Guns and Roses

I have been scanning my archive lately (Alphabetically) and have recently gotten through the G section of the alphabet, which includes Guns and Roses. I photographed them a lot in their early days. Axl Rose was always a surly egomaniac with a great voice and great songs. I was through with them when he jumped off the front of the stage with his microphone stand to hit me over the head with it because he thought I had used a flash (it was actually an audience member behind me). Luckily his road manager was standing next to me and stopped him!! It seems that the band spent a lot of time and energy stopping people from photographing them in their early days.

Then they went away for about 20 years while they made their next album! They went out on tour to support that album (which wasn’t finished yet). I went to that show. They were two hours late hitting the stage, and Guns and Roses was composed of Axl, Matt Sorum and a bunch of guys that looked like G and R members,, but didn’t play like them!. Axl looked pretty good, sang pretty well also. They then did a few more tours, like Spinal Tap, always in smaller and smaller venues. I heard that Axl got quite fat during that period.

Now, he is trying to “scrub” the internet of all of the fat photos, using DMCA takedown notices to do so. DMCA takedown notices are meant to be used to protect copyright holders from piracy, not to protect rock stars vanity. Axl’s takedown notices claim that “no permission has been granted to publish the images.”

Excuse me! The photographers were granted photo passes!

Axl must know that he will be photographed by hundreds of “Photographers” with cell phones every time he steps out on stage. Will he next try to stop all of them??


On another note, didn’t Ryan Lochte and his three friends realize that there are cameras everywhere in the world and they cannot lie about what they were doing at that gas station last week? Also, why did they post their whole night on social media (with time stamps) to counter their whole made up story? Lochte is 32 years old- but really only 12 in real time years. He should be ashamed of himself!

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The Olympics

In September of 2009, I was driving down Route 66 toward St. Louis. My friend who was sitting in the passenger seat was fiddling with her phone, trying to get the results of the vote on which city (Chicago was included) would get the honor of hosting the 2016 Olympics. We were both shocked when Chicago was knocked out first. Shock turned to happiness when we realized that we wouldn’t have to put up with traffic jams and all the other stuff that goes along with the event. Rio “won” and is now spending billions of dollars hosting the 2016 Olympic Games.

I am a sucker for this stuff, and have already put in about 20 hours this week on the couch, watching stuff I would never normally care about. Like a six hour bicycle race that almost made me late for an appointment, as I had to see how it ended. In a heartbreaker, the guy who was leading all the way lost in the last ½ mile.

There are great stories every day about athletes that work for their entire lives to try to get up on that podium and hear their country’s anthem.

My Favorites:

Michael Phelps, once a wild teenager- drug busts and DUI busts- keeps on winning medals and is now the heart and soul of the American swim team. Who doesn’t believe that he will be back to win more in 2020?

Mo Farah, born in Somalia, runs for Great Britain, lives and trains in Portland, Oregon, won the 10,000 meter run in the last 100 meters, after being knocked down in the beginning of the race, getting up and calmly following two Kenyans for about 9500 meters and then destroyed all their allusions of winning by calmly turning on the jets and smoking them in the last backstretch.

Tori Bowie, born in Mississippi, abandoned by her mother when she was two, raised by her grandparents ( kind of the same story as Simone Biles) who is set today to run the finals of the 100 meter dash and possibly become the “Worlds Fastest Woman”)

Anthony Erwin, and American swimmer who won a gold medal in the 50 meter dash in the 2000 Olympics, stopped swimming for 7 years, started training again and made the team for this years games. He again won the gold medal in the 50 meter dash this week!

Simone Manuel, 20 years old form Houston Texas, became the first African American Swimmer to win Olympic gold. In total she won 2 silver and 2 gold this week, and is an inspiration for young African American girls the world over. Just this morning, I watched a piece on the local news about a swim club on the south side of Chicago. They interviewed a girl who wanted to be “Just like Simone” and go to the Olympics.

Then, there is Lilly King, a 19 year old swimmer who called out the Russian swimmer swimming in the lane next to her, who had already been banned twice in the past for doping, calling her a cheater. She then came out and beat the Russian girl by one second, winning gold in the 100 meter breaststroke, adding another gold yesterday in the 4×100 relay.

There were many reactions to her outspoken press conferences, the most telling being Michael Phelps saying that he doubts that he ever swam a race where all of the swimmers were ”clean.” Justin Gatlan, an American track and field star who is running in the 100 meter dash today, and who was banned twice in his career for using banned substances, said: “I don’t even know who Lilly King is.” “I have come back and done what I needed to do.”

