Michael Halsband: Halsband Portraits at The National Arts Club

Image above: ©Michael Halsband, Andy Warhol & Jean-Michel Basquiat #143 Studio, New York City July 10, 1985. Courtesy of the artist. 


The National Arts Club and its Fine Arts Committee presented on April 2nd  a survey of portraiture by the renowned American photographer, Michael Halsband. The free exhibition, Halsband Portraits will be on display till April 25th and will include two unseen works. 

Halsband’s 1985 iconic portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol no. 143 in boxing gloves became such a staple of popular culture that its appropriation by contemporary visual artists and street artists continues thirty years on. This was an auspicious early moment in a career that saw Halsband photographing a canon of 20th century artists, writers and musicians including James Brown, David Byrne, Jim Carroll, Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop, LL Cool J, Klaus Nomi, R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, Hunter S. Thompson, Peter Tosh, AC/DC and many more. This exhibition at The National Arts Club will span over three decades of the artist’s portraits, including two never-before exhibited works: a photograph from the 1985 Warhol Basquiat with boxing gloves series and an up-close 35mm film of The Rolling Stones’ Live Performance during their Tattoo You tour.  

IMG_5232-EditMichael Halsband during the opening night at The National Arts Club.


Halsband’s approach to portraiture is focused on observation and the practice of allowing subjects to reveal themselves without influence or direction. He explains, "My heroes are sociologists and archaeologists; people who study cultures. They inspired me to flatten the whole thing and take the drama out of it. It's about more than just famous people, since every photo sitting has to be on level ground, with no-one having the upper hand. When I'm photographing, it is about letting what is, be.”

 Halsband Portraits, National Arts Club March 29 April 25, 2015  Klaus Nomi Studio,NY January 30, 1980  Photograph by ©Michael Halsband,-2015©Michael Halsband, Klaus Nomi Studio,NY January 30, 1980. Courtesy of the artist. 


Mick Jagger and Keith Richards©Michael Halsband, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: Louisville, Kentucy; Freedom Hall, 11/03/81. Courtesy of the artist. 


Born and raised in New York City, Halsband attended the School of Visual Arts and began professionally photographing subjects including John Chamberlain, Klaus Nomi, Jim Rosenquist, The Rolling Stones, and Andy Warhol during this time. After graduating, he worked for Interview, Avenue and Rolling Stone and his portraits of various cultural trailblazers in this time included Kurtis Blow, James Brown, David Byrne, Joe Jackson, and Alan Vega, among others.

 IMG_5191During the opening night at The National Arts Club.


In 1981, after going on the road with James Brown, Halsband was assigned to photograph Keith Richards for the Rolling Stone cover. Consequently he was asked by Mick Jagger to be The Rolling Stones tour photographer the next year. Upon returning to New York City, he worked for Condé Nast which featured his work in GQ, Self, Vogue, House and Gardens, Glamour and Mademoiselle. Halsband spent the next seven years photographing fashion and portraits for top magazines, and making album covers for the likes of Iggy Pop, INXS, Deee-Lite and Shabba Ranks. He also worked on international ad campaigns and helped create the looks for the Gap and J.Crew, and the press kits for designers including Calvin Klein and Adrian Vittadini.

 IMG_5212During the opening night at The National Arts Club.


From fashion, Michael Halsband went back to working with musicians for record covers and directing music videos in addition to films on subjects ranging from Surfing to Farming. His documentary approach led him on many adventures; working with Al Pacino on his directorial debut documentary “Looking For Richard”, traveling to Cuba with Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp and as a result, Halsband was written into Thompson's book, "Kingdom of Fear.” His diverse career also included personal projects; six years of photographing dancers for the School of American Ballet, from 1986–1991, with underwriting from Danskin, USA. An extension of his work with the human figure, from 1989-1995 he created a series of nudes of strippers and sex show workers. Surfing was another subject that captured Halsband’s attention with a six-year long film project, SURF MOVIE: Reels 1-14, and the book Surf Book, a collaboration with renowned surfer, Joel Tudor, was published in 2005 by Channel Books. For the last decade, Halsband has continued to create 8 x 10 portraits of prominent artists, friends, and creative professionals.

All Opening images by Lena Vassiliou.  

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