The editors at Vanity Fair made a brilliant decision when they chose Chuck Close as the lead photographer for the 20th anniversary of the mag’s “Hollywood Issue.”
For the 20th anniversary of the issue that celebrates the biggest celebrities and their successes of the year, the editors want realism to be at the forefront. No dolled-up Photoshopped images of celebs, they want to show the humanity of the 20 biggest movers and shakers in Hollywood, and all through a single headshot, which is exactly why they chose Chuck Close — the artsy headshot expert.
Since the 1960s, Chuck Close has been considered one of the best painters and photographers in the country. Long before his injury in 1988 (a freak spinal artery collapse), he was already world-renowned. In 1969, he sold his first painting to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; an oversized portrait of a friend. His giant photorealism portraits have become one of the most memorable American artistic styles of today.
When his injury first occurred, Chuck was only concerned if he could paint again. When he got his answer — yes — he knew he needed help creating a motorized canvas, which has made all the difference in Chuck’s painting career.
Photorealism is his thing. One portrait typically takes 14 months to finish and he’s made portraits of both celebs and non celebs. He even made one of President Obama.
Some of the 20 luminaries Vanity Fair chose to be photographed by Chuck include Bruce Willis, Oprah Winfrey, Scarlett Johansson, Forest Whitaker, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, Bette Midler, Steven Spielberg, Sean Penn, Martin Scorsese, Javier Bardem, George Clooney, and Jessica Lange.
The photos required Chuck to get up close and personal. He telescoped his a rare 20-by-24 inch Polaroid camera right up in each celeb’s face to get the shot. I don’t know how he does this without breaking a sweat around such cool people. If anything, it seems like he made them sweat.
For the photoshoots, Chuck instructed the celebrities to do their own hair and makeup, have no wardrobe person and to just come in “as themselves” as much as possible. The point: to show the depth, the realness of these celebrities, which so often media outlets don’t seem to care about. There are no retouches here folks, just your favorite stars showing who they really are under the starry glamor.
Vanity Fair also created a video compilation of the photoshoots, highlighting the most memorable moments and celebrity reactions to their headshot. The video also includes an in-depth interview with Chuck on what the project meant to him. Watch the Vanity Fair video now.
Above all, what I love most about this photoshoot, other than the fact it was snapped by someone with a spinal cord injury, is that the photos are true and complete representations of the subjects.
What is your favorite piece of work by Chuck Close?