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.