Strikingly Candid Celebrity Portraits from the 1970s and 1980s

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Steve Jobs

Photographer Norman Seeff has snapped portraits for nearly 50 years, and during that long tenure, he’s taken pictures that have achieved legendary status. Even if you aren’t familiar with him as a photographer, you’ve undoubtedly seen his work before—particularly the images shot during the 1970s and 1980s. The vintage celebrity photos showcase musicians, actors, and visionaries that are either at the height or start of their career. Steve Jobs, Mick Jagger, Whitney Houston, and Ray Charles are just some of the famous faces he’s photographed.

Seeff’s approach to fostering the photos—that run the gamut between totally serious and just plain goofy—was to treat sessions as a collaboration. This, in turn, produced images in which both parties had a creative stake. “My whole thing was, ‘It's not about photography—it's about communication,' ” Seeff told Rolling Stone in 2013. In his photo shoot with the then-28-year-old Steve Jobs, he recalled, “We were sitting on the floor, drinking beer and chatting,” he said, “and at one point, he ran out and came back with this computer—which I'd never seen at that point—then plopped down into this lotus pose and put it into his lap.” With a straightforward session, that would’ve never happened.

Of course, there were antics, too. Seeff goes on to tell the magazine that he once threw a pie in Frank Zappa’s face to get him to “loosen up.” John Travolta was even doused with a bucket of water! Throughout the images, however, you get the sense that Seeff is both a photographer and a people-person, and that the two work in harmony to create these unforgettable scenes.

During the 1970s and 1980s, photographer Norman Seeff captured legendary portraits of celebrities and visionaries.

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Ray Charles

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

John Travolta

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Mick Jagger

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Whitney Houston

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Dennis Hopper

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Joni Mitchell

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Blondie

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Patti Smith

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Frank Zappa

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Steve Martin

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Steve Martin

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Lily Tomlin

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Jodi Foster

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Martin Scorsese

Vintage Celebrity Photos from the 1970s and 1980s by Norman Seeff

Cher

Norman Seeff: Website
h/t: [Design You Trust]

All images via Norman Seeff.

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met and Manager of My Modern Met Store. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.

Want to become a My Modern Met Member?

Find out how by becoming a Patron. Check out the exclusive rewards, here.

Sponsored Content