Pretentiousness Stripped Away

Self-Portrait

 
 

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, born in Florida on 1952,  is an American documentary filmmaker and portrait photographer, son of Miami musician and teacher Dr. Ruth W. Greenfield. The majority of his work is shot in large format.

Simple yet revealing, his portraits are direct and get right to the heart of the subject. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders prefers to strip away pretentiousness when portraying political figures, entertainers, artists, musicians and other intriguing personalities. His backdrops never distract from the subject, and he often uses a single light source to mimic natural light. His work has elevated him to one of the most acclaimed portrait photographers of our time.

He started out with an interest in filmmaking, and majored in art history at New York’s Columbia University. He later moved to Los Angeles, to study at the American Film Institute. Renowned actors and directors, such as Ingmar Bergman, Orson Welles, and Alfred Hitchcock (“the masters of the cinema”) often made appearances at the school to talk about their work. To document these occasions, AFI sought a volunteer to shoot these visiting celebrities’ portraits. On a whim, Greenfield-Sanders took the challenge and became the school’s photographer.

With these luminaries available to him, Greenfield-Sanders snapped away, and learned much in the process. “Because of AFI, I got tips from celebrities as well as access to them,” he says. Hitchcock once remarked, “Young man, your lights are all wrong,” while Bette Davis criticized him harshly for “shooting from below.” (“She had some great swear words,” he laughs.)

His father-in-law is Joop Sanders, a founder of the abstract expressionist movement in New York, who introduced Greenfield-Sanders to a number of artists. Thus, painters like Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers and Robert Rauschenberg posed for his camera. Over a 20-year span, he photographed hundreds of artists, dealers, collectors and critics. In 1999, 700 of these images were displayed at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York, and he published an accompanying book, entitled Art World. In the beginning, Greenfield-Sanders’ editorial photos that he shot for clients like Barron’s and SoHo News helped to pay for this project.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The New York Public Library, The Whitney Museum and The National Portrait Gallery among others. In 2004, seven hundred of his art world portraits were accepted into the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

A number of books on Greenfield-Sanders’ work have been published: Art World (Fotofolio), Timothy Greenfield-Sanders his first monograph, (Alberico Cetti Serbelloni Editori), XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits (Bulfinch Press) “Face to Face” (Skira), Look: Portraits Backstage at Olympus Fashion Week (Powerhouse) The Black List (Atria of Simon and Schuster) The Latino List (Luxury) and The Black List 50 (Luxury).

Greenfield-Sanders produced and directed nine films. His first, Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart, was a feature documentary about the legendary rock musician. The film aired in April 1998 on the PBS Series American Masters and premiered in the United States at Sundance Film Festival and in Europe at The Berlin Film Festival. It screened at over 50 film festivals worldwide. Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart won a 1999 Grammy Award for best music documentary.

In addition to this once-in-a-lifetime experience, he took the opportunity to build an impressive portfolio of many of the biggest names in Hollywood. His access to these stars bolstered his reputation as a celebrity shooter and he soon got work taking portraits for Interview and People magazines. “I began loving portrait photography more than making films,” he comments. He is also a contributing photographer at Vanity Fair magazine.

Thinking XXX, a film about the making of the XXX book, first aired in October 2004 on HBO. A soundtrack CD was released in November 2004 by Ryko Records. In addition, in October 2004, the XXX portraits were exhibited in New York at the Mary Boone Gallery and subsequently at numerous galleries worldwide including John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco, Bernd Kluser Gallery in Munich, Berman/Turner Projects in Los Angeles, Paolo Curti Gallery in Milan and Howard Russeck Gallery in Palm Beach.

In 2006, Greenfield-Sanders photographed injured soldiers and marines for HBO’s film, Alive Day Memories. The images were widely published, shown in numerous exhibitions and purchased by The Library of Congress.

