From George Clooney, Mark Zuckerberg and Kanye, to Barack and Michelle Obama, Martin Schoeller has photographed just about every important cultural and political celebrity of our time.
A former assistant to Annie Leibovitz, the German photographer’s distinctive portraiture has appeared in numerous publications including some memorable magazine covers. His luminous portraits follow a formula: A close-up, frontal image, revealing the subject’s fine lines, pores, and freckles, their eyes lit up by the fluorescent tube lighting set-up that he prefers.
Before making it big, Schoeller would “make portraits of my friends as well as people on street corners—often on the Lower East Side [of Manhattan]. I actually set up studio on the street and build a portfolio of stark straight up portraits. It wasn’t very profitable, and I went broke a few times in 1997 and 1998,” he told TIME. Scholler counts the 19th-century documentary photographer August Sander, who took indelible portraits of the working class in Germany, as among his formative influences.
Lately, Schoeller has turned returned to his roots turning his lens on the homeless population of Los Angeles, California. Done in the same style as his celebrity portraits, but with heartbreaking captions that tell the subjects’ stories, the portraits are meant to draw attention to the mission of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, an organization that serves hot meals to the large homeless population in LA:
Martin: “What does it mean you’re a 'street mom'?” Holly: “Basically, I try to like steer them on the right path, try to keep ‘em as much out of harms way as possible. ‘Cause I came out to the streets when I was really, really young. I ran away. I’m trying to keep them from bumping their heads like I did. You know what I mean? Any way I can… It sucks when I lose one. I think over the years I probably lost only four of them. One went to prison because his friend stabbed a lady on Hollywood Boulevard. One got murdered. The other one, she moved away and married a guy who was very abusive and he ended up beating her to death. And I had one son that got killed in a car crash. A drunk driver hit him. But out of all the ones that I raised so far, which is like twenty-six altogether so far, thirteen of them went back to school, one is studying to be a crime scene investigator, an analyst. She’s amazing. She was my problem child but now she’s got two kids of her own, she’s going to college in Westwood.” . Please support the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition to help people like Holly get back on their feet. Donate or volunteer today. Link and details in bio. @gwhfc
Martin: “What’s your name young man?” Sam: “Sam Smith. I’m not the singer, I’m the homeless poet… I have a weird backstory. I’m talking’ about I was left at the hospital the day I was born, put into foster care, foster care closed down, foster parents adopted me, foster parents were abusive." . Please support the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition to help people like Sam get back on their feet. Donate or volunteer today. Link and details in bio. @gwhfc
Martin: "How long were you on heroin?" Bill: "Twenty-five years." Martin: "Twenty-five years, damn." Bill: "Yeah. I got a lot of other habits too so…" Martin: "You’re lucky to be alive man." Bill: "Yeah! Ohh, I’m so blessed, yeah. I’ve had full blown… I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in 1991." Martin: “Damn." Bill: "Yeah. God, whatever it is, he, she… I don’t have any answers for us, but there’s something there. I don’t believe in some ultimate control or… I don’t see any reason why I’m here after all that. I’ve had wonderful health too. I run several miles a day." . Please support the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition to help people like Bill get back on their feet. Donate or volunteer today. Link and details in bio. @gwhfc