Mark Seliger

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As the chief photographer for Rolling Stone, Mark Seliger

shot famous covers of Nirvana, Neil Young, and many more. For his Guest DJ set, he shares the song on regular rotation at his studio, two of his favorite singer-songwriters, and a standout from Radiohead. He also picks an artist that was inspired by his home state of Texas. Some of Mark’s standout shots are currently on display as part of the “Who Shot Rock and Roll” exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

For more:


1.) Wilco - Kamera
2.) Gillian Welch - Caleb Meyer
3.) Radiohead - House of Cards
4.) Bruce Springsteen - The Ghost of Tom Joad
5.) Lucinda Williams - Blue


Jason Bentley: Hey, this is KCRW's Guest DJ Project. I am Jason Bentley, here with photographer Mark Seliger. Hi Mark.

Mark Seliger: Hi Jason. It's good to be here.

Jason Bentley: You were the chief photographer for Rolling Stone for some 10 years and shot more than 130 covers for the magazine. You're currently a staff photographer for GQ and Vanity Fair. But today, we are talking more about the music influences and, if you can, pick five songs that have influenced you. Give us a starting point.

Mark Seliger: Well, we started off with "Kamera" by Wilco. You know we play a lot of music on photo shoots. I have a tendency to wear everybodyout in the studio when we're shooting and I just kinda play one song over and over and over again.

Mark Seliger: You know, I felt like this record sort of broke through in terms sound and, you know, the song itself, I guess it had a personal connection just because of the idea of camera and photography and has become sort of a mainstay in terms on my rotation in the studio.

Song: Wilco’s "Kamera"

Jason Bentley: That was "Kamera" by Wilco. We're here with photographer Mark Seliger. Now you have a second choice here for us, this is a song by Gillian Welch.

Mark Seliger: I would say Gillian is probably my favorite singer-songwriter and I had "Hell Among the Yearlings" in my car when it came out, probably for a solid year. I just became obsessed with the song and the rhythm of David Rawlings’ guitar, and his lead. And her voice is just incredibly soothing and dark and tortured in the perfect way.

Song: Gillian Welch’s "Caleb Meyer"

Mark Seliger: I proposed the idea of working with her as a photographer on "Revelator" and she was excited and I went down to Nashville and worked with them and made a little short movie with them and got immersed in their world which is really small and beautiful and poetic.

Jason Bentley: What's this song about in particular? It's "Caleb Meyer".

Mark Seliger: I think it's just sort of this very poetic experience and I think it's sort of about the ghosts and the memories, I believe, of somebody's life. I think it's just poetry.

Jason Bentley: That was Gillian Welch. "Caleb Meyer" is the song and we are in the midst of our Guest DJ session with Mark Seliger. Mark let's continue – you picked a song from Radiohead. This one is "House of Cards." Beautiful song.

Mark Seliger: You know I always feel like in a song, the first couple lines usually will get you. And this song, I just love the first two lines of the song and I guess I related to it in… love gone wrong or cravings or your desires.

I think Thom Yorke has one of those exceptional ways of singing where he just draws you in very, very quickly. You know the music is very ethereal and dreamy and you kind of find yourself drawn to a lyric without knowing what you're listening to and then you really think about it and it makes so much sense.

Song: Radiohead’s "House of Cards"

Jason Bentley: That was "House of Cards" Radiohead. Mark Seliger is our guest DJ and coming in on your fourth choice is Bruce Springsteen. And this is the "Ghost of Tom Joad." Tell us about this one.

Mark Seliger: Well I like this record a lot. There is something very hollow and dark about this record and the more I listened to it and thought about it, again an interesting road he went on in order to create it or at least we what we know about it -- in the Steinbeck references, and Grapes of Wrath and how he would watch the John Ford movie -- and I just like that it was very raw. It was like the next step from Nebraska I thought,yet it was a continuation. That kind of songwriting and that kind of voice has always drawn me in and I thought this was a real departure for Springsteen.

Song: Bruce Springsteen’s "The Ghost of Tom Joad"

Mark Seliger: Music and photography are very similar. They're both story telling you know it's just different muscles that you are exercising. I did a series of photographs in the panhandle at a little rodeo up in Paducah, Texas. I was really fascinated by the idea of this vanishing America.

Jason Bentley: You grew up in Texas.

Mark Seliger: I grew up in Houston. I was born in Amarillo and I went back with my dad several years ago when he was alive and we went down to the panhandle and he showed me my mom and dad's first apartment and where his father came from Russia and helped develop this little town with people and it was a boomtown and he was amazed how everything pretty much looked the same.

(they laugh)

Mark Seliger: It is, its like Texas landscapes are great for photographs and great for songwriting.

Jason Bentley: That was the "Ghost of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen. Mark Seliger is our Guest DJ. Your final pick is by Lucinda Williams. This is the song "Blue."

Mark Seliger: Her writing is spectacular. Her voice is so beautiful and emotional and rich. It strikes as really great 60’s or 70’s sounds like Tammy Lynette and Merle and Willie and Loretta Lynn. And I was always obsessed with that sound.

Song: Lucinda Williams’ "Blue"

Jason Bentley: Just looking at your photography, your work. There were some amazing Kurt Cobain photos. There's that great Red Hot Chili Peppers shot where their nude on the front. There's a great Slash photograph -- but is it possible for you to identify maybe two or three especially profound shots, I guess I could say favorites.

Mark Seliger: Shooting Neil Young. I’m particularly fond of the picture that ran on the inside which is just this beautiful simple portrait of him turned profile and his hair kind of blowing in front of him. We had to like set the wind machine. It was quite a wrangle to talk Neil into it.

Jason Bentley: Yeah, that was a first.

Mark Seliger: Photographing Nirvana was a big, big thing for me. I made the big mistake of telling them not to where T-shirts with writing on it that would compete with the headlines and Kurt's showed up with "Corporate magazine's still suck" written on the front of his shirt. Wonderful experience working with them and then got a chance to work with them about two months before he passed away, which was the memorial cover that you were talking about. Very intense, you could see the sadness and sensitivity in his eyes. Even though he painted a picture that everything seemed to be okay. I just didn't necessarily believe it.

Jason Bentley: Well, Mark thank you for documenting these moments for us.

Mark Seliger: Thank you very much.

Jason Bentley: And thank you for joining us on KCRW.