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: