Meet Our Artists: Norman Seeff

Holden Luntz Gallery
Jun 9, 2020 3:10PM

Meet Our Artists is a recurring virtual series that presents biographical content introducing photographers whose work and journey is compelling and engaging. The content is intended for informative and viewing pleasure.


​“I’m just at the beginning of my dream. I’m finally at the place now for myself where I feel my true voice has a potential of being expressed out in the world. At 78.”

In this engaging video profile created by 60 Minutes of photographer Norman Seeff, we get an inside look at the man responsible for taking some of the most candid and authentic pictures of famous public personalities during his renowned photographic sessions. Norman Seeff has been a coveted photographer and filmmaker for over 45 years, and his success has come after plenty of unexpected life turns. His move from his birthplace of South Africa to New York City during his youth fostered his intuitive search for creativity. It began a journey in the ability of the photographer to capture the stars at a human level.

The 60 Minutes video, which was broadcasted by CBS in 2017, offers a glimpse into the remarkable life of Norman Seeff. From recording a 22-year old John Travolta doing the hustle before the movie Saturday Night Fever to getting comfortable with Ray Charles as he casually talks and plays music. Or stumbling into Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe at a bar, and capturing the first pictures of Steve Jobs with his prototype of a Mac, the video shares fantastic footage of once in a lifetime experiences.

Norman Seeff was born March 5, 1939, in Johannesburg, South Africa. 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. Seeff qualified as a medical doctor in 1965. For three years, he worked in emergency medicine at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, focusing on the management of traumatic shock. In 1969, he immigrated to the United States to pursue his creative passions and artistic abilities.

Soon after arriving in New York, Seeff’s photographs of the people he encountered on the streets of Manhattan were discovered by the famed graphic designer, Bob Cato. Cato introduced Seeff to the world of album cover design and offered him his first major photographic assignment for The Band, which brought him immediate recognition. His early work also includes images of Robbie Robertson, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol as well as other New York personalities. In 1971, Seeff spent a year as Professor of Photography at Bennington College in Vermont.

In 1972, on the recommendation of Cato, Seeff relocated to Los Angeles to become the creative director of United Artists Records. There his work in design and photography received multiple Grammy Award nominations. Three years later, he opened an independent studio on Sunset Boulevard. His photographic sessions soon became legendary and attracted audiences of 30-40 at each session, swelling to over 200 on some occasions. A combination of an actor’s workshop and a celebration of creative spontaneity, Seeff’s sessions were emotionally engaging experiences that resulted in many iconic images with leading artists and innovators of the time.

Seeff’s creative interaction with artists inspired him to film his sessions beginning with an Ike & Tina Turner session in 1975. 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 three decades. His film and tape archive of more than 400 shoots with musical artists, film directors, authors, television personalities, scientists, visionaries, and entrepreneurs provides a unique insight of artists and innovators in the act of creation.

The 60 Minutes video, which was broadcasted by CBS in 2017, offers a glimpse into the remarkable life of Norman Seeff. From professional soccer player, to doctor, to acclaimed “rock” photographer, he has persevered in the world of photography by way of open and honest conversations with his subjects. As artists speaking to one another, his sessions are distinguished by removing the layers of fame from his subjects while letting their inner personalities shine through. Seeff’s skill as a communicator emphasizes his ability to create an engaging environment for artists to share their creative process. In his famed sessions, the photographer captures the passion and essence of artists as they describe their experiences. Seeff’s work provides an unfiltered glimpse into the inner light of some of the world’s most cherished and respected creative personalities.

Holden Luntz Gallery