Whether it’s Hillary Clinton’s fearless leader stance, Steve Jobs’ subtle smile or Lady Gaga posing in a sparkling bra with cherry lips to match, there’s one question TIME contract photographer Marco Grob poses in his upcoming book Money People Politics. “Why do we have the face we have?” he tells TIME. “And what happened in our lives that we carry them the way we do? And what are the motives for people of power? Why do they want the power?”
Money, People, Politics, Grob’s new book, features years of portraits of celebrities, politicians, innovators and social justice figures, many which have appeared in TIME. Grob’s portraits showcase aspects of his subject’s characteristics. The seemingly stiff Ted Cruz, for instance, displays signs of life in a portrait where his cowboy boots introduces the viewer to a more relaxed side of the politician. Grob uses simple lighting techniques, including hand-held lights, and his intuition to optimize the time he has with his subjects. “I really do three or four frames and I move on,” he says.
Money, People, Politics is, in a way, Grob’s magnum opus of his work since he left his native Switzerland more than a decade ago and veered away from his roots as a still-life photographer. “It was difficult,” he says of his decision to leave. “I consider it one of the most exciting and incredible times of my life, that’s for sure. Because I knew, even though it was difficult, I was on the way to what I really wanted to do.”
Grob hopes Money, People, Politics will allow people to take a glimpse inside his head. “It’s my view on the world,” he says. “I would like to take people along on that trip, on that crazy journey. And understand why I’m interested in human faces beyond genetics.”
Marco Grob is a portrait photographer based in New York City.
Kira Pollack, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s director of photography and visual enterprise.
Bianca Silva is a writer and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter.