NORMAN SEEFF


NORMAN SEEFF

Norman Seeff graduated with honors in science and art at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg. At the age of 17, he was drafted as the youngest player in the South African national soccer league. Soon after moving to New York in 1969, Seeff’s photographs of the people he encountered on the streets of Manhattan were discovered by the famed graphic designer Bob Cato who became an important mentor to Seeff. Cato gave Seeff his first major photographic assignment producing images for The Band’s Stage Fright album. Seeff’s iconic image of the group was reproduced as a poster inserted under the album’s shrink wrap, which when unfolded, became a hugely popular collectors’ item. This brought him immediate recognition and launched his career as a “rock” photographer.

Seeff relocated to Los Angeles in 1972 to become creative director of United Artists Records which, under his design management, soon began to rival the extraordinary success of Columbia Records. Three years later, he opened an independent studio in the heart of music row on Sunset Boulevard in a building that now houses the Bar Marmont. Seeff’s photographic sessions soon became legendary and attracted audiences of 30-40 at each session, swelling to over 200 on some occasions. A combination of actor’s workshop and a celebration of creative spontaneity, Seeff’s sessions were emotionally engaging experiences that resulted in many iconic images with leading musical artists such as Aerosmith, Ray Charles, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, Rickie Lee Jones, Kiss, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, Patti Smith, Sly Stone, James Taylor, Ike & Tina Turner, Frank Zappa.  

Seeff’s creative interaction with artists inspired him to film his sessions beginning with an Ike & Tina Turner session. Using the photo session as a vehicle for exploring the inner dynamics of the creative process with artists at work, Seeff has continued this process for over 3 decades capturing hundreds of hours of intimate exchanges with artists and many unique “private concerts”. 

During the 80’s, his work expanded to include artists and innovators of all major disciplines including film directors, actors, authors, entrepreneurs, sports people and scientists.  His photographs have achieved iconic status and reveal an authenticity that’s unique and timeless. In the 90’s, by introducing the spontaneous approach he had developed as a photographer to the world of television commercials, Seeff’s work as a director of award winning campaigns for Apple, Levi's, Glaxo, Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Motorola and other major brands won him wide acclaim. 

Seeff returned to photography and documentary filmmaking and his exploration of the creative process in 1999 when he was hired by Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project in Seattle to create an installation celebrating the artist’s journey for the museum’s opening. From 2000 onwards he applied his unique process to exploring and defining the creative vision of corporate clients such as Paramount Television, the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The latter led to Seeff’s emotionally powerful documentary, Triumph of the Dream which is scheduled for release in 2012. 

Seeff’s first book Hot Shots was awarded the New York Art Directors Club Gold Medal for photography. His second book Sessions was published in 1988. His television commercials in the 90’s won numerous awards including a Belding Award for his first campaign. Over the years, Seeff’s work in album cover design and photography has received multiple Grammy Award nominations. In 2014 his photography has been the subject of his first museum show, The Look Of Sound, at the REM Museum in Mannheim.

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