Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I photographed James Williamson in Iggy and The Stooges live in 1973 at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, with my pics published in The L.A. Weekly News, Performance, and some thirty years later, Britain's MOJO magazine. I was lucky enough to have been introduced to the Stooges' onslaught as it was first erupting by the same individual who introduced David Bowie to the band themselves. Comparatively few outside the group's native Midwest and pockets of L.A., S.F., and NYC proved sufficiently enlightened to have appreciated the Stooges during their first rocket blast ride around. Now they'll play to a festival of 30,000 in Brazil next month.

The Stooges (originals) and Iggy And The Stooges (James' incarnation) have always been my personal "go to" music (I can't bring myself to denote "happy place" with music this hellbent, but although my tastes are eclectic and demeanor low-key, I have a wild heart.) Hence a photo session with James Williamson nascent at the return to his legendary band for a "Raw Power" reunion after thirty-eight years was much anticipated fun.
James' music means a lot to a lot of people as well, so I wanted something a little different than what's been done already old or new. He looks great in person, so that was easy to get across. One addresses the thirty-eight year absence from the spotlight by making sure his recognizable star quality comes through to jog fans' memory of him onstage. One day in the 1970's he was the hotshot guitarist who most influenced the future of all the hard rock genres, cut, print, wrap and flash-forward to 2009 when he was a retiring Vice President of Sony Corporation, Division of Technology Standards and IEEE board member. (I had to ask my niece, who lives where his family and he live and works in his same field, exactly what it was that he did.)(And he's her new hero.) The artist's story is both fascinating and unique in rock for his top-of-his-field successes in two such separate lines of work, as if Jeff Beck morphed into Steve Jobs, but those ruminations are for another day, with a lot more fact-checking.

I wanted a warm but edgy look, which meant directional light with specific shadows, and the warm browns overall to emphasize his best feature noted from his prior pics, his intense eyes. I brought in an A List (private to the stars' homes) hairstylist, but no makeup. The red contrasting fresnel light matched two of the three guitars he brought. The lighting and asymmetric shadows in this setup were deliberate, bringing up what was wanted with other elements receding. James must think I'm a mute, because I don't give a lot of directions to people who know what they're doing. And top talent do. That way the result is about the natural bearing of the subject rather than the vanity of the photographer as a pose manipulator (unless that's what the subjects specify they want. I'm easy.) Being referential to what audiences remember from onstage appearances plus star quality within the artifice of the studio was the desired combination for the portrait above.

Photo: Kurt Ingham


Evanesco said...

very cool! Your photos and your descriptions of how you came to take them, put me in that "go to" spot. You paint the picture of the music I love so much.

MJG196 said...

I think James has found his new look! Great portrait.

mackyplanet said...

The lighting and thestance are classic. I think this portrait should hang in the Rock Hall of Fame.

Fast Film said...

for the rest of session. Other photos by Kurt Ingham.

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