Presence: Invisible Portraits of Celebrities Hiding from the Camera

What defines a portrait? Is it still a portrait if the subject is present in the frame but hidden from the eye? If the answer is yes, then photographer Chris Buck has captured a series of unique celebrity portraits through his project titled Presence. If not, then each of the photographs simply shows a random scene.

The photograph above? That’s a portrait of famous American photographer Cindy Sherman.

Buck has been shooting some of the most famous people in the world for over 20 years now. For this project, he decided to take a counter-intuitive and conceptual spin on what celebrity portraiture means. For each of the photos, he asked his famous subject to hide somewhere within the frame. The resulting photo has the subject both in and not in the frame.

Buck also has a witness on hand to sign a statement for each portrait, affirming that the famous individual was actually present.

Cindy Sherman, a conceptual artist herself, loves the project. Here’s a quote she gave for the project’s website:

The whole point of having your portrait taken is to promote your commodity — your face — and I love how this series is the exact opposite of that.

Here are some other photographs in the series (the name of the subject is in the caption):

Chuck Close

William Shatner

Weird Al Yankovic

Snoop Dogg

Russel Brand

Robert De Niro


Michael Stipe

Kathy Griffin

Jay Leno

Jack Nicklaus

David Lynch

Over the course of 5 years, Buck has captured 50 of these portraits. They’ve now been published as a book titled Presence: The Invisible Portrait.

Here’s a video in which Buck introduces the project:

You can find more of Buck’s work on his personal website, or find out more about Presence on its official website.

Presence by Chris Buck (via Doobybrain)

Image credits: Photographs by Chris Buck and used with permission

  • PhotoShark

    Oh geeze. Sometimes concepts are best left as such.

  • sheckie

    NOT ART.

  • rtfe

    bring on the snarky comments!

  • DafOwen

    Really …….!?

  • Tubbie

    This screams pretentious to me.

  • Asdr

    I don’t get it. Are they there or not? Hidden as in they hid and the photographer shot it?

  • Chris Gaffan

    I mean the lens cap article was funny…But this?

  • Martin Hurford

    I just found a use for all my crappy shots. Look for my book ‘The Aliens among us’ coming out soon!

  • Dave Reynolds


  • Sean

    I find these great. Get off your high horse and consider the photos and what they mean before bashing them.

  • gee

    LOL what a joke

  • Anders Dahl

    The photographic version of 4′33″ ?

  • Matt

    If you have to explaine it…..

  • Jordan

    I like the concept – I just can’t help but feel that the results might be more interesting if you could see some anonymous-looking part of the celebrity in each shot – like De Niro’s hand resting on the side of the bath, or a murky underwater Chuck Close with bubbles at the surface.

    Although, I think I can see a bit of Shatner.

  • Skydriver

    Umm – couldn’t the “celebrities” at least have shown themselves partially? Otherwise I could “claim” celebrities in any photo I take, too. This is just wrong.

  • MarkLivesInLA

    No doubt the gallery will be full of hidden visitors. No wait. My mistake. They left.

  • Sean Walsh

    I have hundreds of shots on my iPhone of me and my daughter posing with celebrities, but I always get the celebrity to hide behind me so they’re not actually IN THE SHOT! It’s a brilliant concept, really. [/sarc]

  • Patrick Day




  • WHAT

    No sense… Do not desrve to be here…

  • John

    Amazingly ridiculous, oh well, each to his own, I’m sure there’s ton’s of people who’ll buy this concept right off and pay loads for the pictures….

  • harumph

    They are hidden in the frame.

  • JosephRT

    I was thinking the same thing, I really like how when you read the caption and know who it is supposed to be you can then imagine them in the scene. And since everyone probably imagines someone like William Shatner in a different pose or expression, the portraits can mean a lot of different things to different people. Cool concept but it would have been better with just a small hand or something in each one.

