TIME commissioned photographer Martin Schoeller, to photograph five of this years TIME 100 honorees—Oprah Winfrey; comedian Amy Poehler; chef Grant Achatz; Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and Wael Ghonim, the Google employee and Egyptian activist who helped lead the revolution.
“I like to photograph people in unexpected situations. When I photograph a writer, I don’t want to have them sitting with a laptop,” says Schoeller, who captured the much talked about memoirist Amy Chua with a pair of tigers in her daughter’s bedroom.
For Chua, Schoeller and his team almost bit off more than they could chew. “We had been shown photographs of small 30-inch tiger cubs, but they arrived five feet long,” says Schoeller. “In all fairness, they do grow very quickly.” Schoeller had planned to show Chua holding the cubs, but that plan went out the window. With trainers handling the animals, they set up in one of Chua’s daughter’s bedrooms. “We had to wait for them to be in a position we liked,” says Schoeller, “then Chua would sneak in and stand with them.”
— Deirdre van Dyk
For more of Schoeller’s work for TIME check out his Person of the Year shoot with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.