Between 2008-2010, Greenfield-Sanders produced and directed The Black List Project: a series of 3 documentaries for HBO, a traveling museum exhibition of portraits organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, a book with Simon and Schuster’s Atria and DVDs with Target. In addition, the project included an educational initiative in conjunction with The United Negro College Fund.

 
 

Alfred Hitchcock

 
 

Orson Welles

 
 

John Waters

 
 

Ethan Hawke

 
 

Toni Morrison

 
 

Robert De Niro Sr.

 
 

Elaine De Kooning

 
 

Louise Bourgeois

 
 

David Wojnarowicz

 
 

Francesco Clemente

 
 

Keith Haring

 
 

Dennis Hopper

 
 

Slash

 
 

Lou Reed

 
 

Mark Strand

 
 

Norman Mailer

 
 

William S. Burroughs

 
 

David Bowie

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The Mothers of Rock and Pop

Gladys Love and Elvis Presley

 
 

Beatrice “Beatty” Stone, Bob Dylan’s Mother

 
 

Johnny Allen Hendrix (Jimi Hendrix), was the first of Lucille Jeter’s five children

 
 

Clara Virginia Clarke holding Jim Morrison

 
 

Grace Slick with his mother Mrs. Virginia Wing

 
 

Eric Clapton grew up with his grandmother, Rose, and her second husband, Jack Clapp, who was stepfather to Patricia Clapton and her brother Adrian, believing they were his parents and that his mother, Patricia, was actually his older sister.

 
 

Eva Scutts and Mick Jagger

 
 

Curtis Donald Cobain in a family portrait accompanied by his mother Wendy Elizabeth Fradenburg, his father Donald Leland Cobain, and his young sister Kimberly

 
 

Doris Dupree taking a walk with his only child, Keith Richards

 
 

Elton John with his mother Sheila Eileen and his stepfather Fred Farebrother

 
 

Katherine Esther Scruse and the eight of her ten children, Michael Jackson

 
 

Madonna Louise Fortin, Madonna’s mother

 
 

Slash ad Ola Hudson

 
 

Beth Ditto and her mother

 
 

Beck and Bibbe Hansen, a former Warhol superstar

Music Soothe a Savage…

RCA Advertising Poster

 
 

Elvis Presley

 
 

Fifth and final album by Sonny and Cher, released in 1974

 
 

Nina Simone

 
 

Scenes from Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares for Me music video (Peter Lord, 1987)

 
 

Cover of the second single off Some Girls (1978). It was released along When the Whip Comes Down as B-Side.

 
 

Voodoo Lounge (1994)

 
 

Bridges to Babylon (1997)

 
 

Mick Jagger as a leopard. Photo: Albert Watson for a Rolling Stone Magazine 25th Anniversary cover issue

 
 

Keith Richards

 
 

Front cover for the CD Elton John One Night Only – The Greatest Hits. Artwork by David LaChapelle

 
 

Poster for Cats, the musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on a T.S. Eliot’s play.

 
 

Jossie and the Pussicats comic book

 
 

Rick Danko, member of The Band

 
 

Rod Stewart

 
 

Kurt Cobain

 
 

Monster(1994). The album was dedicated to Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix

 
 

Before the Fire (2009)

 
 

Head Down (2012)

 
 

George Harrison

 
 

Debbie Harry

 
 

John Lennon

 
 

Madonna in Express Yourself music video (David Fincher, 1989)

 
 

Versace Ad Campaign by Steven Meisel

 
 

Madonna… again

 
 

Lady Jazz and Mister. Photo: Herman Leonard

 
 

This another Billie Holiday’s portrait was taken by Carl Van Vechten

 
 

Frank Zappa

 
 

Bob Dylan

 
 

Guns ‘N’ Roses

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

1a71Björk in Triumph of the Heart music video (Spike Jonze, 2005)

 
 

The phrase “Music has Charms to soothe a savage Breast” was coined by the Playwright and Poet William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697