David Bowie

There is a new David Bowie exhibit opening in Chicago next week. I got this email a few days ago:

I’m a reporter with DNAinfo.com Chicago putting together a timeline of David Bowie’s time in Chicago ahead on 9/23, David Bowie Day here in the city. I was hoping for permission to use this photo on my timeline. Is it alright if I include it with attribution to Paul Natkin? Is there anything else you can say about the photo or the show this was taken at that isn’t included in the description?


Tanveer Ali   Data Reporter and Social Media Producer | DNAinfo.com Chicago

I didn’t see it for a while, so the guy decided to call me. He asked the same question. My reply (kind of automatic these days) was:

Is there going to be any payment for this?

His reply:   Oh no! We don’t pay for pictures. But we can give you credit.

I then asked him if he got payed to work at the website. His response was a moment of silence. I then politely declined to let him use the photo and he hung up.

The most disturbing part of this was his offer to “Feature” my photo on their site in return for photo credit, as if I should jump at the OPPORTUNITY to be featured on their site.

I guess I should be  proud to have my photo used for free!!

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Jack White is an Asshole!!

Just got back from Farm Aid 2014

A great concert, with great food and a great cause. Woke up in the morning and went down to the lobby for some breakfast. I was told at breakfast that nobody would be allowed to photograph Jack White. Oh well, plenty of great music anyway.

The day started with one of my favorite pictures of the day. These three artists, Jamey Johnson, Carlene Carter and Gary Clark, Jr represent the scope of talent that the day was going to produce.

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The day was filled with great music. Here are a few of the highlights:

The show started with Raelynn Nelson, Willie’s grand daughter. She is really cute, walked on stage with a ukulele in hand, and proceeded to blast the crowd in the face with a great version of Bad Reputation. Joan Jett would be proud!!!

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A little later, Delta Rae put on a gospel rock clinic. Four great voices, brilliant percussion and great harmonies. I think they are all related somehow. They kicked some ass!!

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Later another Nelson -Micah (Willie’s son) led his band through a set of spacey jazzy stuff. Great musicianship. Willie’s family business will be good for a long time to come.

A short time later Lukas Nelson, the heir apparent to Stevie Ray Vaughn played a great blues rock set. He spent a lot of time either in the air or rolling around on his back on stage!!

Then came the high point of the day. Gary Clark, Jr. brought the crowd to it’s feet for about 40 minutes of amazing, passionate blues. His mom and dad came down in the pit to watch the show, and his mom sat there with a big smile on her face the whole set. His skill and talent are boundless.

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The Preservation Hall Jazz Band played a half hour of great New Orleans jazz, with two crazy tuba players careening around the stage.



Then it was time for Jack White. His so called publicist decided that no national media would be allowed to shoot, only local papers. So it was time to go eat!! So my friend Ebet and I, the official Farm Aid photographers, went backstage to eat while every other photographer in the place went out into the crowd to shoot what they could. I listened to a few songs, decided that he sucked, and walked away. Someone needs to tell him that when you agree to play at a benefit concert, it is not about you it is about the cause. He destroyed any chance for Farm Aid to get any publicity out of him being there, and made it all about him rather than what Farm Aid is about.

The show ended, as usual with sets by the four board members. Dave Matthews, accompanied by Tim Reynolds, played a spirited 40 minute set. John Mellencamp played three new songs from his upcoming release, including one backed by the Preservation hall Jazz Band. Neal Young was his usual self, calling out a Senator from North Carolina by name from the stage for voting the wrong way in the Senate. He ended with Rocking in the Free World, backed by Lukas and Micah Nelson.

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Willie closed the show, with most of his family on stage with him. He played a great version of Milk Cow Blues, with Gary Clark, Jr. Trading solos with Willie, Mickey Raphael (Willie’s great harp player) and David Amram on Penny Whistle!


A great time was had by all, a lot of money and awareness was raised for a great organization!!


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Some stuff

A group of photographers met at my house last week to discuss the future of the business. Not much was concluded, except that it is becoming harder and harder to get access, much the less make a living at this business. This all stemmed from a Facebook post by a Chicago photographer who was treated like crap at the Pitchfork Festival earlier this summer (No surprise- the guy who runs Pitchfork once told me that photographers were last on his list of things to care about when running his festival.) As he is a noted jazz musician in town, I wonder what happens when he needs photos for his publicity purposes??

So, the Facebook post describes the hordes of “Photojournalists” in the pit, many of whom work for  blogs who don’t pay them, and shoot with iPhones and iPads.

We are going to continue the discussion, and work on putting up a website so that communication is easier to manage.

On another note, a friend of mine was recently asked to photograph an aging rock star in New York for a magazine that we both work for who doesn’t pay much, if anything, for photographs. When she arrived at the venue, she was told that there was no photo pas set aside for her, as the artist does not allow any photographs. Someone form management came out to talk to her, and explained that the artist does not like to see photographers in front of him. She promised to be discrete, and the manager told her that she could shoot the first three songs. This agreement was finalized half way through the third song!! The manager then threw up her hands and told the photographer to do whatever she wanted, as long as she was not seen by the artist.

