work that he could “conceptualize and execute larg-
er bodies of work,” and that he has “a great imagina-
tion and can do interesting work that is genuinely
surprising and creative.”
Originally Buck envisioned a lot of images shot
in studios or hotel rooms, with a celebrity hiding
somewhere behind a chair or other prop, because
that’s where he often photographs his subjects for
clients and he’d be piggybacking on those shoots.
His first photograph, however, was of William
Shatner, whom he was photographing on location.
Shatner led him to a barn on the property, where he
hid amidst several bales of hay and a pile of saw-
dust. The textures of the hay and the oddity of the
scene gave the image an unexpectedly rich quality.
“If we can get enough like this mixed in with the
photo studios and hotel rooms,” Buck thought, “this
actually could have more legs” beyond a simple pro-
One of Buck’s inspirations for the project was
Philippe Halsman’s Jump, a book of images of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and the Duke and Duchess
of Windsor jumping in the air, which the photographer shot during the 1950s while working as a portraitist for LIFE magazine. The project “worked out so
brilliantly because it was inherently positive,” Buck
explains. “The key thing about his series is that it was
something that was hard to say no to,” he adds.
For “Presence,” Buck had a similar proposition—it
was clever and subversive, but not humiliating for the
subject in any way. The reactions he received were
varied, but mostly positive, he says. Actor Russell
Brand was delighted by the idea and spent a lot of
time hiding in the lobby of The Plaza Hotel in New
York City during downtime on a film shoot. Chevy
Chase, Buck recalls, didn’t initially believe any of the
celebrities were actually hiding in Buck’s photos.
Musician Devendra Banhart and comedian Sarah
Silverman insisted on hiding in places that were more
difficult than those Buck originally suggested “
because it was more fun for them,” Buck says.
For Buck the series has been a creative outlet,
something special to show clients, and it has yielded his first book. It also opened doors to the fine-art world, with Michael Foley Gallery planning an
exhibition of the work in 2013. And in addition to its
commentary on celebrity, the work also says something about the photographic medium. “One thing
I realized when doing the series was how much we
as photographers manipulate spaces to make them
appear to be something other than what they are,”
Buck notes. “A lot of times people will say, ‘I can’t
tell where they’re hidden, there’s nowhere to hide
in this picture.’ I never realized before how much we
change and distort the physical location just by the
angle or the lighting.”
“Portraits” of actor Amy Poehler (top) and musician
Michael Stipe (bottom). One of Buck’s inspirations for
his series was Phillipe Halsman’s 1950s “Jump” series,
for which the LIFE magazine portraitist photographed
famous people jumping in the air.