Lynn Goldsmith has completed another milestone. The Looking Glass was an ambitious photographic series culminating in a traveling installation and book publication. This project explores commerce, fashion, art, popular culture, and identity. It features meticulous set creation, lighting, and retouching.
Currently, Goldsmith is working on a new career-spanning book focusing on her 40-year association with the world’s top musical talent. Called Rock ’n’ Roll Stories, the projected publication date is this Fall of 2013. Longtime fans will be happy to hear she is reviving her alter ego, Will Powers, and working on a Will Powers DVD which should also be available around the same time as her new book this autumn.
Whether in the studio or on location, Goldsmith is particular about her lighting. “It’s amazing how much I depend on the AcuteB 600R,” she says. “I love the Air Sync. That’s the whole wave of the future. The less stuff you have, the better. It’s less complicated, and lighter weight. Since my work now is centered more on doing things in locations than the studio, it’s a very important piece of equipment for a number of reasons when you travel.”
Goldsmith has always relied on stage lights to set the tone for her concert photography, but she lights backstage or in studios. “Often the light there is not as exciting and doesn’t really give the feeling of what is going on. In that way, because there are so many opportunities to shape the light with the seven inch grid reflector, for example. You’re able to do a variety of things with by bringing it closer or moving it further from the light source, which is a kind of fine tuning. Also, just being able to have a small beauty dish is important.”
Photographing popular music’s elite for decades has afforded Goldsmith a familiarity around her subjects and they around her as she works. She sets up her lighting to be minimally invasive, and attempts to retain a photojournalistic quality to her backstage work. “They’re puttering about doing their thing and they’re so used to you and your ways. So it’s more a matter of being so friendly with your own equipment you can set up what you want quickly. I’m good at being fast. That’s why the speed at which the AcuteB recycles is also really important for me,” she says, laughing.
In a career filled with busy backstage scenes and handlers herding people and talent around, Goldsmith has both learned to both work quickly and make deep connections—two things which are usually incongruent. “When you’re being told you have limited time, it’s difficult for photographers to create any great work, whether it’s with famous people or not famous people. There’s always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, I think that depth of one’s work has to do with both the depths of the photographer themselves as the human beings, and the depth to which they’ve made a commitment to the subject,” she says.
Bringing lighting gear to backstage dressing rooms separated Goldsmith from many of her contemporaries. “I used to get so upset many years ago being called a rock ’n’ roll photographer because most of those [other] photographers really had no education in photography, and they were there to meet the group, be around the artist, whatever the case might be. To tell you the truth, I had no interest in that. My interest was in making the best images I could about people who had so much influence over a lot of other people. In the ’70s, I knew—being someone who came out of the ’60s—how powerful a force popular music and popular culture were. The writing was on the wall that these [musicians] were the messengers, so to speak, who were going to influence everybody else to change the world. They did in a superficial way of fashion as well as how we think. In my documentation of it and my participation in image making was really a part of what I consider to be my role in how important music is as a kind of universal language. Music is the only thing I can think of other than photography that is a universal language. If you’re showing an image of war, whether the person’s Chinese and doesn’t speak a word of English, or they’re English and they don’t speak a word of Chinese, they’re still going to have the same reaction to it.”
With a forty year career, Goldsmith has seen many aspects of photography change. “There is so much on the shoulders of the photographer to know. Before, you dropped your film off at the lab. Now, you can spend hours and hours tweaking your pictures a million different ways. If you gave your work to an agency to syndicate, that agency took care of all the aspects of stamping your work with your copyright. They did a lot of the routine work. Now it’s very different. You have to not only process it, but you have to keyword it. You have to know about keywording, and then you have to upload it.” She also cites the learning curve of various computer applications, backing up data, and other demands of a digital workflow.
Dividing her time between New York City and Aspen, Colorado, Goldsmith is still constantly working. “One of the reasons I’m in Aspen is because of the access to all different kinds of offshoots of our culture, some being political. We get amazing politicians coming through there, from the Clintons to Colin Powell. The Aspen Ideas Festival brings in an array of incredible writers, Nobel winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, so I do little photo shoots with as many of these people I’m interested in because I want to meet them.” She recently reconnected with biographer Walter Isaacson. The two first met when Issacson was Editor of TIME magazine and Goldsmith shot for the publication.
“I’ve photographed almost all the recent Supreme Court judges,” Goldsmith says. “I’ve met and photographed amazing people, and having a unit like the Profoto AcuteB is as necessary as having a camera. I’m able to set it up quickly and pull one of these amazing people aside and get a great portrait of them.”
Shooting quickly but professionally has helped Goldsmith create compelling portraits of the most popular authors, leaders, actors, and musicians of our time. With no signs of slowing down and more projects on the way this year, she seems timeless, and has more energy than photographers in their twenties. She leaves me with an old expression which has always worked for her. “Risk equals reward,” Lynn Goldsmith tells me, smiling.
Lynn Goldsmith on Facebook
All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Lynn Goldsmith, all rights reserved; story is ©Profoto. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or re-post elsewhere without written permission.
Trackback from your site.