Mark Seliger: The Music Book

The ICP Library carries over 24,000 volumes within its shelves (and beyond) covering an extensive overview of photography as a practice, historical documentation, fine art and more. Students and patrons enter our doors looking for Capa, Cartier-Bresson, Tillman, Arbus, Davidson, Moriyama and a plethora of other famous and under-the-radar photography luminaries. But what I’ve noticed in the two years that I have been lucky to be a part of this amazing institution is a very minimal interest in music photography.

But why? There is no doubt that music is important; it has survived since prehistoric times, preexisting written languages. It has the power to both bond and save people (both mentally and physically), and generations have been defined by the styles and content of music – the 20’s, 40’s, 60’s and 80’s for example. But yet in a library that covers so much, there seems to be very little interest in documenting the important history of music and musicians.

The ICP Library houses an impressive music photography collection, ranging from books of live music shots covering genres including country, jazz, rock and more, to those containing some of the most famous portraits of musicians. This blog entry is going to focus on one of those books: Mark Seliger: The Music Book (TR681.M86.S45 2008). This collection consists of 35 iconic photos Seliger shot between 1987-2008, some of which were featured in Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone (where he served as Chief Photographer from 1992-2002).

MarkSeligerTheMusicBookCover 2
[TR681.M86.S45 2008]

The Music Book includes legendary artists that span decades, genres and in some cases have interacted with one another, creating several themes that catch your eye as you flip through the images. The next few paragraphs will discuss some of those themes and characteristics the way I perceived them.

Image Placement:

When flipping through a photo book, the location of the images is sometimes just as important as the images themselves.  Their relationship to one another can either create a story or add to one that already exists. As you turn to the first image of The Music Book, you are greeted by the one and only Chuck Berry: a wonderful black and white shot of him crouched down with his guitar. Turning to the next two images, somewhat reminiscent of Eadweard Muybridge, you can image Johnny B. Goode himself doing his one legged hop across the floor.


[Chuck Berry, St. Louis, MO 2001 – Pages 1,2,3]

A playful peek-a-boo Paul McCartney is positioned opposite a blank white page. Turn to the next page and you notice another blank page next to the portrait of Sean Lennon. Place holders perhaps? Turn once more and you find two contrasting portraits of George Harrison. It’s a simple guess that the two blank pages represent not only John missing in his death, but also where’s Ringo?




[Paul McCartney, New York City, 2001 / Sean Lennon, New York City, 2003 /
George Harrison, Los Angeles, CA, 1992 – Pages 9-14]

When thinking of the love stories that blossomed throughout the history of music, one of the most iconic that comes to mind is that of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Seliger’s portraits feature the Man in Black standing stoic in his choice attire, his long hair flowing like a mane as his back is turned to the camera, his guitar contrasting in color on his back. His head is slightly turned to the right, as if looking to the next page at his beautiful wife. June, also accompanied by a guitar, faces her husband with a warm smile; their love for each other (and music) comes through the two separate images.


[Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash, Hendersonville, TN, 1992 – Pages 18-19 ]

Flamboyant vs. Simple:

The objects and stories of the photos aside, Seliger’s portraits are in and of themselves pieces of art. The dramatics added can at first seem over the top, but they work well with the subject, as seen below:

Country icon Dolly Parton poses in a red dress, surrounded by red roses, on a chaise lounge on stage (shot for Vanity Fair’s Iconic Images Series):


[Dolly Parton, Nashville TN, 2006 – Pages 87-88 ]

Sean Combs as ‘The King of New York’, literally; he’s sitting on a throne in the middle of Times Square (shot for Vanity Fair’s Iconic Images Series):


[Sean Combs, New York City, 2005 – Pages 54-55]

Rufus Wainwright, a distant blood relative of Peter Stuyvesant – New York’s Dutch Governor in the 17th century, standing stone-faced, dressed in period attire:


[Rufus Wainwright, New York City, 2001 – Page 57]

There are also portraits that could be considered simple, especially in comparison to those discussed above, but are actually more complex in emotion not only within the subject, but the emotion that the viewer feels. Sometimes all it takes is having the artist in their element. Like Ray Charles sitting at a piano, or B.B. King in his zone on stage.


[Ray Charles, New York City, 2000 – Page 13]

Some of my personal favorites from the book include – badass Chrissie Hynde, founding member of The Pretenders, looking “vulnerable” – her makeup running down her face as if she was crying.


[Chrissie Hynde, New York City, 1995 – Page 74]

And Nirvana, with Kurt Cobain front and center wearing a shirt that reads “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” written across in magic marker (This photo made the cover of Rolling Stone – Vol. 628, April 16, 1992 – and the story behind Selgier’s concerns of presenting it to RS are well documented).


[Nirvana, Melbourne, Australia, 1992 – Page 70]

Farewell Legends:

One of the benefits of photographs are they allow the human image to live on. Going through the pages of The Music Book, it’s hard to not notice how many music legends have left us, especially since the book starts off with the great Chuck Berry, who just passed in March of this year. There’s Ray Charles, Johnny & June, B.B. King, Lou Reed, Gregg Allman, Jerry Garcia, Merle Haggard, just to name a few. Seliger’s portrait of Kurt Cobain, shown below, was used for the tribute cover of Rolling Stone when he passed in 1994.


[Kurt Cobain, Kalamazoo, MI, 1993 – Page 72 / Rolling Stone. Issue No. 683,  June 2, 1994]

There are more iconic portraits in the pages of Mark Seliger: The Music Book – including U2, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, CSN&Y, Willie Nelson – and while it doesn’t showcase all of Seliger’s work (he did shoot over 100 covers for Rolling Stone alone) it’s a wonderful collection for any music lover and, in regards to how this entry began, a documentation of music. Spanning over three decades, Seliger has captured definitive moments in music that may never come around again (i.e. grunge) and the legends who have left us in flesh, but live on thanks to their music and his photos.

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Caleb’s zine corner #2

Caleb’s zine corner #2


Punctum Times No. 15 (2011)

“GOZO YOSHIMASU REQUIEM – A pilgrimage… … to the deep water planet’s Turtle Island. Now! Toward the Dragon King’s (Ryugu) palace… …


Hello this week in the zine corner I am looking at Punctum Times No. 15. Punctum Times is (from their website “a newspaper-style publication of photography and art, rolling off the press since 2006”. By “newspaper-style” they are referring to the newsprint paper, not the content or its layout. Also printed in full color !! Also “Punctum” keeps autocorrecting to “Puncture” because I guess this computer hasn’t read Barthes (but it’s the ICP library computer ??)

No. 15 features a multimedia 2011 project by Gozo Yoshimasu, who is most famous for his poetry. This magazine features plenty of poetry (scans of handwritten verse as well as typed text and inscriptions on the back of Instax photos), however it is mostly photographs. The title is a reference to the Japanese folktale of Urashima Taro, which is often compared to Rip Van Winkle. In it, a fisherman rescues a turtle and in return gets to ride on its back to the undersea palace of Ryujin the Dragon God. He only stays in the palace for three days but when he comes back to his village 300 years have passed. Again, from

‘Gozo Yoshimasu visited the Watts Towers in L.A., Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona in March, 2011.

He made his new films “gozoCiné” and wrote texts there.

He also took a lot of photographs with a digital camera and an instant camera.

It’s not too much to say that the Japanese worst earthquake and Tsunami on 11 March 2011 inspired him to make these things, I think.

He made some films, took lots of photographs, and wrote a long texts and many memorandum.

This issue has a very special meaning for the readers and the author. This is a requiem for…… [Publisher & Editor: Issei Teramoto]”

The images of the Watts Towers are juxtaposed with handwritten text, subtitled “Original Manuscript of “REQUIEM…”. According to Wikipedia, “The Watts Towers, Towers of Simon Rodia, or Nuestro Pueblo (“our town”) are a collection of 17 interconnected sculptural structures within the Simon Rodia State Historic Park in the Watts community of Los Angeles. The tallest of the towers reaches a height of over 99 feet (30 m). The towers and walls were designed and built by Sabato (“Simon”) Rodia (1879–1965), an Italian immigrant construction worker and tile mason, over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954. The work is an example of outsider art and Italian-American naïve art.”


Having seen Yoshimasu read I was aware of his highly performative art practice and in this project we see evidence of that: on page 29, “Sedona, AZ 3:57 3.31.2011 (JST)”, and on the back cover, we see photographs of Yoshimasu wearing a green poncho and holding a clothes hanger with objects hanging from it. Nowhere else does he appear in the zine, however the photographs feel like we are seeing through his eyes. They begin in Tokyo, before moving onto Los Angeles and various locations in Arizona. There are both color and black and white photographs in a variety of different styles, including some abstract light trails towards the center that I was particularly drawn to. Some photographs are also split across pages, and a white vertical strip divides the sections. Another image that caught my attention was “Flagstaff, AZ 5:07 3.30.2011 (JST)”, which appears to portray a large pool inside of a bar (it’s unclear).

You can learn more about Punctum Times at and you can browse this issue in person at the ICP Library 🙂

~Caleb, Teaching assistant, ICP Library

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Caleb’s zine corner #1

Caleb’s zine corner #1




Welcome to the zine corner ~ the creation of this column was prompted by our huge box of uncatalogued zines and similar publications. Corner #1 is about SEAWEED, but this style of publication won’t necessarily be the norm for the corner since it is much more professional and is mostly writing as opposed to photos. Anyway, corner #1 here we go !!!!!!!!!!……………..


