Shooting Stars | AspenTimes.com

Shooting Stars

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times Staff Writer

Over 30 years, Lynn Goldsmith had compiled a dream catalog of rock ‘n’ roll photographs. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, The Police, Roger Daltrey, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bono and Goldsmith’s one-time boyfriend Bruce Springsteen were a few of the hundreds of rock stars Goldsmith had shot. Goldsmith’s photos wound up in the most prominent places: Life and Newsweek, album jackets, and numerous times on the cover of Rolling Stone. For years, though, Goldsmith never put her rock ‘n’ roll photographs in a most obvious place: a picture book. It’s not as if she didn’t have the material. Publishers were constantly asking her to make a book.But Goldsmith wanted more from a book than just a means of documenting her work and having it sit on coffee tables of rock fans. If she was going to do a book, Goldsmith wanted it to be original, meaningful and creative.”I didn’t want to do what’s already been done. I don’t see the point in that,” said Goldsmith, who opened her Lynn Goldsmith Gallery, in Basalt’s Midvalley Design Center, late last year. “I want the books to be a creative act for me.”Goldsmith was also reluctant to create a book of her musician pictures because she didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a rock photographer. Goldsmith’s career was broader than that: She had done extensive photojournalism work. She had contributed to the ambitious “A Day in the Life” series of photography books. She did fine-art photography. As often as not, Goldsmith would introduce herself as a photographer for National Geographic, which was technically accurate. When the rock ‘n’ roll book idea crept close enough that Goldsmith started looking through her files, she began to see herself in a more honest light.”I went into my files and saw that it was mostly rock ‘n’ roll,” said the 54-year-old Goldsmith. “It wasn’t about travel photography, it wasn’t about natural disasters. It was about rock ‘n’ roll.”I asked myself, ‘Why, Lynn, why are you a rock ‘n’ roll photographer?’ And I thought if I did the book, I could answer that question.”In 1995, Rizzoli International published “PhotoDiary.” It was, of course, the blockbuster rock ‘n’ roll picture book that everybody knew would come of Goldsmith’s catalog – hundreds of pictures, in color and black-and-white, of rock’s biggest stars, caught in natural environments and posed settings, occasionally naked or doing naughty things. But “PhotoDiary” was more than a picture book. As interesting as the photos are Goldsmith’s recollections and observations about the musicians. Each artist is illuminated by Goldsmith’s personal commentary. More than the musicians, though, “PhotoDiary” is about Goldsmith and her travels through the rock world. The long introduction details Goldsmith’s journey into music – through 45s of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill,” and Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” – and into photography, beginning at age 7, when her father took Goldsmith into the magical world of the dark room and eventually bought her a Baby Brownie camera. And in making “PhotoDiary,” Goldsmith gave herself a guided tour through her past, not just in pictures, but emotions and discoveries. “I felt the book was not about my pictures, but about my story,” said Goldsmith, who opens her latest exhibit, PhotoDiary: 25 Years of Rock & Roll Photographs, with a reception at her gallery tonight, Friday, July 12, at 5:30 p.m. “The pictures are part of the story, but it wasn’t just a bunch of rock ‘n’ roll pictures. It was a book of a girl who could have been anybody, and her path in life, and where the music took her.”When I was writing ‘PhotoDiary,’ and seeking images for it, I chose images that allowed me to tell the story which I felt would benefit not only myself, to review it and recount it, but would pass on some sort of message of what I learned in the situation. Therefore, I had to be honest with myself.”Music is of huge significance for Goldsmith, whose years backstage in the photographers’ pit hasn’t dimmed her appreciation for rock. “I came from a time when music was more than just a background,” said Goldsmith. “Music has become a background to our lives. Maybe I’m wrong. But for the baby boom generation, music was such an integral force to their own process of self-knowledge.”Of even more importance to Goldsmith than the music are the relationships with the musicians. The closing chapter of “PhotoDiary” is subtitled Friends & Lovers, and features photos and notes on the people Goldsmith considers among her closest friends: Frank Zappa, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren and the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Goldsmith had done two earlier rock photo books: “Springsteen Access All Areas,” which documented The Boss’ 1978 tour in black-and-white photos; and “The Police – 1976,” another small-scale, black-and-white photo book. Those two in-depth books, and the focus in “PhotoDiary” on interactions, create a picture of someone interested in creating something more than just visual images.”For Blondie, I didn’t just do Debbie Harry in the studio. I went on the road with Debbie,” said Goldsmith, who also documented tours by the Rolling Stones, the Police, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, the Pretenders, Ted Nugent and more. “Most photographers now are focused on studio work, and can’t go on the road and be a documentarian. I have a range on practically everyone: I shot Keith Richards onstage – but I also hung out with him at home. I felt if I was interested, I wanted the whole life.”To Goldsmith, “PhotoDiary” is a trip back not only into her younger days, but also into another time for rock ‘n’ roll. Goldsmith generally directed her own photo shoots; if she didn’t do the makeup and hair and costume herself, she brought in the people to do them.”Looking back, and seeing how the music of then is the music industry of now, I feel sorry for for many of those photographers who are supposedly out there, creating the images,” said Goldsmith, who continues to do select rock photography projects. “But now it’s more about manufactured images. It’s not about you and them – it’s about you and them and makeup and hair stylers and managers.”Of course, Goldsmith has hundreds of stories of life on the rock ‘n’ roll road, many of them told in “PhotoDiary.” But the best story is one not included in the book. It is the story of Goldsmith’s first effort at rock photography, and it offers a good insight into the different way Goldsmith has of looking at things.Goldsmith was living in Florida when the Beatles made their first visit to the States, in 1964. Goldsmith’s stepfather arranged for the budding photographer to shoot the Beatles in the lobby of their Miami hotel. But the 16-year-old Goldsmith was a devout Rolling Stones fan; she was more interested in photographing hotel lobby carpeting – a passion at the time, believe it or not – than the Beatles. When John, Paul, et al. made their way into the lobby, Goldsmith never even aimed her lens at their faces. When Goldsmith had her photograph published in the Miami newspaper the next day – her first published photo – it was a shot of John Lennon’s shoes against the hotel carpet.Goldsmith had hoped that making “PhotoDiary” would stir up memories of just such moments. More than anything, Goldsmith wanted her big book of rock ‘n’ roll photos to give her some perspective on herself and her years of shooting rock stars. And it did. “It gave me peace. It closed a chapter,” said Goldsmith, who is now at work on a more typical photography book, a large-format black-and-white with no stories, which she hopes will be out for Christmas 2004. “In writing, it resolved things for me. I was able to be my own therapist. This is why I wrote ‘PhotoDiary’ – to bring those memories back into some cohesive lines, to find out why those file cabinets are filled with pictures of music.”

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