The Flashing Muse: the long road to rock photographer
Way back in the 1970s I had a dream of being a rock n’ roll photographer. By 1979 I had photographed many great rock performances, most notably, Bruce Springsteen’s breakout three-night stand at Madison Square Garden, in New York City. It was a thrilling time to be a teenager.
Lucky for me, I was related (by marriage) to the editor of a national rock music magazine. Not Rolling Stone, but not shabby either. In fact, they’d run the first national magazine cover featuring Bruce Springsteen. Considering all, I was certain of my illustrious future as a rock photographer.
Sadly, my destiny was not what I’d dreamed, as I was rejected under the guise that the rock photographer’s life was not recommended for a family member. In Yiddish, yet! More sadly, none of those images still exist, lost to decades of moving and water damage.
Move ahead forty years and I get a call from my friend and music legend Dion DiMucci, asking if I want to try shooting the cover photograph for the Blues with Friends album he’s been working on. We talk often, so I was well aware of the record he was putting together, pretty much from its inception, and that it featured duets with some of his friends.
When you’re Dion, you have an illustrious friends list. With each addition, from Van Morrison to Jeff Beck, I was thrilled about what he was creating. Still, I had not heard any of the songs, only the characters and stories behind each union. It was last fall in New York City when Dion called, “Yo! I have an idea for the album cover, and I’d like you to give it a try.” (Yo is the official Bronx greeting, the glorious borough from where Dion and I both hail.)
“Meet me at Joe’s apartment, in Soho,” Dion said. Joe’s place is a typical Soho loft, with tall windows allowing for copious natural light to stream in. “The blues take you from the dark to the light,” explained Dion. “The idea behind the collaborations on Blues with Friends is: with the blues you need never walk alone.”
It was a typical, grey New York City day, which provided ideal, muted light through the tall windows. “I’m looking for something timeless,” said Dion. “I’m thinking about Rembrandt’s window lighting style, and I’m thinking about Miles Davis’ album covers, where darkness transforms to light. Apropos of the blues, I want to be holding my gold Stratocaster.”
Channeling Rembrandt, I asked Dion to stand by one of the tall windows facing out to the street. After a few poses and frames, I wasn’t striking lightning. I noticed in the opposite corner of the room was a full length mirror, caddy-corner to the window. I asked Dion to move over so I could try shooting through the mirror. Shooting his reflection provided a more natural pose and expression, as he was less aware of the camera. I reversed the image in Photoshop to create the image that became the cover. Magically, we collaborated to bring his vision to life. We’re both very pleased with the resulting image.
In the months between the fall and completion of the album, the “friends” roster evolved, finally to include Bruce Springsteen, who, along with his wife, Patti Scialfa, added vocals and guitar to the beautiful, Hymn to Him. The idea that forty years after trying to get my foot in the door with my Springsteen work, I had come full circle.
It was Dion’s faith in me as an artist that made my rock photographer plans real. For that, I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity, and blessed that I could deliver. Never lose faith. To quote Dion, rock on!
Dion’s “Blues with Friends” will be released June 5th. Click here for details, and to pre-order.
If you’re a musician looking for photography for your next release, please browse the website. There are plenty of rock and blues oriented images you may find suitable. Let’s talk!