A few weeks ago we received a package from South Korea containing copies of volume 1 of humongous publication SEAWEED. Emily and I could barely contain our excitement! This issue starts off with a better introduction than I could come up with so I will quote it in full:

“Published in Jeju, South Korea

Presented in East Asia and Further

SEAWEED is the Playground

People Come to Playbor (play + labor)

& Share Their Work

: A Collective Portfolio

A Common Ingredient in Many East Asian dishes

If You Say “Seaweed 씨위드” in Korean

It Sounds No Different from “See With” or “Sea With”

We Want to See the World with You

Connect the Seas with Your Ideas”

One thing not mentioned in this introduction is that the magazine is Very Large which is Very Cool. It is printed in full color (the Korean language version is mostly green and the English version is mostly pink) and contains articles, photographs, and illustrations. As the introduction asserts, SEAWEED is a transnational, multivalent perspective on art and life, assembled from a variety of different writers and artists. Volume 1 includes writing on Sunsook Kim, Indieguerilla, “Gangnam Style”, Washington D.C., Kang Yo-Bae, cutting boards, “Living Tragedies and Dying Workers”, Juae Park, “Owning Art” and much much more. The issue also contains interviews with Kara Walker and David Dixon (Cathouse FUNeral), and illustrations by Adehla Lee and Kang Jun-suk. I think what caught my interest the most (and what I am excited to see in the next volume) were the “column” sections; “Letters to Artists #1”, “PRACTICE Everyday Life, Part 1”, and “Body + Thinking Diary”.


Volume 1 concludes with a note from Nayun Lee, the editor in chief, about creating maps of bookstores and cultural spaces in Jeju, South Korea, and also the origin of SEAWEED.


I absolutely recommend this publication!! We have a copy on display for your viewing pleasure here at the ICP library. However, if you are not close by here are some places to find SEAWEED online:


~Caleb, Teaching Assistant, ICP Library

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An Aries birthday party.

img_5956Today marks the 99th birthday of the founding father of ICP. To celebrate, we are sharing some photographs and a astrological reading of our favorite Aries. These are photographs discovered in the past year processing his archives.


Aries (The Ram) is the first astrological sign in the zodiac and the first sign of the spring, are characterized as full of life, passionate, enthusiastic but always like to be first.

Aries are adventurous and courageous, always determined to accept challenges. Because of their autonomy, the Aries is a born leader.


The weakness of the Aries is their tendency towards impatience when not faced with a challenging situation, this can also lead to thoughtless or impulsive behavior.



At the end of the day, the Aries are cheerful and the combination of all of their traits make them very cute and loyal to friends new and old.

Happy Birthday, Cornie! The next one will be a big one!

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Happy birthday to Yofi Capa

One of my greatest joys processing the Cornell Capa papers, is coming across a picture of Cornell’s dog, Yofi. Yofi was beloved by Capa and Edie and is very often mentioned in their correspondence, friends and colleagues both asking after and wishing the pup well.

In a card from photographer Yvonne Kalmus, addressed March 29th, 1969 he writes: “Sabra’s First Day In U.S. Yofi – 3/29-69 “Cornell_Capa_Papers-Yofi-003

This note also was enclosed with two photographs by Yvonne of a very young Yofi puppy.


Perhaps not his exact birthday, but we celebrate 48 years of you today, Yofi!


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What six of the saw. . . Part four


Cornell_Capa_Papers-Burroughs-005“What six of them saw” is a project from 1971 produced by the International fund for Concerned Photography. The original idea of the project was for the young photographers to work on something that they were “into”, some facet of life to investigate during their summer holidays. The age of the participants ranges from 13 to 25; they came from all over the country and their projects were extremely varied and an intriguing.


Robert J. Burroughs from San Diego, California from the WSTS – What Six of Them Saw project from 1971. His project began on the 4th July . . .”I will put on a pack with everything I need to survive (minus food) and stick out my thumb on interstate 5 and go wherever the cars take me. I will carry my cameras and all the Tri-X I can get my hands on and photograph the people I meet and the ones I get rides with and the places I stay and what I do. I will come back, develop the film and print the pictures if they are successful.”  Thus began “A Hitch-Hiking nomad’s Impression of his Native Land” a project that didn’t always go to plan according to the correspondence between Robert and Cornell and Robert was not entirely happy with the result. However, looking at these images today I feel that it really does capture something of this time.

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What six of them saw. . .part three

Chester Higgins, Jr 

cornell_capa_papers-higgins_jr-003.jpg“What six of them saw” is a project from 1971 produced by the International fund for Concerned Photography. The original idea of the project was for the young photographers to work on something that they were “into”, some facet of life to investigate during their summer holidays. The age of the participants ranges from 13 to 25; they came from all over the country and their projects were extremely varied and an intriguing.

Chester Higgins, Jr  was a recent graduate in Business Management from Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and these are his posts from the WSTS – What Six of Them Saw project from 1971. Chester had already published a 96 page photo essay in 1970 called “Black Woman” (McCall Publishing Company) and he was already an extremely professional and competent photographer at this point, published in many magazines including LIFE, even though he was still under 25 years old [meeting the criteria for the WSTS project].  Chester was working on his “Black Children” book for this summer project. His mother was an elementary school teacher in Alabama and he was very much deeply connected to this local community. His photographs are simply beautiful.


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