On yet another note, as I am writing this there is a great festival happening in Chicago. I called the promoter earlier in the week to ask about getting a photo pass. They emailed me back a spread sheet with photo access rules per band. There are two artists on the bill that I have never heard of.

One is Valerie June, the other is Sylvan Esso. Both have a first three songs, no flash rule. Valerie is now on the Concord label- guess they put that rule in. Sylvan Esso is a pop duo from North Carolina on an indie label. Guess they don’t want people to take good pictures! I for one turned down the photo pass. Only four of the eleven artists had no restrictions, and all the headliners were very restirictive. Hope there is something good on television this afternoon!!

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Don Pardo

Back in the early 1980’s, I was asked by a radio station in town to come down and take some pictures at a morning show promotion in a bar at 8AM. The guests of honor were Art Fleming (Host of Jeopardy) and Don Pardo (announcer of Saturday Night Live, Jeopardy, Price is Right and many more). Of course, the radio station told me that they didn’t have any budget, but would pay me in commercials.

I agreed, and they wrote out some commercials that the two guys read on the air. Then a woman that worked at the station cut them into a 30 second answering machine spot and gave me a tape.

I put it on my answering machine and it remained there for about 20 years! I am still amazed at the number of people who were impressed by two  television people doing an answering machine greeting for me.

Dom Pardo died last week at the age of 96.

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Jackie Robinson West

There is only one major league team in Chicago this summer. It is not the Cubs- It is not the Sox. The Cubs are, as usual, mired near the bottom of the league, fighting with the owners of buildings across the street about letting them watch a really bad baseball team from their rooftops.

The White Sox have three good players, and are also near the bottom of the league. They have a slugger, (Adam Dunn) who strikes out about 3 times a game, Only their rookie Cuban sensation can hit the ball, and they continue to lose at a momentous pace.

Then there is the only major league team playing right now- The Jackie Robinson West little league team, who are playing today to win the WORLD series! One more game against South Korea, and they are the world champs. These kids are 11 to 13 years old. When one of them (the coach’s son), went to high five the other players on the team after they beat Las Vegas yesterday, he couldn’t reach their hands, even jumping as high as he could. He made a major error in the first inning yesterday, but kept his head up and played great the rest of the game. The superb shortstop, who was forced to pitch in the last inning to preserve the win, got in trouble in the sixth, then started a beautiful double play to end the game and send them to the final game.

These guys haven’t reached puberty yet, but most of them say that the best part about playing for the championship is meeting girls. At a time when kids are being shot on the street every day, these kids bring some pride and positive excitement to Chicago.

The parade will be Wednesday. I hope one million people come out to cheer them down the parade route.

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This weeks Sports Illustrated has a remarkable article by Steve Rushin, documenting the 60th Anniversary of the magazine. He follows the career of Vin Scully, the amazing announcer for the Dodgers,  a team owner, an agent, and the guy who started ESPN. He follows them through the last 60 years, equating their careers with the sports world..

Toward the end of the article, he explores the phenomenon of the “selfie.”He quotes Hugh Lurie, who says that there have been more photographs taken in the last year than in the entire history of photography!! He goes on to say:

Because people are now photographing- I shudder to think what they are photographing- everything and nothing. No interaction is deemed to have actually happened unless someone has a photograph to prove it. I think this is odd, and I think that it may be starting to alter the way we think about each other and the way we think about general day-to-day social interaction.

Rushin goes on to cite David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, who took a selfie of himself with President Obama to fulfill a contract with Samsung to promote their phones.

So last week I was photographing Mexican Folk Pop singer Lila Downs. There were three photographers in the pit, myself and my friend Brigette, and  a young kid who obviously didn’t belong there. During the first three songs, he continually crashed into me, and several time hit me on the head with his camera- not on purpose- he was so excited to be there that he could not concentrate on what was going on around him. I never once saw him actually take a picture! So I sat down to wait until he left after the third song. At the end of the song he came over and sat down next to me, held out his camera, and asked me to take a picture of him with Lila in the background. I refused, telling him that that was not a very professional thing to do. He responded that he was just there for fun. I walked away, and he soon left. Guess they will let anyone in the photo pit these days.

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Peter Frampton

Apparently Peter Frampton is one of the few who doesn’t allow people to  use cell phones to take photos during his shows. Maybe this should be a primer for other performers on how to deal with this issue (from the Chicagoist):

Fans of Peter Frampton were aware before Sunday’s show in Carmel, Indiana of a strict rule banning flash photography or video during the entire concert. Of course, there is always “that asshole,” and two people right in the front of the stage threw caution to the wind and snapped away. Frampton was not ok with them “Breaking All the Rules,” and when he wasn’t able to alert security to the issue, decided to fix the situation himself. Melissa Schickel of Onstage Magazine was at the show and reported what happened next:

“At his breaking point, and the guy in the front row unrelenting – apparently with no self control considering he’s already flipped Peter off and turned around and called the rest of the audience a bunch of deadbeats – Peter ends the song, walks over and with a huge smile on his face bends down and says, ‘Hey can I see that? Can I see the photos you’ve been taking?’ The guy hands him his phone and Peter stands up, spins, and flings for the rafters! Yes! The phone went flying to the back of the stage and we all erupted in cheers! With years of experience playing guitar, we just knew he had a great arm!”

