30 years of UNEASY celebrity portraits by photographer Chris Buck
About this project
Uneasy is a book of Chris Buck’s portraits of the famous, with 338 color and black-and-white photographs, from 1986 to 2016. For three decades Buck has been carving out a unique space in the world of celebrity portraiture, capturing its ineffability – its danger, its oddness, its warped sense of reality.
With Uneasy Chris Buck constructs a road map of contemporary culture, featuring a wide range of subjects, including actors, musicians, meme cats, hipster media moguls, community organizers, Hong Kong film directors, populist demagogues, George Bushs, discredited memoirists, pop song satirists, sex tape humiliated wrestlers, animal rights activists, Mad Men, a Beatle, self-hating comedians, TV chefs, feminist authors, Hip Hop producers, impressive yet unreadable German authors, much-loved has-been actors, fatwa-inviting authors, a Borked Judge, second-generation baseball players, fake news show anchors, tech innovators, Heavy Metal icons turned reality TV icons, suppressive persons, New York Mayors, homophobic rappers, naked performance artists, and Heisenberg.
The Foreword is a provocative piece of new writing from acclaimed author Sheila Heti, whose memoir “How a Person Should Be” was chosen as one of the best books of 2012 by The New York Times.
The Anecdote section of Uneasy features over a hundred behind-the-scenes stories by the photographer himself, with plenty of humor and surprises.
Chris Buck was born in Toronto in July of 1964. His father worked for Kodak, so he went into the family business and became a photographer. Chris moved to New York in 1990 and established himself as a sought-after editorial and advertising photographer; his clients include Google, Xerox, Old Spice, Dodge, GQ, The New Yorker and The Guardian Weekend.
Buck has won multiple awards, including being the first recipient of the Arnold Newman Portrait Prize in 2007. His first book, Presence: The Invisible Portrait, published in 2012, was a collection of celebrity photos in which the famous sitters are present, but not visible. Kathy Ryan, Photo Director for The New York Times Magazine, called it a “crazy subversive book.”
He spends much of his free time with his wife Michelle and daughter Olive. He takes his martinis dry, with a twist.
The book is designed by the de.MO team of Giorgio Baravalle and Elizabeth Logan-Baravalle, who have designed books for over 50 photographers in the last 15 years, including monographs for Elliott Erwitt, Sebastião Salgado and the Seven Group. Uneasy has a clean and inventive design, with 72 works never shown before.
Photographer: Chris Buck
Foreword: Sheila Heti
Design Team: de.MO
Format: Hardcover ca: 9.5 x 14 inches
ca: 368 pages
ca: 338 color and b&w photographs
Timeline: Fall 2016 release
Going through thirty years of work is no small feat, financially or otherwise. For the last two years Chris and his team have been sorting the archives of his full career, finding many important portraits now included in the book.
Over two hundred negatives and transparencies were drum scanned by LuxLab for Uneasy. Each was prepped by a small group of retouchers and then finalized by Chris over the course of months. For the trickier images, Chris received help from Sugar Digital out of San Francisco.
Other costs include hiring the writer for the Foreword, plus a copy editor for all text; a publicist and printed promotions for events supporting the book’s release in the fall. And, of course, commissioning a top-notch design team in de.MO.
Once the design is finalized the book will be being printed in South Korea, with multiple test proofs to insure quality. With your backing, this book will be actualized.
Statement from the Photographer
Studying photography in college, I was something of a perplexing figure to my classmates. I was perceived as having talent – so why was I focusing it on something so frivolous as pop-culture portraits?
Not surprisingly, it was the Sociology and Media teacher Murray Pomerance who asked the more psychologically probing questions. When he directly confronted me about my portrait of John Cale, the first photograph in this book, as it hung on the wall next to him, asking, “Where does this celebrity obsession come from?” I answered with a shrug and a quiet quip about “Having deep seated problems from my adolescence.”
I wasn’t able to articulate it at the time but there was some profound longing in me to connect with these anointed ones. I suspected that I would never really be able to make that connection, as I desired it, but perhaps with my camera I could carry something of them away with me.
My long-term aim of making the celebrity portrait a graceful mix of awkward humanity and visual excitement has grown and matured to where the Uneasy book is full-on a document of that desire and longing.
UNEASY Sample Stories
Uneasy Sample Story: Carolee Schneemann
I arrived alone to Carolee’s country home in New Paltz, NY. I often asked subjects for location suggestions in their area, with low expectations, but it this case it paid off and she took us to her neighbor’s swimming pond. As we approached the edge she disrobed completely and stepped into the water. I was surprised but followed her lead (I was not sure of upstate swimming hole etiquette). Of course I was still in shoot mode so I walked around the pond fully naked carrying as much camera gear as I could.
Camera in hand I joined her in the water and we shot for a while. As we climbed out of the pond, both still undressed she looked at me and asked, “So, you have red hair in your family?”
Uneasy Sample Story: Philip Seymour Hoffman
I did three sittings with Philip Seymour Hoffman but it’s the time that I had a random lunch with him that I find myself thinking about.
Running errands on a spring Saturday I popped into a hot dog joint on Lafayette, just south of Bleecker. A minute after I placed my order at the corner Philip came in. The place was almost empty, so I went up and said hello. He recognized me right away and was friendly, if low-key.
We sat down and ate. He had a cheeseburger and I had two hot dogs wrapped in bacon, with hot sauce.
During our conversation I congratulated him on his Best Actor Oscar for “Capote”, which he had received only days before. I told him that he can’t now go off and do stupid big-budget action movies (a common misstep of past winners). He chewed his sandwich for a couple of seconds and then told me that his next picture was “Mission Impossible III.”
UNEASY Sample Images
Legendary Art Director George Lois says, “Every Chris Buck photo is a mystery, a pervading, off-putting idea, always conceptual, often visceral, and sometimes unfathomable.”
Cindy Sherman says, “I’ve never enjoyed having someone else take my picture, but Chris makes it seem effortless and natural, and the results show.”
Donald Trump says, “Make this quick, I’ve got many important people waiting for me.”
Risks and challenges
The risks and challenges when publishing an artist book include the possibility of delay, but the design team organizing Uneasy has 15 years experience at dealing with the production and printing challenges involved in making visual books. Kickstarter is an important ingredient in supporting this project and with a successful campaign, we are confident this project will move forward on schedule.