Finally, in a remarkable display of sportsmanship, Hope Solo, the goalie on the American women’s soccer team, after the Swedish team came up with a tactic to beat the best team in the world:

“We played a creative game. We had many opportunities on goal. We showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down. I’m very proud of this team.” “We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly believe that.”

“Sweden dropped back. They didn’t want to open play. They didn’t want to pass the ball around. They didn’t want to play great soccer, entertaining soccer. It was a combative game. A physical game. Exactly what they wanted. Exactly what their game plan was. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. I think it was very cowardly. But they won, they’re moving on. And we’re going home,”

So I guess a totally legal game plan doesn’t sit well with her if that game plan causes her team to lose. Maybe the American coaches should lock her up and not let her do any more interviews!!

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Buddy Turns 80

Buddy Guy had his 80th Birthday celebration last week. It is remarkable that someone turns 80 and has that incredible energy every day. He still tours 200 days a year, along with playing the month of January at his club in Chicago. I hope have half that energy at 80!!!

Monday night, fans and celebrity friends joined him to celebrate. Jeff Beck, who he is on tour with came to join the fun and play some pool.

Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck at Buddy Guy's 80th Birthday Party at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago Illinois , August 1, 2016 . (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Many of the guitar players from the Experience Hendrix Tour found there way to Chicago to honor Buddy. Some very odd people were there. Jerry Only of the Misfits was there in full punk makeup. Zach Wylde represented the Metal world.

Zach Wylde; Tom Morello and Jerry Only of the Misfits at Buddy Guy's 80th Birthday Party at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago Illinois , August 1, 2016 . (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)


Tom Morello came with his mom.

Buddy Guy, Mary Morello and Tom Morello at Buddy Guy's 80th Birthday Party at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago Illinois , August 1, 2016 . (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)


Johnny Lang, Jimmie Vaughn and Keb Mo represented the blues world. When Buddy walked in, everyone knew he was in the presence of guitar royalty.

The greatest part of the night was when Otis Rush arrived. Otis was the first person in Chicago who invited Buddy to the stage when he arrived in Chicago.

Otis Rush and Buddy Guy at Buddy Guy's 80th Birthday Party at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago Illinois , August 1, 2016 . (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Great fun was had by all!

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Bush and Little Ed

A while back, I told the story of a photo shoot I did with the band Bush. To recap, I took them out into the alley next to the Aragon Ballroom, and positioned them in a doorway. I told the three musicians in the band to pose in the doorway, and, at the count of three, Gavin Rossdale, the singer would jump off the stoop and I would catch him flying through the air. They all thought that was a great idea, until wee were ready to shoot, when it was mentioned that his hair might be out of place when he jumped. So, I shot a few boring shots of them all standing in the doorway, and I went home. As far as I know, none of the photos were ever used anywhere.

Bush-September 1st, 1995 Aragon Ballroom Chicago, Illinois United States September 1st, 1995 Photo by Paul Natkin/



So, fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I found myself in the same alley, next to the same doorway. When I ]asked the band (Little Ed and the Blues Imperials) to recreate the same situation, there was no hesitation! Guess there is less of an image situation in the blues world than in the rock world!!


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Violence in America

“In every generation, ever since Negros have been here, every Negro mother and father has had to face that child and try to create in that child some way of surviving this particular world, some way to make that child who will be despised not despise himself.”

The above was written by James Baldwin in 1964 in “The uses of the Blues.” I wonder what people in America think about that today, when African American people are being shot every day.

Last week I watched the ESPY’s. In the midst of all the sports awards, they gave out the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Last year Bruce Jenner won for becoming Caitlin Jenner. The year the award went to a high school football player from Knoxville, Tennessee by the name of Zaevion Dobson. Zaevion was sitting on a porch with some of his friends enjoying the evening when a car drove up and the passenger started shooting. Zaevion threw himself on top of ther two girls sitting with them, saving their lives, but dying in a hail of gunfire. He will never grow up to realize his potential. I don’t know what I would do in that situation- probably nothing as brave as him.

His mom, while accepting the award, reminded everyone that when the high school held a ceremony at halftime of a game to honor Zaevion, his cousin, who went to the game, was gunned down by another drive by on the way home.