One day I would love to do a survey asking people if they ever looked at their overexposed cell phone photos once the concert is over. Now with more people bring iPads to concerts, the view is even worse from behind these people. Even in the photo pit, it is depressing to see a pink iPhone in the corner of my shot when there is no place I can go to get the perfect angle.

That brings me to:


I was talking to a publicist the other day who is finally fed up with all the amateur photographers in the photo pit. She is going to kick them out as of now!!

Maybe she and Peter Frampton should get together and make a better world for all of us!!


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I was driving home from a meeting this past week, and in a one block space, I saw two people step right into traffic while they were texting. One (a guy) had his baby in one of those pouches on his chest, and looked pissed off when a car had to screech to a halt to keep from hitting him (and his young child). A half a block later, a woman pushing a baby carriage walked right into traffic, pushing her child, and also looked pissed off when a car almost slammed into her.

What is wrong with this world? Were we able to survive when there weren’t cell phones? Didn’t we just wait till we got home to call people? Walking around downtown yesterday, at least one out of three people were either talking or texting as they were walking along the sidewalk, There must be some pretty important business going on!!

On the way home, I stopped at my neighborhood grocery store. I picked up a few items, and picked a small checkout line. One woman in front of me. BUT………. She was talking on her phone to her friend, and the checker, the bagger and I had to wait while she explained to her friend why she didn’t want to go out with the guy who her friend was trying to fix her up with. She finally paid for her groceries and walked away (still talking). I paid for my stuff and went out to my car. She was loading her stuff in to her car across from mine (still talking). I got in my car and. Looking both ways, backed out of my space right as she (without looking and still talking) pulled out and almost slammed into me. She glared at me and took off (still talking).

Maybe I should just stay in my house and watch TV from now on. It might be safer!!


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Trigger Hippy

Last week I got an email from my friend Steve Gorman of the Black Crowes. It said simply- I am in town with my new band tonight at SPACE. Come down and hang.  So of course I grabbed my bag and headed up to the club.

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I had forgotten him telling me about this band a few years ago, so I was surprised to see a poster on the door for their band. They are called Trigger Hippy. I went backstage and saw Steve and Jackie Green from the Crowes, and two guys I didn’t know, and….a woman who looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place her. We were all sitting around talking when the bass player grabbed a stand up bass that was leaning in the corner, and started playing the bass line for David Bowie’s “Lets Dance.” Someone picked up a guitar and started playing the melody and everyone gathered around to sing. Then I figured out who the woman was. It was Joan Osbourne- one of the most unmistakable voices in music. They played Lets Dance for about 10 minutes and then hit the stage where they delighted the sold out crowd with some amazing musicianship and some great songs.

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It’s great to see talented people having fun making music!! (And the CD is fantastic!!)

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Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter passed away this week. In a hotel in Europe. I photographed Johnny  (by accident) in June of 1979. The concert at the Chicago Stadium was Eric Clapton, with Muddy Waters as the opener. Halfway through Muddy’s set (all the other photographers had left- guess they didn’t want to photograph the old black guy), Eric Clapton walked onstage from the left and Johnny Winter walked on from the right. Johnny was in town producing one of Muddy’s Blue Sky albums. They played one song together. As far as I know, I was the only photographer that stayed. This photograph has been in about 8 album packages since then.

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In February of 1984, my friend Bruce Iglauer from Alligator Records brought Johnny to my house for an album cover shoot. I pulled out a purple background and had Johnny sit on a stool with a glass of Jack Daniels and an ashtray nearby, and had him play for about 2 hours. At one point, he paused and looked up at me, and BAM, I had my shot.



Several years later, on another Alligator cover shoot, we tried to set up a shot with a drink and a deck of cards in a bar, but settled for another studio shot, with Johnny playing a steel guitar.

I photographed him many times in concert, the last time being in 2008 at the Chicago Blues Fest. His manager asked me if I wanted to go out to the bus and say hi, and we headed backstage. We walked on the bus, and Johnny was sitting, head down at a small table at the front of the bus. I sat down across from him and said hi. He didn’t look up. But mumbled hi back. His manager told me he would be back in a few minutes. I tried to make some kind of conversation, but only received one word answers. When the manager came back, I left to go to the stage to photograph the show. I was bummed out, and worried that the show would not be as good as I hoped. But…….Johnny came out, sat on a chair, and as frail as he was, ripped off a great hour long set, to tremendous applause. That is the way I want to remember him.

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