The Photographer Offers Intimate Anecdotes of the Sonic Poets in His Exhibition
Patti is like my sister. We had an immediate spiritual connection. When [we met in] Detroit in '95 she knew immediately that I didn’t really know anything about her because I didn’t grow up with her music. I tend not to want to research anybody I photograph, to be honest. Patti was that precise situation and I asked her if I could start filming her and that’s how the film [Dream of Life] became what it is. I just followed her for years, learning about her; the fact that I didn’t know much about her was a sin. Patti is a national treasure––there’s no woman on the planet like her.
Michael is a very dear friend of mine and he’s the reason I met Patti. Patti needed to be photographed for SPIN back in 95 and I had just shot Michael, whose record she was working on [REM’s 1996 album New Adventures in Hi-Fi; Smith contributed vocals to the track "E-Bow the Letter”]. He mentioned my name and so I’m forever grateful to him.
I photographed Philip Glass for L’Uomo Vogue and he happens to be in the Dream of Life as well. I’m totally inspired by him: for me, he is the modern composer of our time.
Jim Carroll was amazing––very thin, very cool, and he spoke quickly. Spiritually, he was an intense person. In one of the portraits he’s wearing a wire mesh headpiece that was designed by my friend [hair stylist] Bob Recine.
Neil Young resonated with me when I was growing up. I used to wear this old 1950s Stetson back in the day, and the only thing he wanted to do during the sitting was wear it.
I shot Richard Hell in a bookstore in [New York’s] East Village for GQ years ago and he was a very high-energy, interesting guy. Patti would say he’s one of our biggest poets. His portrait has this really cool arrogance about it.
From what I understand, my picture of Joey Ramone was one of the last sittings he did before he passed. He was very excited about the photoshoot and I remember him leaving this really long message on my answering machine. Hot pink was Joey’s favorite color, and so I manipulated his image so there was a bit of pink and purple in it. I wish I’d saved that message.