Canadian-born photographer Chris Buck is releasing his first book, Presence: The Invisible Portrait, a series of shots capturing the likes of Sarah Silverman, Robert De Niro, and Russell Brand. But you won’t see any of their famous mugs while flipping though Presence—Buck’s subjects are carefully concealed within the scenery. We asked the Toronto ex-pat (he now resides in New York) what it’s like to play hide-and-seek with A-listers.
1. Jay Leno
Buck doesn’t shoot and tell, so we can’t know for sure if Jay Leno is crouched behind his hot rod. But based on the ground rules for Presence, it seems like a good guess. “People have to be in the same physical space as us. So you can’t be in another building or vehicle.” The environment is also the key to understanding what Buck is doing with his tableau. “When you’re photographing someone who’s a known entity you can do more subtle things because the audience knows who they’re dealing with,” he says. “So whether it’s David Lynch or Kathy Griffin, they’re going to interpret the scene differently based on what they know about the celebrity.”
2. Russell Brand
Taking an “invisible” portrait sounds like an ingenious plan if Robert De Niro won’t call you back. To silence the skeptics, Buck paired each photo with a certificate of authenticity signed by someone nearby. “I just asked people on the shoot very seriously, ‘Did you actually see this happen?’ With Russell Brand [whose portait was taken while filming Get Him to the Greek], it was just some random guy on set.”
3. Jack Nicklaus
“If I’m not going to be seen, why do I have to be in it?” quipped legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus before his shoot. In the end, the PGA star, dubbed “The Golden Bear,” actually preferred being invisible. “He wouldn’t pose with the bear in this picture
because he didn’t want the animal-rights people to get on him. But he would pose with it while hidden.”
4. Sarah Silverman
The sassy comedian channeled her inner six-year-old while hiding in the craft services area in a Hollywood studio. “I had a really easy spot for Sarah Silverman but she hid in a more difficult spot,” he says. “When you start looking through the book, initially people are trying to find the celebrities but you realize about a third of a way throughit that they’re properly hidden and you’re not going to find them.”
On convincing celebs to hide
“One of the reasons I did this project is that it would be hard to say no. A lot of the shoots were done in tandem with professional sessions, so once someone was in the space with me, to say no would kind of be a dick move.”
On shooting celebs
Buck’s biggest tip for photographing the rich and famous: Don’t show celebrities their photos while you’re shooting them. “If they start focusing on how they look, they’re going to be self-conscious and not give you what you need.”
Presence: The Invisible Portrait is out Sept. 12, published by Kehrer Verlag.