Stories & Advice From a Famous Rock Photographer

Rock music is a defining part of American culture, and rock musicians are some of our most beloved idols. Since few people ever get to meet these stars and experience their personalities firsthand, it’s up to photographers to shape their image–to provide a window into their lives and souls. Lynn Goldsmith is just such a photographer:

A native of Michigan, Goldsmith started taking photographs as a child (her father was an avid amateur photographer), and has not put down the camera since. “It’s almost like I have to do that to breathe,” she says. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, she was one of few female photographers documenting such megastars as the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and the Police.

Goldsmith has just released her twelfth book, titled “Rock and Roll Stories,” in which she shares both her photographs and the tales behind them. One of her favorites: when Michael Jackson shied away from her in a shoot, she put on James Brown and started dancing. He eventually loosened up and joined her.

It’s this playful spirit that seems to be the key to her success. For many of her photographs, Goldsmith would first set up a shot, pose in the way she wanted her subject to pose, and have them photograph her, creating a mutual empathy. She would also give subjects pieces of her own clothing to wear, such as a studded jacket that both Frank Zappa and Daryl Hall can be seen wearing in her pictures.

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A candid portrait of Keith Richards, in which his pose echoes that of Bo Diddley on the wall behind him.

Though she has worked in sports and photojournalism as well, she creates an especially strong bond with musicians–she even had a relationship with Bruce Springsteen in the early days of his career. It ended when Goldsmith felt overshadowed by Springsteen’s fame, wanting to achieve renown on her own terms. She certainly has, as her portfolio of unforgettable portraits can attest.

“I understand the language of certain musicians, and they will use me to put out there what they want other people to see.”

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