Mark Abrahams: Candid Camera

The Photographer’s Revealing Portraiture Captures an Unseen Side of Iconic Celebrities

Celebrated photographer Mark Abrahams draws out understated honesty from A-list subjects such as Michael Pitt, James Franco, Lindsay Lohan and Michelle Obama. A former truck driver, Abrahams is entirely self-taught, but his textured and compelling style is often seen in the pages of L’Uomo VogueVogue Deutsch and GQ.

His new eponymous monograph from Damiani Editore contains a potent introductory text from writer James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning, poetically relating a story of a young man falling in love with his camera and mastering the photographic arts. “I wanted to write my intuitive version of what I thought his process was. I looked at the pictures and I just wrote the essay, thinking: that must be what he tries to do, because that’s what I see,” explains Frey of Abrahams’ work. “I respect him a lot, I think his photographs are beautiful and haunting, intense and pure.” Here, the California-born Abrahams recounts his earliest images and his love of Ed Ruscha.

Both you and James Frey are self-taught. Is that how you connected?

My story in photography is similar to his story in writing, and also similar to some of the characters in his books. I actually owned a truck in California, and would haul sand and gravel from plants. One I would go to was called Sully Miller; there was a hut in it with all the old time truckers, 70-year-old guys who have been doing it since the 30s. I literally bought a camera to take pictures of these guys to show my friends. I didn’t even know there was a job [as] a professional photographer. It literally had never occurred to me that people do this for a living. My only association with photography really was family pictures. I wasn’t picking up Vogue.

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