Exclusive: Digging Through the Archive with Danny Clinch
Any hardcore music fans will already be overtly familiar with the work of Danny Clinch, even those that have never heard his name. As a music photographer, he is responsible for some of the most iconic images of some of the most iconic artists on the planet. His subjects have included just about everyone, from Kanye West, Jay-Z, Tupac, and Eminem, to Bjork, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes, Pearl Jam, and Stevie Nicks, just to name a handful. With the release of a new book of a collection of his work, titled Still Moving, and the upcoming exhibition Walls of Sound here at Milk Gallery, Clinch is giving a chance for longtime admirers and newcomers alike to enter his world, one full of familiar faces and clandestine moments all captured in the ever widening scope of his lens. Milk Made’s Jake Boyer to Clinch mid-preparation for the gallery exhibit, and we gleaned a little more insight into his work habits, his first ever concert, and how Ringo Starr wanted a copy of his work playlist.
What is your earliest memory of photography?
My earliest memory of photography? I won a camera at a church function for bringing the most kids to the summer church sessions. I also remember very well being at a yard sale with my mother and spotting a camera and wanting to have it. My mom took a lot of photos as a kid, she was the snapshot queen, she still is. I had a lot photography in my life, my grandfather on both sides took photos. So I was always into it. And so I’ve always been drawn to it, so I grabbed the camera.
What about your interest in music? Were they always lumped together for you or was that a very separate interest?
Yeah I think strangely enough I’ve always loved music. I just was always going to concerts and I was always drawn to going to concerts. I started to sneak my camera into shows whenever I would go. Then when I was 16 or 17 and everybody would ask me what I wanted to do for a living, and I started to think seriously about photography. I went to community college for two years then I went to the New England school of Photography in Boston for a couple years. And I decided afterward it would do me some good to start some photo workshops. I was a big fan of Annie Liebovitz and she was giving a workshop in the Ansel Adams studio in Yosemite. I went to that workshop and she gave me a job as one of her interns on the spot, all through going to that workshop. So then I was able to see how it was done right, how not to take ‘no’ for an answer, all that good stuff. I don’t know if that answered your question, but that’s how it went.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
That’s a good question, I can’t really remember. It might’ve been the Charlie Daniels Band. I saw them at Six Flags Great Adventure when I was really young. And then Ted Nugent, he was one of the first for sure. Bruce Springsteen was shortly after, as was Van Halen.
What was the last concert you went to?
I saw The Gaslight Anthem this past Friday at Terminal 5. It was amazing. They put on a great show, and their fans were reaaally locked into it. There was moshing going on, but in a good way, and there was crowd surfing. The density of people in the front row singing along to every word was insane.
Is music an integral part of a shoot when you’re shooting portraits?
It can be. Depending on the situation. If I’m doing a session I want to bring in some tunes. I like to surprise people, because when you’re photographing and the subject gets on their toes trying to figure out who’s playing you get a fantastic reaction on film. Very recently I did a shoot with Ringo Starr, and I had my classic playlist going, which is very diverse, it has everything from the Beach Boys to the Notorious B.I.G. and everything in between. About halfway through he stopped me and asked whose playlist it was. And when I told him it was mine, and he asked me for a copy of it! So I put it on a thumb drive and there he went. It was a highlight.
What are you hoping to gain from the opening of this new gallery show?
Fame and fortune. I’m banking everything on this show. No, in all seriousness, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I want my friends and family who know the classic Danny Clinch photos in here to dig a little deeper. To have people come in here who know my work and say ‘Shit, I’ve never seen that one.’ Digging through the archive has been really fun. This collage wall here that I’m working on is going to be about 75% photos people have never seen before. Never been shown ever, I only found them pretty recently myself.
Who is someone that you haven’t worked with that you’d like to?
I’ve never photographed Prince. And I would LOVE to photograph him. That would be a great opportunity.
What do you think it is about the marriage of photography and music that gets people so excited?
I think that people really care about music on so many levels, for so many reasons. And whatever you celebrate or pump yourself up or relax with it for, the musicians who make the music are important to people. And it’s cool to document that. I’m a big fan of documenting things, not only of taking a portrait of someone but also to document. Be in the recording studio. Be on stage. Be back stage. Getting the access and the trust from someone to catch that moment. And being such a music fan, being able to contribute in some way or another to that legacy is really special.
Photographs by Danny Clinch.
Walls of Sound: Photographs by Danny Clinch – A Milk Gallery Project presented by Aether Cones – is on exhibit at Milk Gallery from 4th of March till 5th if April 2015.