Today, I went to a rock ‘n roll event in Amsterdam, organized by the Cruise Inn Rock ‘n Roll Café, where I met Gert Hilhorst. I first photographed him in 1979 and one of his portraits ended on the cover of the Soft Cover book Rockers, published this year. I just had to make a photograph of him holding the magazine.
Getting older as a photographer has some real advantages. Photography is like good wine. It gets better with age. Occasionally somebody contacts me using the web form to ask if they can use a picture I made 20, 30 or even 40 years ago. Which is what happened last week.
And again it was one of the photographs I made for a series called Rockers in the late Seventies. A portrait of Bill Haley taken in a dressing room for a really low budget magazine in 1979. I forgot the title of the magazine and I remember working for free, which was not as common in the 1970s as it is today. Nowadays if you produce a two or four page spread for a high end glossy magazine, you will no doubt get a snotty editor on the phone who will explain that it is good publicity for your work if you do it for free.
Publishing today is a wonderful world inhabited by a surplus of creepy marketing/sales people, yet very few people who can actually create content.
In this particular case I was approached by Pleasekillme.com and they actually asked for a license, instead of just stealing the picture. Asking for permission to use copyright protected material today is as rare as the sighting of an albino lion in the midst of the Swiss Alps.
So I immediately felt sympathy for them and I sent the picture for free. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Yes!
I really loved their site. I saw some old pictures of people I photographed in the past like Al Goldstein and Charlie Cracie. I immediately felt at home. Great articles too!
I can hardly grasp it, but it is 40 years ago that I ditched the advertising agency I was doing product photography for and started working on the Rockers series. I made thousands of photographs and the project at first almost left me broke, but over the years it became my bestselling project. The photographs are still popular and at times I feel like an old rock band on a come back tour with a public shouting to do my first hit once over.
Of course I am also very proud of this series. During this series a certain style of portrait photography evolved and up to this day I am faithful to that photographic approach.
This is a good time to start thinking about a book and my friend Norm came over to Amsterdam to write some poetic prose about the subject and we made this short movie to hopefully encourage people to buy the book that will be published in 2018.
The Rockers series was shot in 1977 and 1978. There are more than a thousand negatives in my archives, and they are all shot in black & white as you can see on the [ Rockers portfolio ] page.
While going through my archives I recently found a return envelope, coming from the French magazine Photographiques and then it all came back to me. I had shot two rolls of 120 film in color because they had asked for a cover in color. Of those two films – each containing twelve pictures – I selected three. In the end Photographiques published all prints in black & white without informing me. Only decades later I found out that they were actually published because my son Max came across the issue on Ebay while searching for my work.
I decided to remaster the negatives because of slight damages in the background and put at least one of these prints up for sale as a limited edition museum quality print. The edition is limited to 50 prints. All prints are signed and numbered on the back of the photograph.