Turning the clock back about an hour, the show started with Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade standing on stage each talking about how they are going to start speaking up against the violence filling our country. I hope they do, as they are the roll models that kids look up to. Dwyane Wade was just signed by the Bulls for about 23 million dollars a year, and returns home to a city that now leads the country in street shootings and deaths from them. Let’s see what he does when he comes home!!

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Something weird

Gered Mankowitz took some of the best pictures of Jimi Hendrix in the 60’s. One of them is up for dispute in France. Seems that a company that makes electronic cigerettes obtained rights to a classic Hendrix portrait, retouched the cigerette in the photo and replaced it with an electronic cigerette. Mr. Mankowitz sued and LOST!!

The advertiser ‎argued that there could not be any infringement or violation because the photograph was not original. Under French law, photographs are treated like all other works of art: they are protected provided that they are original, which courts interpret to mean that the work must “reflect the artist’s personality.

Mankowitz argued as such:

This extraordinary and equally rare photograph of Jimi Hendrix manages to capture, for a very short moment, the striking contrast between the lightness of the artist’s smile and of the curl of smoke and the blackness and geometrical rigor of the rest of the image, created notably by the lines and right angles of the bust and arms. The capture of this unique moment and its enhancement through the light, the contrasts and the narrow frame focused on Jimi Hendrix’ bust and head reveal the ambivalence and contradictions of this legend of music. As a result, this photograph is a fascinating and highly beautiful work which reflects its author’s personality and talent.

The court’s response:

First, the Court held that art can have artistic merit without being original, and therefore the artistic merit of this photograph did not necessarily mean it was original. Second, the Court held that the key inquiry is whether the photograph reflects the personality of the photographer. By contrast, the photographer’s statements about Jimi Hendrix’ ambivalent personality were not relevant.

Finally, the Court held that the framing, background, and the choice of black and white were fairly common for this type of portrait. The photographer therefore was obliged to explain the choices he made in relation to the posture of the subject, his costume and general attitude. The Court found that, since the photographer failed to give sufficient explanations about these choices, he failed to establish that his photograph was original.


I guess we are lucky we don’t live in France. They don’t seem to get it at all.


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Billy Idol

Last week I quoted from a letter that a photographer sent to a publicist:

Contracts that limit what I can do with my work are generally intolerable, but contracts that require me to provide images without any compensation are simply insulting. There would be no request for “unrestricted right[s] to use and publish” if my work had no value. Yet, demanding these rights without any exchange or reward is essentially calling my photography worthless.

 So this week I received a contract attached to an email for a Billy Idol concert in town this coming week. It is the first one I have seen that tries to address this issue. Here is what it says:

 In consideration of Artist’s assistance and cooperation in the taking of photographs of Artist, Photographer agrees that he/she will permit the use of a selection of photos by the Artist for general publicity purposes, Artist website, etc free of charge. Those photos should be delivered digitally to the Artists representative without unreasonable delay.

(This is the same crap as almost every contract stipulates, and should be enough for any photographer to say no and stay home and watch television instead).

Then it goes on to say:

Should artist choose to use photos for album packaging (not including the cover), the Artist will pay a one-time $3500 fee as payment for that usage. Should Artist choose to use photos for album cover packaging and/or merchandise, Artist would pay a one-time fee of $5000 as payment for that usage.

 So they actually put a value on a photographer’s work! That is the good part. The bad part is that they still will only let photographers shoot the first three songs (covered in a separate email), thus making the odds of taking CD cover quality photographs very unlikely. So this contract is very disingenuous. It holds a carrot in front of the donkey by saying they will pay you, but make it almost impossible to take good enough photographs to get paid. Meanwhile, they get to use your photographs for publicity, a job that record companies used to pay about $1000.

Maybe they need to start there, and actually pay someone to take publicity photographs.



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More Contract Talk

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a fellow photographer in town. He had just asked for a photo pass for a band (not a very big one) and received this email:

Photo policy is first three songs, no flash and set time is 9:30pm. After picking up your ticket and photo pass from the box office please walk to Gate 2, where a venue staffer will escort you to and from the photo pit. If you have any issues at the venue please give me a call at …..

 Please review and sign the attached photo release and send it back to me before the show, please note we cannot release your credentials until I have received this from you.

 The release had the usual clauses that we have seen many times:

This release expressly precludes any use of Photographs in any outlet other than the Publication without written consent from BAND NAME HERE. I will provide copies of all Photographs immediately upon request. This release grants BAND NAME HERE and its designees irrevocable and unrestricted right to use and publish the Photographs without restriction and without my inspection or approval.

