When did you begin work in rock photography?
I started at an alternative newspaper in Providence called The Point in 1972 with Lou Papineau [who is now the managing editor of this paper]. We had our offices in the old Palace Theater building, which is now where PPAC is. It folded near the end of ’73. But I discovered I really liked doing music photography, so I went to San Francisco because of the music scene. I was Bill Graham’s company photographer for a while. I was already freelancing for magazines like Creem and Rolling Stone, which was located there. In those years, access was easy. If you wanted to go back to the dressing room, all you had to do was walk back there and start taking pictures.
What was your subject matter like in San Francisco?
I was doing hard rock for a while, like Mott the Hoople, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper. Then along came punk, which for me started out with acts like Iggy Pop and Patti Smith. Most people turned their noses up at it. But I thought it was a pretty interesting phenomenon, so I really got into it.
DAZZLING DUO: Joni Mitchell and B.B. King circa 1982.
How did punk rock influence your work as a photographer?
It was a challenge getting photos amid the pogoing [and] slam-dancing. Aside from that, punk didn’t influence me creatively. There was so much visually going in with these bands that it was easy getting good shots. They were accessible, too. They didn’t have egos.
What happened with your career after punk subsided?
In 1984 I was 40 and everybody else was 18, and music wasn’t as inspiring. I decided to come back to Providence in 1991, after 18 years out there.
It must have been a great way to make a living.
Definitely. During my heyday I went to at least four shows a week and then processed film in the afternoon. It was a great way to make a living, but I was there mainly for the fun of it. I would have been at those shows if I was getting paid for it or not.
After working with film for so long, what is your feeling about digital photography?
I wish I had it back then. Digital is more sensitive to light than film, so you’re not shooting at slow shutter speeds in low light. At a normal concert, [I’d take] about 100 pictures. There would be five to 10 usable shots and only two or three gems. You had to carry two cameras, change film every 36 pictures, and hope the mike wasn’t in front of their face. In the old days, I’d shoot, develop, make proof sheets, and decide which ones to print. That would be up to five hours of work. [Now] I’ll shoot 200 pictures and take an hour to sort them out on a computer.
What can we look forward to at the exhibit?
I guess you could say that this show represents my entire body of work. There’s some punk here — Blondie, Sex Pistols, the Ramones — but there’s a lot of other classic stuff, all the biggest names in music. It’ll knock you out.