willing to do. What kind of artistic risks are they interested in taking?”

Obviously, his subjects trust him, for he has created a multitude of venues in which to present his subjects at their best and from a unique perspective.

Seliger’s work has been the subject of several books: On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories; Listen; Mark Seliger: The Music Book; Lenny Kravitz/Mark Seliger; Physiognomy, and When They Came to Take My Father—Voices from the Holocaust.

He is the recipient of many awards, including the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, Lucie Award, Clio Grand Prix and Cannes Lions Grand Prix. In 2017 Seliger’s work became part of the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

“Mark Seliger; Platinum Prints” features 16 photographs whose subjects range from Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash to Mikhail Baryshnikov, Patti Smith and Barack Obama.

The exhibition opens Saturday, October 6th, at KMR Arts in Washington Depot. Seliger will be available to sign copies of his book.

For more information please visit the link below.