Norman Seeff was born March 5, 1939, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since moving to the United States in 1969, his work as a photographer and filmmaker has been focused on the exploration of human creativity and the inner dynamics of the creative process.
Seeff graduated with honors in science and art at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg. At the age of 17, he was drafted as the youngest player in the South African national soccer league.
Norman Seeff qualified as a medical doctor in 1965. For three years he worked in emergency medicine at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, focusing on the management of traumatic shock. In 1968, he immigrated to the United States to pursue his creative passions and artistic abilities.
Soon after Seeff arrived in New York City, his photographs of the people he encountered on the streets of Manhattan were discovered by the famed graphic designer Bob Cato. As the former Vice President of Creative Services at Columbia Records, Cato was renowned for his album cover design which had won two Grammy Awards. Cato became an important mentor to Seeff and gave him his first major photographic assignment producing images for The Band’s Stage Fright album. Seeff’s iconic image of the group was re-produced as a poster inserted under the album’s shrink wrap, which when unfolded, became a hugely popular collectors’ item. This brought him immediate recognition and launched his career as a “rock” photographer. His early work also includes images of Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol as well as other New York City personalities.
In 1971, Seeff spent a year as Professor of Photography at Bennington College in Vermont.