Judd Apatow

Cindy Sherman

Jon Hamm


Chuck Close

Jack Nicklaus (AKA The Golden Bear)

Robert De Niro

Michael Stipe

Snoop Dogg

William Shatner

Russell Brand


The Strangest Celebrity Portraits You'll (N)ever See

Chris Buck takes photographs of famous people such as Snoop Lion and Robert De Niro. But before he shoots, he gives them a chance to hide.

I know Jack Nicklaus is here somewhere. He must be behind the taxidermied bear. But, wait, he can’t be. I would see at least a pant leg. That leaves one possibility. Jack Nicklaus is in the cabinet. He’s curled up, in a ball, in the second level of the cabinet. Well, that, or he’s actually inside the bear.

I wouldn’t put the bear maneuver past Nicklaus.

This is what runs through your mind when you examine Chris Buck’s strangely stimulating celebrity portrait series, Presence. He gave celebrities like Snoop Dogg (Lion), Robert De Niro and Chuck Close 30 seconds to hide in a scene, then he’d take a photo. So what you’re seeing really is a portrait of someone famous, it’s just that their face isn’t in the portrait.

"Presence is a series of celebrity portraits, which, on the surface, is unsatisfying," Buck confesses. "But if you stick around, it can get richer, and quite interesting."

It’s true. The more I look at Presence, the more I want to look. And it’s not just that I can’t figure out where Robert De Niro is hiding. I mean, he has to be flat on his back in that bathtub (or I guess, maybe he could be in that side door, even though that feels a bit like cheating). But then I begin wondering, well is he wearing a suit? Is he all squished in there? Is he giggling or is he quite stern? Is Goodfellas De Niro or Silver Linings Playbook De Niro or Meet the Fockers De Niro hiding in the frame?

I even begin imagining the conversation Buck had with De Niro. Most of these shots piggybacked a commercial project. So maybe Buck is shaking De Niro’s hand, wrapping things up. And then—"Oh, I’m not sure if you’d be into this, but …" It’s the entire narrative that I’m drawn to, including this unseen second of consent in which a celebrity who works so hard to protect their image gives into a zany idea.

"The most interesting moments came when the subjects would choose to hide in a difficult spot when an easier, and perfectly suitable one, was available," Buck writes. "Devendra Banhart and Sarah Silverman both hid in strange and difficult places, and weirdly, I think that it makes their pictures better."

And then I wonder, just for a moment, if maybe Nicklaus really did squeeze into that bear carcass.

See more here.

[Hat tip: Slate]

Add New Comment


  • adamthebrave

    I don't understand all these cynical comments. Lighten up, this is fun. Great concept.

  • Irene Velveteen

    Here, here.

    Chris Buck is just aknowledging that peoples imagination are far more interesting and engaging than any old portrait he could take.We don't know for sure if the celebrities were there or not. But that's all part of the humour.
    I dig.

  • darryl22

    To find the emperor look for him in the De Niro pic.  He is hiding in the tub naked. 

     I am now going to take the day off of work to marvel at the true genius of the photographer, the sheer creativity of the subjects (because no mere mortal could possible do this) and then wonder if i can finally get Fast Co to do a feature on the bridge I have for sale in the desert.

  • Philomen

    Pretence art... this is not even clever, just plain stupid. One can make up any load of crap to make people imagine shit. I don't need a bunch of empty pictures asking me to guess where the subject is hiding...  *YAWN*

  • Sam Joslin

    This explains how every cat picture on the Internet is really a picture of someone drinking coffee with Sean Connery. Or of nuns fighting a land war in Asia with umbrellas. It makes me think I should finally publish the pictures of the Grand Canyon that I took in my attic. (I don't want to brag, but I didn't even use a camera to take them.) Seriously though, did someone break an April 1 publication embargo?

  • $487483

    There's a monster in his drawers I'll bet, and I'm thrilled to exit before it escapes.

  • Adam

    I saw this project a while back and not to be negative but I don't think this is really that great. I understand the concept and idea but it's like anyone can just photograph  something and say a celebrity is hiding behind it. In fact, chuck norris is hiding behind my chair while I type this. 

  • Pete Iorns

     Yes anyone can but they didn't. Chris Buck did. These photos are brilliant.

    And I'd watch out for Chuck if I were you, he appreciates good art.

  • Cory Schorling

    I agree. It is a very fun concept and will keep a lot of people glued to the photos. I think that documenting the interaction between Buck and the Celebrity in short videos would further the unique style of this portrait photography.