National Geographic : 2013 Oct
I love the intimacy of a close-up portrait because it captures the essence of a person: It’s not about their clothes or their environment—there are no hints of social status. Everything is summed up in the face. I may take 40, 50, 100 pictures of a person, and the one I like best is when the face hasn’t caught on to the next expression the brain wants it to make. I like building catalogs of faces that invite people to compare them. We have an idea of what the human eye—or the nose or the lip—is supposed to look like. But when you compare 10, 20, 100 sets of eyes, you see how different they are. I take pictures of people from such varied backgrounds and cultures and ethnicities, but in the end we’re all just human beings. I may photograph the President one day and a homeless person a week later. I want to chal- lenge the way we use appearance to shape identity. Photographs by Martin Schoeller McKenzi McPherson, 9, Houston, Texas, with her parents, Alison, 36, and Lawrence McPherson, 40. Self-ID: brown/mixed black and white Census boxes checked: white/black A video interview with Martin Schoeller can be viewed on our digital editions.