Portrait of Michael J. Fox by Steve Pyke

Black and white photo of Michael J. Fox with hand clutched underneath chin
Michael J. Fox / Steve Pyke / Gelatin silver print, 2007 / Collection of the artist, courtesy Flowers Gallery, New York City / © Steve Pyke


Every Thursday evening, the National Portrait Gallery presents “Face-to-Face,” a talk about a selected portrait on view in the gallery. As part of this regular series, Ann Shumard, who is the curator of photographs at NPG, discussed this portrait of Michael J. Fox by Steve Pyke. The portrait is on display on the museum’s first floor, in the exhibition "Portraiture Now: Feature Photography.” 

Interviewed by Esquire magazine for its popular “What I’ve Learned” column, actor and medical research advocate Michael J. Fox spoke candidly about living with Parkinson’s disease: “If I let it affect everything, it’s gonna own everything. I don’t deny it or pretend it’s not there, but if I don’t allow it to be bigger than it is, I can do everything else.” Published with the interview, Steve Pyke’s portrait mirrors the determination of the man whose Michael J. Fox Foundation has funded more than $137 million in Parkinson’s research.

Steve Pyke readily admits that his life in photography has been propelled largely by his fascination with the face. Born in England and now based in New York, Pyke first won notice for his distinctive close-up portrait style in the 1980s, with editorial work for the music press and magazines such as Britain’s popular “style bible,” The Face. In the intervening decades, Pyke’s photographs have reached a wide audience through their publication in major magazines around the world and their exhibition in museums and commercial galleries.

In 2004, Steve Pyke joined the New Yorker. “Working as a staff photographer at the New Yorker magazine gives me the immediacy of making portraits and seeing them appear in an editorial context,” Pyke explains, “and this has always surprised and stimulated me.” In tandem with his career in editorial photography, he has maintained a strong commitment to personally driven projects, including his portrait series documenting the world’s leading thinkers and philosophers.

A common thread running through both Pyke’s editorial and personal work is his abiding interest in what a face can tell us. “The way we live our lives is etched into the landscape of our faces,” Pyke observes. “We create the face with which we live.”

>> Listen to Ann Shumard’s Face-to-Face talk on Michael J. Fox (24:37)

To view more works by Steve Pyke and the other artists featured in “Portraiture Now: Feature Photography,” be sure to see the online exhibition.  And listen to Steve Pyke in this audio slideshow from the New Yorker.

The next Face-to-Face talk is this Thursday, February 5, when researcher Maya Foo speaks about the portrait of Bette Midler by Richard Amsel in the exhibition “Ballyhoo: Posters as Portraiture.” The talk runs from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Visitors meet the presenter in the museum’s F Street lobby and then walk to the appropriate gallery.

Ann Shumard giving her talk, standing next to Michael J. Fox portrait