New York, NY, United States
New School for Social Research, NY
The son of the eminent commercial photographer Ben Somoroff, was born in New York City in 1957. Michael studied art and photography at the New School for Social Research and assisted his father in his studio, on the set, on location and in the darkroom. In October 1979 the first exhibition of Somoroff's photography was held at The International Center of Photography in New York City under the personal supervision of Cornell Capa launching young Somoroff's career. In 1978, at the age of twenty-one, he opened his own photography studio and shortly thereafter began working for virtually every major magazine in New York and Europe.
As a student of the legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch, Ben Somoroff introduced Michael at an early age to Brodovitch's revolutionary philosophy, which influenced a generation of photographers, artists and designers including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Robert Frank, Louis Faurer, Lillian Bassman, Henry Wolf and Milton Glaser, encouraging him to make unexpected images and push the boundaries of conventional ways of seeing. Brodovitch urged his students to "Show me something I haven't seen before.", thus creating an exciting period of experimentation and innovation in media of all kinds. His influence remains a dominant force, even today, in all areas of cultural production.
In 1980, Somoroff moved to Europe where he worked in London, Paris, Milan and Hamburg, Shortly after his arrival in Europe, he became a noted photographer in his own right, where he was a regular contributor to such influential magazines on both sides of the Atlantic as Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Stern and Life. He continued to develop his personal work, traveling throughout Europe and North Africa, forming many friendships that served as the foundation for his artistic efforts. Among his most important mentors was the photographer Gyula Halász, better known as Brassai, Andreas Feininger, Louis Faurer, and André Kertész.
Throughout the creation of his art, Somoroff developed a manner of approaching specific philosophical categories that is unique to his practice by breaking down ideas into philosophical "signifiers", which he then compares and re-assembles into new philosophical structures within which a very personal imaginative language arises. For example, in his researches of the French avant-garde, he revisited specific themes that motivated bohemian life in Paris; pursued ideas fundamental to twentieth century modernism, as well as those linked to those utopian ideals reaching back to the origins of the gothic ideal, but combined them uniquely into a matrix of an original post modern humanism. Existential philosophy, religion, language theory, psychology and postmodern deconstruction remain core concerns to Somoroff's project. His project fits neatly into a practice of art as an extension of philosophy.
Since returning to New York at the end of the 1980’s, Michael Somoroff has thoroughly devoted himself to the research of his ideas and his artistic production. He is an internationally renowned film director and a senior partner at MacGuffin Films Ltd., one of the top production company’s in the world. His dedication to social reform through the promotion of art is the cornerstone of his activities. He regularly lectures and collaborates with corporations as well as cultural institutions of all sizes to create programs that use art as a way of improving communication between people and the communities they live in. He is generally known for his serious interest in religion and the spiritual condition not only of his immediate company but society at large.
Mr. Somoroff is represented in numerous important collections worldwide, a sampling of which include the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Somoroff continues to redefine conventions through the juxtaposition of context, pushing the mediums of photography and digital technology beyond their usual limitations, in pursuit of his particular passion for a pure, non-figurative art. He routinely takes photography and video beyond the two-dimensional print or animated screen, towards a final substrate of pure abstraction. The exhibition Absence of Subject is an elegant and eloquent testimony of the latest evolution of Somoroff's art. The entire body of work has been acquired by the Museum of Fine Art, Houston under the direction of Anne Wilkes Tucker, and was chosen as the only exhibit to be placed directly on Piazza San Marco during the Venice Biennale in the long artistic history of the city (in 2011). In 2006 Somoroff created a large-scale outdoor sculpture Illumination I for the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. He has been the first artist invited to exhibit at the Rothko Chapel, and the only artist since Barnett Newman to have an installation on the grounds.
Diana Edkins, April 2011
In each of August Sander’s pictures Michael Somoroff has erased the subject, retaining only the background, removing what we have always believed to be the “essential element” — the subject, the portrait.