Most people know me as a rock & roll photographer, the first chief photographer of Rolling Stone magazine. I am proud of my music photos; I think I did a pretty good job of capturing a significant moment in time when rock & roll became such a defining and powerful force in contemporary society. But when you look at my photographic career as a whole, my days at Rolling Stone and the years when my primary focus was on music represent a relatively small number of my days behind the camera.
When I decided to leave Rolling Stone in 1970 it wasn’t because I had lost my interesting in photography. It was simply that I found myself shooting the same pictures but with different subjects. I’m more of a derivatively creative photographer; that is, I photograph what I see and I do that pretty well. However, I seldom create scenes from scratch or come up with extraordinarily unique photographic ideas. So I found myself looking for new subjects to explore and to shoot.
I started shooting the NFL, for example, even traveled with a writer for an entire season as we shadowed the Oakland Raiders at home and on the road. From this came the “Oakland Raiders: The Good Guys,” an intimate portrait of the team which John Madden coached and for which Kenny Stabler played quarterback.
When my friend George Hall got me a ride on the Goodyear Blimp I was hooked on aerial photography. The view from above was as informative as it was beautiful.
So, after many years of wanting to, I finally learned how to fly – bought a plane, took lessons and got my license. With my plane I started doing aerial landscapes (“airscapes” I called them) which turned into book and calendars and ads and prints.
Together George and I eventually shot and produced a book about the Goodyear Blimp; called “The Blimp Book,” it was a big hit among aviation buffs and in the process I even piloted the blimp on several cross-country flights.
A few blocks from my house in the Haight-Ashbury I discovered the world of Roller Derby. Roller Derby (the real one) skated their games at Keezar Pavilion, an indoor sports arena at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park. I made friends with the owner, Jerry Seltzer, who gave me an “all-access pass” (worth its weight in gold to any serious photographer) and I proceeded to shoot roll after roll of that exciting game. I even got Rolling Stone to do a feature on the Derby and my publishing company eventually published a lovely book on the history of the game from its inception.
I did photos from the air looking down and photos in the air of other aircraft. I photographed a space shuttle launch and decorated vans. For an entire season I was the photographer for Danny Sullivan’s CanAm racing team the year before he drove an open-wheeled car to victory at Indianapolis. Along with a stirring text by famed autosports writer Leon Mandel, my photos from that year appeared in a fascinating book called “Fast Lane Summer.”
I started shooting figure studies – the female form has always fascinated me – and even taught a class in erotic photography. Eros, too, has long been a fascination of mine.
I photographed a number of authors and celebrities from Vladimir Nabokov to Graham Greene to John Updike to William Burroughs to Sammy Davis Jr. to Ann Margaret to Karen Black to Roman Polanski – the list goes on.
Point is, for me there was definitely life beyond rock, and as much as I loved rock and roll and the rock and rollers themselves, I knew in my heart that music was only one stop on my journey of exploring life. I am hugely proud of what I accomplished during the rock & roll years, but I am equally proud of the less-well-known years that followed.