Famed rock and roll photographer Lynn Goldsmith has chronicled Bruce Springsteen’s passage to glory, The Rolling Stones’ legendary stadium tours, Michael Jackson’s staggering ascent, U2’s arrival in New York, and the brooding force of Bob Marley. Here, the legendary Goldsmith chats with Life+Times about the creation of her new book entitled Rock and Roll Stories.
Life+Times: You’ve been credited with being one of the leading-image makers of rock and roll photography. What do you make of this title?
Lynn Goldsmith: I make little of it, though I’m grateful to be recognized for it. My work has always been about identity; helping others to reach their potential and to believe in something higher than themselves. So if what I do visually helps the artist as well as the fan to feel more connected to the music, I’ve done my job well.
L+T: Tell me a little bit about your path, as I know you crashed the music scene in NYC back in the heyday.
LG: I wrote the book Rock and Roll Stories because I am asked that question often. The book is about my journey. I am and always have been a musician. I also have been making photographs since I was about 8. I was filmmaker, a network TV director, and manager of a rock group, [Grand Funk] that allowed me to bring a number of my skills together. It is a circuitous path that we follow to become a particular identity in the eyes of others. With this book, I use rock and roll as a format for attracting people to the story. The point of writing this memoir, and not just putting out a book of images, was not to take a victory lap, to crow about music icons I know, to settle old scores, to prove points, brag about accomplishments, or grind axes. It’s an examination of what I had to overcome in order to achieve success and stability. By facing and coming to terms with our past, we can free ourselves from it. I felt that now I had the self-knowledge to expose myself and that might be useful to another person on their path. It is not that my life is extraordinary, but rather that the world in which I spend it is.
L+T: In Rock and Roll Stories, you share the best of your photographic works. What was the editing process like? What was your main goal when putting this together?
LG: The images in Rock and Roll Stories are not necessarily my best photographs. They were selected to underscore what it was I wanted to say. That is why the book is divided into chapters.
L+T: Do you have a favorite photograph that appears in the book? If so – what is it? Why?
LG: My favorite images are of me or me and others as they are personal – they feel like my skin.
L+T: Looking through all these photographs when putting the book together, what did it feel like? Must have been a pretty nostalgic yet incredible project to work on.
LG: It was great because it forced me to remember things long buried in my memory. Life is nostalgic for anyone looking back as it all goes by so quickly. I don’t take that much time in the ordinary course of my life to look back so it was a gift of time.