Steve Heller in The Cave

On a recent Saturday morning Steve Heller met me on the steps of his 16th Street studio in Manhattan. I was intent on photographing this icon of design amidst what proved to be the most intense personal collection of objects and books that I had ever seen.


Steve is the latest subject in my graphic designer portrait series. He was the noted art director of the New York Times Book Review for 33 years. He has authored and co-authored over 100 books on design and popular culture. He is a fascinating subject whose charm and accomplishments would be difficult to convey in a single photograph.


My biggest challenge was finding a place to put my camera and tripod. I wedged myself into a tiny space between teetering towers of rare books and objects, terrified that I could knock something over and start an avalanche. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Mannequins designed to sell women’s fashion and beauty products. The nurses’ uniforms caught my eye. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Steve has authored or co-authored all the books on these shelves. This man does not waste time. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Before there was there was Esky, the 1940’s Esquire Magazine Man (middle shelf, tiny figure just to the right of center). PLUS: Razor Blade displays, micro mannequins, one of many Uncle Sam’s in Steve's collection. (Click on photo to enlarge).

Overview: Steve is more curator than hoarder. Still, there’s potential here for a reality TV show. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Books not authored by Steve. He sometimes refers to his studio as “The Cave,” perhaps because of the  stacks of books growing up from the floor like stalagmites. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Possible inspiration for Lena Dunham’s Girls TV series. Long before Grey’s Anatomy, ad agencies knew that medicine was sexy. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Tiny businessman with tiny furniture sans electronic devices or social networking. The large black object on his desk was referred to as a "telephone." (Click on photo to enlarge)

Past presidents - another favorite theme. Ronald Reagan bust by Robert Grossman. W’s bust looks a little mean and simian.  (Click on photo to enlarge)

Was there anything that these commercial pencils couldn’t create? (Click on photo to enlarge)

Steve's desk surrounded by reference material and inspiration. The closet at the end of this room is full of Carousel slide trays. (Click on photo to enlarge)

To each according to Steve’s needs – more figures depicting Mao and the Chinese revolution. (Click on photo to enlarge)