Photographer Mark Seliger reveals true meaning behind Obama portrait

One of the world’s pre­eminent portrait photographers, Mark Seliger has photographed everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers — nude — to the Dalai Lama to Oscar winners, often for glossy titles such as Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Working with RADArt4Aid, an organization that distributed donations to various charities, Seliger, 61, auctioned off 26 of his classic photos to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts.

Christie’s wrapped up bids this week, generating a total of $232,375.

Here, Seliger shares the stories behind a few of them.

Jennifer Lopez: $11,875 for America’s Food Fund

For a 2001 Rolling Stone profile, Seliger had a jungle set built inside his Manhattan studio, taking inspiration from the illustrations of fantasy/sci-fi illustrator Frank Frazetta. Then he augmented it all with a pair of leopards. Though Lopez “loved the idea,” Seliger told The Post, “I don’t think she loved [the leopards].” Nonetheless, J.Lo put on her best face and made it work. “I don’t think we even discussed what the attitude would be other than that she was a provocative, strong, warrior queen,” Seliger recalled.

Brad Pitt: $15,000 for Meals on Wheels

“Tall trees” was Pitt’s idea for a 2014 Details shoot. “We found this area, Avenue of the Giants [in Northern California], where redwoods line the highway. Brad got on his bike and started riding,” Seliger said. “My producer drove and I laid on the roof of our car, shooting as Brad cruised next to us. I do my own stunts.”

Barack Obama: $37,500 for World Central Kitchen

Nearing the first 100 days of his presidency, in 2009, Obama welcomed Seliger to the White House for a Rolling Stone shoot. Seliger shot a forward-facing cover image, then shoe-horned in what he calls “the takeaway.” He had just six minutes to capture it. “I told him to adjust his shoulders and move his elbows out. And he said, ‘OK. That’s enough art.’” Seliger felt the rear shot really told the story. “You could sense the weight on his shoulders,” the photographer said. “I marveled to him that [the White House] must be an incredible place to wake up each morning. He said, ‘Not when you have three wars going on.’ ”

Tom Hanks: $6,250 for Hidden Heroes

Just before “Forrest Gump” was released, Hanks agreed to pose with a chimp for a 1994 story in Us magazine. “It was interesting how in synch they were with each other,” Seliger said. “The chimp sat on Tom’s lap and began putting his hands on Tom’s face.” Instantly in the swing of things, “Tom began making faces that corresponded with where the chimp was putting his hands. People always ask me if those are real chimpanzee arms. I always refer them to the bottom of the photo where you can see a little bit of the guy from Tom’s lap,” the photographer added. “Tom told me that this picture, for the longest time, and maybe still, is the one that people most often ask him to sign.”

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