Chris Buck has been in the news lately for his controversial Newsweek cover image. This promotional video shows how his enthusiasm for ideas gets his subjects to do crazy things.

I don’t really like heroic portraits, I find them really boring. I don’t think it’s interesting when someone is celebrated in that way. I like vulnerability, I like surprises, I like when there’s a sense that you don’t know what’s happening in the picture.

— Chris Buck

via, Strobist.

Recommended Posts


  1. By far one of the best portrait photographers today. BY FAR.

    • Completely agree. And, his images don’t go so far where they become trite or parody.

  2. Love Chris – love his work – have always been a fan because he is willing to push the envelope – consistently – and he makes me laugh!

  3. Those are some amazing, creative portraits. Such a great example of a photographer bringing a lot more to the table than just a camera and lights.

  4. That video left me wanting more… I would love to see him pitching some of his ideas to his different subjects(and their initial reactions)

  5. YES!!!!! love the way he understands that the safe portrait is not the true one… his work is marvelous…

  6. Here is some behind the scenes and outtakes from his “Isn’t” series
    More good ones on the video section of his site too.
    Chris is buckin’ awesome. Definitely an inspiration.

  7. I was lucky enough to work with Chris as an assistant at one point in the late 90’s. I still find myself being blown away by his originality. Great post!

  8. I find it very telling that one of the biggest stories involving actual picture editing, from a site actually named A Photo Editor, is covered by presenting a promotional video about the photographer. I think NW used him for his quirky mojo and it failed miserably.

    • I was told no comment. If I had to speculate, I’d say he was hired to make something out of nothing. Typically photographers like Chris are hired by magazines to shoot celebrities who’ve been photographed six million times or really boring subjects/people trained to give you nothing. I guarantee he did not fail. What you see on the cover was picked by Tina to go with that horrible headline she wrote.

      • I would agree with your last sentence. I checked out 9 or so other pics from the shoot and most of them are pretty typical “grip n’ grin” stuff but when you look at them beside the cover choice, she REALLY does look the same in all of them, AND she really does start to look crazy.

        The absolute “Chris Buck” shot is the posed one, against the wall, in the office. WOW!!

        • To me, the bigger story here is that NW did a serious puff piece on Sarah Palin a month ago, which was covered here, and now they’re slamming the simulacrum, Bachmann. You can bet it’s not a coincidence. So who’s in Palin’s corner, Barry Diller or Tina Brown, or both?

  9. Thanks for your comments.

  10. Some of us do like heroic portraiture and not making pictures that look contrived, overly produced, on the nose or just plain tacky. There is certainly more to photography than beautiful, classical portraiture, but we don’t all worship absurdism for its own sake. I do like some of Chris’s photo illustration work.

    However, I think the edit on the Bachmann cover was terrible (I haven’t seen the whole take, obviously) and was completely yellow journalism. It was a terrible call by the editor who made it.

  11. “like, like, dude! like, like…awesome”. Really?

    Mostly good stuff. But I’ll still take Greg Heisler any day.

  12. His success is due to his personality more than his photos. Gee….

    • His success is due his photographs. His personality is, no doubt, a refreshing bonus for his clients and subjects.

  13. I thought all photographers work in the same way, working with a individual to get them to do what ever you want within their comfort zone and often outside of what they think is comfortable.

    • No, I don’t think all photographers work the same way. Many photographers, for better or worse, don’t try to get their subjects outside of their comfort zones.

      • If someone is outside their comfort zone, is that an accurate representation of them? Does that capture true personality?

        • Freud would have a field day; most of us are not in our true comfort zones with social interactions let alone in front of a lens. We may project who we want to be (the ego) while underneath that is the real person (the id) of instincts and desires. The vulnerability, sometimes awkward, comes in letting that through and that’s what Chris is so good at doing with his subjects.

        • Shane
          What you say is true in part, either they are or are not being themselves. The Idea is to to get them to a point of extreme behavior and when things subside a bit, you get some true to life images. Sometimes they will go beyond their mask because they feel comfortable and safe, exceeding your expectations.

  14. “If someone is outside their comfort zone, is that an accurate representation of them? Does that capture true personality?”

    Not necessarily, but it often makes for a more interesting picture. Even if they remain in their comfort zone, it’s not easy to capture their true personality. Standing in front of a camera waiting for the shutter to be released is not a situation that tends to bring out someone’s natural personality. Subjects tend to either give you their picture face or look self conscious without the photographer intervening to get something better.

    I do think getting a person outside their comfort zone will almost for sure lead to a picture that shows them in a more expressive way. Accurate and true, I don’t know, although I don’t think that’s necessarily the goal.

  15. I think there has to be a balance between subterfuge and reverence when shooting these type of mortals.
    I think the general public knows when either one are obviously salted in one direction or the other based on the results.

  16. In a high pitched voice…..Innnnspiiiired!

Comments are closed for this article!