  • JosephRT


  • Paul Tobeck

    Unless there’s something in the photo that is totally identifiable with the subject, then I just don’t get it.

  • Frank Pavone

    seriously? wow, im not sure ridiculous or brilliant. or maybe ridiculant

  • bgrady413

    There is no way Jack Nicklaus is in that frame! Even if he is behind that bear the reflection in th efinish of the cabinets would reveal him.
    Either way it is kind a of a clever concept, real or not, I found myself looking for places I think they could be hidden. Not everyone could get away with this though.

  • someonefamousiswithmenowhahaha

    Little too artsy for me.

  • JN Silva

    This is astoundingly stupid.

  • whatever

    Yeah, it’s only ART when some trustfund hippie with an iPhone shot it with a “vintage film” filter applied and uploaded it from his MacBook at Starbucks.

  • AllSanDiegoComputerRepair

    what.. is this a joke??

  • Martin Esquives

    the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes

  • Skydriver

    What do they mean?

  • Skydriver

    April Fool’s Day is month’s away… yet this has got to be some kind of joke.

  • Hassan Chamoun

    aaa modern art !

  • Philip Mitchell

    If you’re shooting the persons environment, shoot an environment that says something about them. Their office. Their living-room couch even.

    It’s a quirk. It’s a gimmick. It’s not great art.

  • Sterling

    Shouldn’t there be some kind on NSFW warning on this story since all the Celebrities are naked?

  • ineptphotog

    I actually like this… The appeal for me is the idea of the celebrities being asked to hide, and considering how each would react, or where they would hide… The mystery makes it amusing…

  • Matthew

    also not visible: The photographer hiding in each frame snickering like a schoolgirl

  • Derek Brooke

    Where’s Wally

  • Nathaniel Young

    I think it’s a fantastic concept. People need to stop hatin.

  • Mark Mulder

    How utterly pointless. The idea of photography is to create an image and derive value by itself, not to require explanatory text to create value. These photos would look exactly the same without said celebs supposedly hiding in the frame. And for all I know, they weren’t there at all.

  • a fan, but raising my eyebrow

    total BS. i really like chris buck, but this is just stupid.

  • Sean Walsh

    I don’t think anyone is hating on Chris Buck so much as they’re calling out “GIMMICK” where they see it. Every artist is prone to doing something pretentious or completely asinine and hoping to pull a fast one on their audience. When you appreciate an artist and count yourself a fan, you have the right to call them out when they miss their mark – which, judging by the comments here, says Buck missed it by a long shot.

    And hey, if you like the concept, fair play man – be the fish that swims upstream.

  • Leslie C.

    The title should be atleast be “Celebrities Hiding from the Camera” and remove the Invisible Portrait part.

  • alexmenendez

    um……yeah………”, NO!

  • 9inchnail

    I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve perfected my own technique and became a master. I’ve shot hundreds and hundreds of photos and you don’t see a celebrity in any of them. I’m thinking about teaching my methods.

  • Tim Topple

    the comments here (“duh?” “what?” “pretentious” etc) just prove to me how many photographers or followers of photography have no real interest in art, conceptual or not. These are the same guys who dismiss photos without ‘edge to edge sharpness’, obsess over tech specs and think they know everything about photography. I love this work – throws up all sorts of interesting questions about the nature of portraiture, paparazzi, celebrity, value of imagery etc. and yes, it’s playful, but not pretentious.

  • Pavel Kounine

    It does absolutely none of the things described in your last sentence… except for being the very last word. And it’s not just the fauxtographers crying fowl. It’s real photographers too, just not the types that need being called “artists”.

    These images are not portraits. They wouldn’t even pass as real estate photographs.

  • tomdavidsonjr

    This has the feel of an Onion article. I think someone in the crowd needs to say this: the emperor “isn’t wearing anything at all” . . . I actually got sucked into this article and for about 10 minutes that I will never get back, I played Where’s Waldo before I realized I had been duped.