End of the 70s I decided to start a series of black & white photographic portraits of people that had iconic qualities. My concept was to meet them unprepared with no artistic concept in mind and to leave everything to the spontaneous decision or reflex of the moment. -And to only shoot the face, - no gimmicks, and no sophisticated lighting.
I had seen so many artistic, stylized and often technically very impressive photographs, - but by looking at these pictures I seldom learned anything about the person depicted. Mick Jagger by Mappelthorp looked like his still life lillies immersed in Mappelthorp- aesthetics and illumination - and Mick by Helmut Newton transformed into a slick Newton model.
We often think of photography as an objective medium, but nothing could be further from the truth. We all have pretty much the same appliances and tools, there are no technical secrets, but for some unexplainable reason who ever pushes the button has the potential power to create a new reality.
I was curious to see if I could detect something unknown in the face of a person that has been photographed to death, something that hasn't been visible before. In the following years I photographed William Burroughs, Charles Bukovski, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Muhammad Ali, Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Roy Lichtenstein, Sting, Keith Haring, Lech Walensa, Marilyn Manson, Norman Mailer, Sean Penn and others.
I met Michael Jackson 1988 on his German Tour. I was surprised to learn that he was quite familiar with my work. He was very interested in Visual Art and asked lots of specific questions about art-history and artistic techniques. I met him then several times in the following years in the US and I stayed with him and Lisa Marie 1994 in Budapest where he shot the video for the "History"-Album. I saw him spending lots of time with Lisa in children-hospitals and I had the impression his compassion and care for these unfortunate children were genuine.