So he wrote the publicist back, about as eloquently as I have ever seen- better than anything I could write:

Thanks for getting back to me. If this is a non-negotiable agreement, then I respectfully decline.

 Contracts that limit what I can do with my work are generally intolerable, but contracts that require me to provide images without any compensation are simply insulting. There would be no request for “unrestricted right[s] to use and publish” if my work had no value. Yet, demanding these rights without any exchange or reward is essentially calling my photography worthless.

 I have great respect for the musicians I photograph–artists of all stripes face many challenges and must overcome significant obstacles to achieve success and fame. My photography is not a commodity, but an expression of my own artistic vision and many years of experience–I expect the same respect in return.

 Lo and behold- the next day the publicist wrote back and told him to scratch out anything he didn’t like in the contract!!

I am sure he wouldn’t mind if you used his wording next time you come across the same issue. Probably won’t work but at least it will be a good try!!




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Last weekend we celebrated the Blues in Chicago. An under courant of grief passed through the Chicago Blues Festival on Sunday as we heard of 49 people murdered in a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

When will it stop? There seems to be a gun atrocity every week in America. Yet, we seem to have a routine of national mourning. We have a moment of silence. We hold a candlelight vigal. Then we go on with our lives until the next one. We now have Donald “The Idiot” Trump telling us that it is the president’s fault, as he won’t shut the borders to all Muslims. Funny that he didn’t say anything about the most high profile Muslim of all in America. When Muhammad Ali died, not a peep from The Donald!

Paul Ryan tried to have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives after the Orlando tragedy, but was shouted down by a Democrat demanding a vote on gun control. Ryan beat his gavel on the podium and declared the session ended. Free Speech, anyone?

Then there is Representative Robin Kelly from the Chicagoland area, who broke down in tears during a speech a few weeks ago, who said:

“I am so relentless on this issue because moments of silence in Congress just aren’t going to cut it anymore.”

 The luncheon audience hosted by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform applauded.

During a question and Answer session, she brought up a six year old girl fighting for her life after being shot about a mile from my house while playing in her front yard. Made me think that there were more people shot or killed on the streets of Chicago this year that were killed in that nightclub in Orlando. But not on the same night!

Ms. Kelly is right. A moment of silence won’t cut it any more.

This week Neil Steinberg, a columnist from the Chicago Sun Times set out to drive to the suburbs and buy an assault rifle. At the store, very pleasant young men told him which one would be “Best” for him, he handed over his FOID card and credit card, and went home for the 24 hour waiting period. That afternoon he got a call from the store saying his purchase was being denied, due to his (Well publicized) bout with alcoholism and spousal abuse from a few years ago. Too bad the guy in Orlando wasn’t checked that thoroughly.

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The Greatest

Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) once said that “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” And he did, over and over, in his boxing career and also in his personal life. He died this weekend at the age of 74, after accomplishing many things beside being a great boxer.

He was one of the three people I have called my heroes, along with Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and Billie Jean King. Ali once said “ Impossible is a big word thrown around by small men.” All three of these people stood for something along with being great athletes.

 In 1967, he made a decision to not allow himself to be drafted by the US Army, saying: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Kong.” Earlier in that year, a summit meeting was called in Cleveland by Jim Brown. Also included were Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (and others). The purpose of that meeting was to try to talk the young Cassius Clay into not going up against the US Government on the draft issue and destroying his career. During that meeting, Clay talked the others into agreeing with him. Because of this decision, he lost three years at the height of his career, until 1970, when the Supreme Court allowed him to fight once again. He later regained his heavyweight championship two more times.

In 1967, I was in high school, knowing that if I didn’t go to college, I would get drafted and probably sent to Viet Nam. Cassius Clay made me believe that I could stand up for a principal, and I prepared to go to jail rather than be drafted. College became the option that I chose, and I wasted 2 ½ years of my life going to an overcrowded school and learning nothing. I always though jail would have been better, but I didn’t have the guts to do it.

I heard a quote this week, saying “ He made people brave for standing up for something.”

Even the people who photographed Ali inspired me. Neil Leifer was one of two photographers asked to shoot the Ali-Liston fight in 1965. He saw a lot of photographers on one side of the ring, so he went to the other side. Because of that decision, he got possibly the most iconic sports photograph of all time, Ali standing over the fallen Liston. All the other photographers can be seen behind the two men. Since I read about that night I always gravitate away from the “Pack” to find a different angle. It has worked many times.

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