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Norman Seeff (South African/American, b.1939)


Birth Place: Johannesburg, South Africa


Who is photographer Norman Seeff?

Norman Seeff is a South African photographer and filmmaker who is most famous for his celebrity portraits. Many of these portraits feature iconic musicians from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some of the most notable include The Band, Patti Smith, James Taylor, and Andy Warhol. Seeff’s photographs were almost always taken in his studio on Sunset Boulevard. In his heyday, he used to attract audiences for each session, sometimes with upwards of 200 people in attendance.

Seeff is also an award-winning commercial director, having worked with such prestigious brands as Apple, Nissan, General Motors, and Levi’s. More recently he has turned his eye toward documentary filmmaking, most notably in Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project. Another large project was his documentary film Triumph of the Dream, which chronicled the Mars rover exploration missions done by Nasa in 2004. He has produced several books of photography including Hot Shots (1974) and Joni: The Joni Mitchell Sessions (2018) which collected all 12 of his sessions with the legendary musician from the 1970s and 1980s.

What kind of art does Norman Seeff make?

Norman Seeff is primarily a portrait photographer best known for his photographs of musicians and celebrities. Seeff saw portrait photography as a collaborative process, often citing his ability to form creative partnerships with his subjects as the reason for his success. Seeff didn’t limit that collaboration to his subjects, he also employed a filmmaking crew that often filmed his sessions starting in 1975 with Ike and Tina Turner. That, then, made the session itself a sort of art form, and it attracted the general public in droves. Since his start in the 1960s, Seeff has photographed over 500 different artists, actors, and notable people including Nobel Prize winners. Seeff also does commercial work, shooting for several notable brands. He continues to live and make art out of Los Angeles, California. His daughter, Tai Power Seeff has become a famous photographer in her own right.

How did photographer Norman Seeff get started?

Norman Seeff was born in 1939 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He graduated with honors from the King Edward VII School, and, at the age of 17, was the youngest player ever drafted into the South African National Soccer League. Seeff didn’t pursue photography until later in life, he worked as an emergency room doctor for three years at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, up until 1968 when he moved to the United States to pursue photography. After arriving, he began to photograph people on the streets of Manhattan, eventually leading to his discovery by renowned graphic designer, Bob Cato. Cato hired Seeff, mentoring him and giving him the early assignments for which Seeff would make his name.

How much are Norman Seeff photographs worth?

Norman Seeff portraits are extremely valuable, on the low end selling for a few hundred dollars, but commanding $7,000 or more for major work. The most ever paid for a Norman Seeff photograph at a Heritage Auction is $3,750 for the piece Tina Turner (1983) which sold on March 13th, 2019. Heritage Auction has sold over 20 Norman Seeff photographs, you can find the records here.

Where to buy Norman Seeff photographs for sale?

See works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Norman Seeff art?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services Department.

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