Tracy Chapman

I found this photo I shot of singer Tracy Chapman in 1988. The record company had been searching for the right photographer to shoot her press pictures. They had already done three photo shoots with some big name photographers but Tracy didn’t like the images and the record company knew she was going to be important. They needed someone who she would get along with and that turned out to be me. She arrived at my studio unaccompanied and we decided to take a stroll through the East Village – stopping at various spots to grab a couple of shots, talking about politics, music, racism in America – I was shooting Tri X film so there was no way to look at what we were getting but I think she felt at ease.We stopped for a coffee in the local diner before going back to the studio to shoot a few photos with her guitar one of which ended up on the 12″ sleeve ‘Talkin’ bout a Revolution’. Tracy grew up  poor in Cleveland, her lyrics on that first album touch on lazy, cops, race riots, wife beating and escaping poverty : “poor people gonna rise up and take what’s theirs” In spite of telling uncomfortable truths about the America she saw, her debut album beat out the likes of Def Leppard and Guns and Roses and rose to #1 in the charts that summer.

Absolut X Jose James

I’ve been working with jazz singer and musician Jose James for the past year.He’s been busy: playing with a 100 piece classical orchestra in Amsterdam, producing the trumpet player Takuya’s album, and writing and recording his new album – all while touring the world with his band.

We filmed a piece for Absolut Vodka last year – the theme was ‘Everyone expresses creativity differently but what happens when you apply your creativity to something completely new’ – Jose decided to apply his creativity to taking a photograph – I was to give him a nuts to bolts lesson on how to take a photo using black and white film, and make a print in the darkroom –  become, as he said, his ‘sensei’ for the day, José was an excellent student  Here it is:  Absolut X

Graffiti Artists

I first became aware of graffiti in London in 1982 – taking photos of the first hip hop tour to come to Europe for Melody Maker I met Futura and Dondi White who tagged the dumpster outside the hotel for my photo (see above), or maybe just because that was what they did. Earlier that month I had photographed American rapper J Walter Negro painting a mural of New York trains for the Christmas cover of the magazine. I loved this new art

Moving to New York later that year the art was everywhere. Commissioned by style magazine ‘The Face’ to photograph the Rock Steady Crew I went to Harlem to shoot them break dancing on a piece of cardboard in front of a huge mural of a tiger’s head. I photographed BDP aka Boogie Down Productions in the Bronx in front of a graffiti covered wall, Salt & Pepa on the Lower East Side, Bambaata and members of the Zulu Nation in the Bronx,Eric B and Rakim in NYC with graffiti behind them, Stetsasonic in Brooklyn posing with the Stetson sign covered in tags and stickers.I wondered who these unknown artists were that painted the backdrops for so many of my photographs.

In 1983 I was in Los Angeles documenting the East LA gang El Hoyo Maravilla – their turf was centered around the Hoyo Maravilla park and clearly marked by the local artists. East LA was covered in paintings too I shot punk band The Undertakers (below) at their rehearsal space in the barrio.

And today I am still thanking amazing artists like Cope2 for giving so much ‘Flava; to my photographs, and providing a time line for these images in the future.

GoHardBoyz The Bronx 2013


Angel Haze

Angel Haze is the real thing. The twenty two year old stand out rapper’s music has been described as ‘brutal’ and ‘beautiful. She says “I focus on being as honest as I can possibly be because I feel like music, to an extent, is philanthropic. In all my ventures, I set out to reach people who are just like me.”  I photographed her for the latest issue of Out Magazine, she is a big Tracy Chapman fan, we made friends on the photo shoot after she discovered I shot the cover for Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution’. Growing up in Detroit in a Pentecostal sect she rejected that life and moved to New York. Legend has it she turned down an opportunity to tour with Beyonce, in December she leaked her latest album after the record company wanted to delay the release, she walks to her own beat.

Stevie Wonder

Daft Punk and Pharrell had two of my all time favorite artists onstage at the Grammies: Nile Rogers and Stevie Wonder. Stevie was one of the first Motown artist I became aware of in the 60′s while working my first summer holiday job with Motown playing all day long on British radio. In the early 80′s I went to LA to shoot some artists for Melody Maker with my friend the writer Paolo Hewitt , Both avid soul fans we got to meet Stevie Wonder (see above and below with Berry Gordy), Patrice Rushen, Junior Giscombe and the Johnson Brothers. Stevie is as fresh as ever today, ‘Living for the City’ is one of the all time great songs telling the story of America, racism and poverty.

Smutty Smith Tattoo

While working on a story for Rebel Ink Magazine in December I went with Smutty Smith (the Rockats) to  shoot him getting a tattoo by Baz at New York Hard Core. Baz, a rockabilly at heart, is fond of traditional and Japanese style tattoos. He spent 4 hours tattooing a lovely stand up base and roses on Smutty’s ribcage.

Smutty had tattoos when I first met him in 1981 – below is my photo backstage at the Whiskey in Los Angeles of ‘Rosemarie’ and a young friend admiring the art work.

Dre Dre & Dillon Cooper

This month Interview Magazine features my photo of new ‘young blood’ rapper Dillon Cooper (above) wearing Alexander Wang and Nike. shot in NYC December 2013. Dillon age 21 grew up in Crown Heights Brooklyn. He immersed himself in hip-hop in High School learning how to rap to Dr Dre’s classic ‘Nuthin’but a ‘G’ Thang’. Now part of the ‘Beast Coast’ movement he self released a debut mix tape “Cozmik’ last June.

Esquire Magazine, this month, is running my archive photo of Dr Dre (below) wearing a Raiders cap Nike top and K Swiss sneakers, shot in Los Angeles in 1990. He’s been listening to music for as long as he can remember. His mother has a picture of him in a onesie putting a needle to a turntable. He says “You can learn but in order to be good at it, to be really great at it, it has to be in you” Dr Dre now 48 years old,  is a rapper, producer and headphone magnate.

John Cougar Mellancamp

Photographed John Cougar Mellencamp with Meg Ryan strolling in Soho for Frye boots.John is a cool dude and found out when I gave Meg my card, she is a Slick Rick fan. Impressive.

Leaders of the New School

I photographed the group Leaders of the New School in 1989 in my studio. We had artist friends the ‘ThunderJockeys’ paint a crazy backdrop for the shoot.Check out the video clip I made at the studio. The group : Busta Rhymes, Cut Monitor Milo, Charlie Brown and Dinco D were from Uniondale Long Island. Next day we went to Uniondale and photographed them at their school.The group went on tour with Public Enemy and Busta Rhymes became famous.

Grand Mixer D.ST

Grand Mixer D.ST in London 1982 on the first hip hop tour to Paris and London traveling with the Rock Steady Crew , Afrika Bambaataa , Futura 2000 , Dondi , Fab 5 Freddy , Infinity 4 Emcees , Double Dutch Girls , Phase 2. D.ST started spinning around 1975 and got the name D.ST.from D Street which is what they called Delancey St. where he used to hang out. He was the house DJ at the Roxy and spins on Herbie Hancocks ‘Rock It ‘.