Running from 23rd November until 13th January 2019 Proud Galleries have another brilliant exhibition entitled Sessions In Sound: Photographs By Norman Seeff, an intimate collection of Seeff’s acclaimed photographic sessions featuring influential 20th Century musical icons.
From Johnny Cash and Patti Smith to Joni Mitchell and the Rolling Stones, Norman Seeff’s perceptive lens captures thought-provoking images of iconic artists session after session. The exhibition explores the sensitive collaboration between photographer and musician; whether photographed mid-smile or deep in contemplation, Seeff’s subjects are effortlessly captured in moments of spontaneity. Famed for emotionally engaging with his subjects, Seeff’s photographs in Sessions In Sound are intimate, lively and authentic.
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 oftheir album Stage Fright. After getting lost on his way to Woodstock and arriving hours late, Seeff was disappointed with his own work. 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 touse it for the album cover.” This project and its immediate recognition catapulted Seeff into prominence.
In 1973, Seeff opened his own studio on Sunset Boulevard, constantly evolving his sessions through an exploration of the creative process. His distinctive method of focusing on an authentic connection allowed Seeff 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 the act of creation.
In 1985, Seeff photographed musician Ray Charles and later recalled how “Ray was testy at the start of the session. Ultimately, heloved the process and ended up calling me ‘brother’. It was a seminal session.”
The exhibition also features a selection of unpublished photographs, including a portrait of Patti Smith from Seeff’s 1969 acclaimed photoshoot with Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe. This session has arguably become one of Seeff’s most well known, with the photographer describing that “after Robert’s death, Patti told me these shots come closest to her remembrance of the profundity of the love between them.”
Sessions In Sound: Photographs By Norman Seeff aims to give an insight into the photographer’s process as he searches forspontaneous 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 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.”