Pretentiousness Stripped Away



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




Lou Reed


Mark Strand


Norman Mailer


William S. Burroughs


David Bowie


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