Norman Seeff Photos: Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe And The Ramones Auctioned
Christie’s Auctioneers has announced an online sale of Photographs by Norman Seeff: The Lost Archive. The auction will consist of 50 vintage gelatin silver prints from this illustrious photographer and filmmaker and will be open for bidding from September 27 through October 9.
Over the past 45 years, Seeff has created several of the most recognizable images of the 20th century, including those of Carly Simon, Steve Jobs, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Johnny Cash, The Band, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, the Ramones, Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and John Belushi among others. The selection of photographs presented here will represent the breadth and electricity of Seeff’s most memorable sessions, which often resulted in the images that graced the covers of the century’s most stirring albums and magazines. Vintage gelatin silver prints by Seeff are extremely rare and many presented in this exclusive sale are unique. As authentic “work prints,” these objects were physically presented to artists and their agents for approval, becoming vehicles for the world’s perception of some of the greatest stars of our time.
For Seeff, the session became the art-form itself, transforming into a multi-disciplinary process of photography, filmmaking and creative communication. In his evolution as a photographer of public personalities, Seeff realized that in order to accomplish the vitality and authenticity he was looking for in his images, he needed to change the nature of his interaction with artists and innovators. Seeff shifted his focus towards creating an authentic experience between himself and the subject, and in doing so he was able to create images that conveyed the spirit of his subjects within the context of the session. Responding to the success of this new format, Seeff brought a film crew into a session for the first time in 1975, beginning with Ike and Tina Turner. One of the best images from this session with the Turners will be included in the selection (estimate: $3,000-5,000). His photographic sessions soon became legendary, commonly attracting audiences of 30 or 40 spectators, and swelling to over 200 on some occasions. Since 1975, Seeff has documented over 500 sessions with artists of many disciplines including musicians, actors, writers, directors, actors, scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, athletes, etc.
Norman Seeff moved from his Native South Africa to New York City in 1968. Shortly after his arrival, Seeff’s photographs of people on the streets of Manhattan were discovered by the famed art director and graphic designer Bob Cato. Renowned for his Grammy Award-winning album cover design, Cato became an important mentor to Seeff and gave him his first major assignment, which was to produce images for The Band’s Stage Fright album. A vintage print depicting the result of this collaboration will be included in the sale (estimate: 2,500-3,500). The tremendous outcome of his assignment earned him immediate recognition and launched his career as a “rock” photographer. In 1971, Seeff relocated to Los Angeles to become creative director of United Artists Records. Two years later, he opened an independent studio on the Sunset strip, where he created many of his most remarkable images. It wasn’t until the late 1990s, when an assistant went to retrieve film assets from Seeff’s Studio City warehouse, that his archive of gelatin silver prints – overlooked for years due to Seeff’s abounding roster of projects – were rediscovered.