The man in black Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Blondie, all massively influential musical icons of the 20th Century. Another thing they have in common… they’ve all been photographed by legendary snapper Norman Seeff.
On November 23rd Proud Galleries in London will be opening their doors for a new exhibition, Sessions in Sound: Photographs by Norman Seeff, an intimate collection of Seeff’s acclaimed photographic sessions with some of the biggest names in music. The captured moments here range from spontaneous and lively, to the more intimate and thought-provoking.
Norman Seeff was born in South Africa, 1939. After working as an A&E doctor in Soweto, he moved to New York aged 29, eager to explore his creative passions. His break into the industry occurred when introduced to the renowned album cover designer, Bob Cato, who gave him his first major assignment – to photograph Robbie Robinson and The Band for the liner notes of their album Stage Fright.
After getting lost on his way to shooting the band in Woodstock, NY, Seeff arrived hours late and was disappointed with his own work on the shoot. Embarrassed by the results, he simply pushed the only image he liked in an envelope under the door of Cato’s brownstone.
When Seeff finally gathered the courage to contact him some weeks later, Cato exclaimed “where have you been? I don’t have your number! They love the photograph and they want to use it for the album cover.” This project and its immediate recognition catapulted Seeff into prominence.
In 1973, Seeff opened his own studio on the strip in Sunset Boulevard, constantly evolving his sessions through an exploration of the creative process. Seeff used his own distinctive method of focusing on an authentic connection with his subjects to allow him to break down barriers between himself and his subject.
Throughout his career, Seeff developed creative alliances with an incredible range of musicians, revealing the intimacy and vulnerability of the artist.
In 1985, Seeff photographed musician Ray Charles and later recalled how “Ray was testy at the start of the session. Ultimately, he loved the process and ended up calling me ‘brother’. It was a seminal session.”
The exhibition features a selection of unseen photographs and aims to give an insight into the photographer’s process as he searches for spontaneous authenticity in his work. Remaining popular to a modern-day audience, Seeff’s images have a timeless quality, perhaps reflective of an uncanny ability to connect emotionally with each of his subjects.
His distinctive stylised approach to session photography has certified his enduring legacy in both the music and photography industries. The work on display in Sessions in Sound demonstrates Seeff’s creative ethos; to constantly seek,
“a place with my subjects that defines pure presence, where we can stand and just look at each other without any filters.”
Sessions in Sound: Photographs by Norman Seeff, 23rd November 2018 – 13th January 2019, Proud Galleries
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