Backstage with a Rock Star Music Photographer

Danny Clinch loves music—everything about it, from playing it to photographing it. He also loves the concept of a photograph as a document and aims to capture the history of the bands he’s shooting. The fact that he is so passionate about music—and speaks the language—gives him a leg up when it comes to capturing powerful, iconic images. He knows what images he wants, he finds the moments in between, and he documents the real, gritty, fast-paced, chaotic, and lonely life on the road:

The bands Danny Clinch has shot are some of the biggest in the world. Over the past two decades, he has photographed hundreds of big-time musicians, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Johnny Cash, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, Tupac Shakur, Beastie Boys, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw.

bob dylan photo

Bob Dylan, 1999

He switches flawlessly between music genres, capturing artistically composed images and journalistic shots of rockers, rappers, country artists, jazz artists, and pop stars. He’s with the musicians backstage, photographing them before they go onstage and, because Clinch has become friends with many of the musicians, he’s even trusted to be on the very close sidelines while they are onstage.

Clinch stealthily places himself at the back of the stage, hiding behind the drums or amplifiers as the bands play their sets, snapping away without the audience even knowing, and making sure not to disturb the musicians. Because he is right there, right where the bands are, he is able to see and capture incredibly intimate and unique perspectives, many of which have become some of the most iconic images in music photography.

pearl jam photo

Pearl Jam

Whether doing a studio shoot or photographing a concert, he always shoots like it’s going to be a cover photo because as he says, you never know how it’s going to end up being used down the road.

When shooting a concert, Clinch says:

“I’m trying to capture a moment. It’s not about the singer at the microphone. I’m trying to look for, like, a moment in between.”

johnny cash photo

Johnny Cash backstage

Clinch’s work has been used on hundreds of album covers and appeared in publications like Rolling Stone, Spin, GQ, Esquire, and Vanity Fair. He has also presented his work in galleries and published three books: Discovery Inn, When the Iron Bird Flies, and Danny Clinch: Still Moving. His images are powerful and inspiring, and do a great job of capturing the history, style, and mood of each and every musician he has the pleasure of photographing.

“You’re in a sense part of the history of that moment. And I never really get tired of that, and I never take it for granted.”

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