Never-before-seen photos of Prince, Madonna and Rolling Stones in Paul Natkin’s new book

Paul Natkin is undoubtedly one of Chicago’s most famous music photographers. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Madonna, Prince and The Beastie Boys (pictured above), but rather modestly attributes his success to “being in the right place at the right time”.

Today, after a long and successful career, Paul finally publishes his life’s work in Natkin: the moment of truthpublished by Trope Publishing Co, which includes behind-the-scenes portraits and never-before-seen concert photos.

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Photography was not a path Paul had planned to pursue, but rather one he fell into after discovering the advantages his father knew about as a photographer. His mother and father were both freelance photographers but left to pursue other areas of work when Paul was born. When he was 19, his father’s business as a building contractor was starting to falter and he decided to get back into taking pictures.

Paul’s father’s first job was working for the Chicago Bulls basketball team, which sparked Paul’s interest in photography. “When I heard you could play games for free and get the best seats in the house, I decided that was the career for me!”

Overview of Natkin: the moment of truth (Image credit: Paul Natkin)

Paul’s career in sports photography was relatively short, and in 1975 he decided to persevere in music photography because he realized he could combine two of his greatest passions.

Success didn’t come right away for Paul but, when he did, it came quickly and well. Over the course of his career spanning four decades, Paul had some amazing opportunities, including becoming a tour photographer for the Rolling Stones, but one defining moment is what led Paul to believe he had ‘made it’.

“I was hired to be the photographer for Keith Richards’ first solo tour, and because of that I was hired the following year to be the photographer for the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels tour.”

From there, Paul became a regular contributor to Creem Magazine, Weekly entertainment and even Playboy. He photographed the cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s live album, Tributeand the only cover of Alanis Morisette’s biggest hit, Ironic. But the highlight of his career so far was yet to come and would come in the form of an exclusive shoot for Prince.

“The Queen of Pop” Madonna (Image credit: Paul Natkin)

Paul was asked by his publicist if he wanted to photograph Prince’s birthday party in June 1984, where he was going to wear all the outfits he was to wear in the upcoming film. purple rainand of course, Paul jumped at the chance.

“I went up to Minneapolis, expecting there to be about 100 photographers bumping into each other on stage. I got off the plane, took a cab, and headed to the venue, where I found out I was going to be the only photographer allowed in the building that night! So I camped in front of the stage and waited for Prince to come out. When he started playing, he was about five feet in front of me and posed for me all night.

Since Paul embarked on his career as a music photographer in 1975, no concert in Chicago has escaped his radar. He was a much sought-after photographer who had the good fortune to photograph most of the major musical debuts of the 20th century.

Despite her celebrity-filled career, only one artist has ever made her feel dazzled — and that was country singer, Emmylou Harris. “The combination of beauty and talent doesn’t happen often in life, and I have a hard time talking to her when we’re in the same room!” But I love photographing her.”

Axl Rose and Mick Jagger (Image credit: Paul Natkin)

Never very gear conscious, to this day Paul shoots a 50-year-old Hasselblad with a digital back and various Nikon DSLRs. Even though the technology of photography has advanced considerably since the start of his career, Paul believes that there is “no difference between the age of ‘film’ and the age of ‘digital’, except that there there are a lot more people who call themselves photographers and the competition is fierce”.

When asked what advice he would give to someone getting into music photography, he said, “It’s much more difficult these days, with the restrictions on photographers and the lack of magazine clients. (most blogging sites don’t pay very much for images). I would say start at the bottom and shoot bands that will give you access, and hopefully they will become famous one day!

Paul Natkin’s first book, Natkin: the moment of truth, will hit bookstores in late spring 2022. This 288-page, slipcase-bound monograph, priced at $55 (about £42 / AU$75), features works spanning all musical genres, from jazz and country to punk, blues, rock and hip hop. To learn more, visit the Trope website.

Double page from Natkin: the moment of truth (Image credit: Paul Natkin)

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