Before I became a music photographer, I was into photographing sports. The first time I held a camera in my hands, I was courtside at a Bulls game, standing next to Lew Alcindor of the Milwaukee Bucks (I wish someone got a picture of that!!) He was one of my idols, because he stood for something. He wasn’t just a basketball player- he was a thinking citizen of the world. I have always admired the celebrity that puts his mouth where his money is, (so to speak) and shows the world what he feels. So my heroes were Lew Alcindor (soon to become Kareem Abdul Jabbar) Billie Jean King, and Muhammad Ali. I never photographed Ali, but did photograph the other two.

Lew Alcindor of the Milwaukee Bucks - 1973 Chicago, Il. Chicago, Illinois United States 1973 Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage.com

Billie Jean King of the Philladelphia Freedoms - 1972 Chicago, Il. Chicago, Illinois United States 1972 Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage.com

Ali’s anti war stance cost him years of his career, Billie Jean beat Bobby Riggs in straight sets in 1973, proving that women are equal to (or better than) men.

As we move through 2015, Kareem has become a voice for the black community. Last week, in a beautiful article in Time Magazine, he addresses the candidates for president.

Here is how it starts:

Dear presidential candidates:

With the first anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown this weekend, America needs to know how the tumultuous events of the last year have affected your stance regarding the needs of the black community. In order for African Americans to determine this, please select one of the following that best defines your current philosophy: a) Black Lives Matter, b) Black Votes Matter, c) Black Entertainers and Athletes Matter, d) All of the Above, e) None of the Above.

If you chose anything other than “a,” you probably don’t deserve any votes—black, brown, or white. You might get votes by default of being less bad than the alternatives, but getting votes that way isn’t much of an endorsement of your leadership abilities. And making things better for African Americans in a substantial and meaningful way in this country is going to require an outstanding leader.

Later in the article:

Courage is required in order to speak out in support of “Black Lives Matter.” So many Americans misunderstand the meaning of the phrase that there’s an outraged backlash against it. The popular misinterpretation, encouraged by some politicians seems to be that by saying “Black Lives Matter,” African Americans are seeking special attention. In fact, it’s the opposite. They are seeking their fair share of opportunities without receiving the “special attention” of being profiled, arrested, imprisoned, or killed.

Many of you candidates—including the only black candidate, Ben Carson—have used the more mundane phrase, “All Lives Matters,” which appeases racism deniers. This is cowardly because it completely ignores the problem and panders to the least politically informed constituency. Americans are used to candidates competing to see who can best ingratiate themselves to the demands of reclusive billionaire backers and fringe groups, but this goes too far.

Most Americans are already in agreement that all life matters—it’s just that blacks want to make sure that they are included in that category of “all,” which so many studies prove is not the case. In the future, think of “Black Lives Matter” as a simplified version of “We Would Like to Create a Country in Which Black Lives Matter as Much as White Lives in Terms of Physical Safety, Education, Job Opportunities, Criminal Prosecution, and Political Power.”

The man is brilliant- see the whole article here:


Maybe he should run for president rather than the morons that are running now!!



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Southern Accents

Last year I did a lot of traveling through the south working on a book with my friend Dave Hoekstra about Soul Food and the Civil Rights Movement (Coming out in October). While driving through many southern states (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina) we were amazed by all of the confederate flags proudly flying.

This year, nine people were killed in a church in Charleston, SC, and the move started to ban the confederate flag. It is interesting to see how the music world treats the issue. In 1985, Tom Petty recorded an album, and produced a tour called Southern Accents. The backdrop for the tour was a giant Confederate flag. I thought it was interesting enough to shoot some stage wide shots with the flag.

Tom Petty**


This summer, after the movement to ban the Confederate flag from South Carolina, Tom wrote an article for Rolling Stone about the stage design.

The Confederate flag was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up in Gainesville, Florida. I always knew it had to do with the Civil War, but the South had adopted it as its logo. I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant. It was on a flagpole in front of the courthouse and I often saw it in Western movies. I just honestly didn’t give it much thought, though I should have.

The Confederate flag became part of the marketing for the tour. I wish I had given it more thought. It was a downright stupid thing to do.

It is interesting to see how the music world saw the issue.

The Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood called for a reclamation and celebration of Southern heritage, minus the Confederate battle flag and all it represents, in an insightful, biographical essay for The New York Times Magazine. He said:

“If we want to truly honor our Southern forefathers, we should do it by moving on from the symbols and prejudices of their time and building on the diversity, the art and the literary traditions we’ve inherited from them,” Hood wrote, adding: “It’s time to quit rallying around a flag that divides. And it is time for the South to — dare I say it? — rise up and show our nation what a beautiful place our region is, and what more it could become.”

Then there is Kid Rock:

The National Action Network’s Michigan chapter protested outside the Detroit Historical Museum, which houses a Kid Rock exhibit, demanding that the rocker stop displaying the Confederate flag, Deadline Detroit reports. In a statement to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, Kid Rock relayed his message to those upset in his native Detroit: “Please tell the people who are protesting to kiss my ass/Ask me some questions.”


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Hazzard Free Farms

Yesterday, I met a true American hero! I spent the day with Andrea Hazzard on her farm in Pecatonica, Il. She is a 5 foot tall bundle of energy who grows (and harvests) grain for bakeries in Illinois and beyond.


She has been a farmer all her life (along with her brothers and dad) and wants to keep the traditions of farming alive for generations to come. She is researching  and growing ancient grains (from Russia, Turkey and many other countries)


and working with some bakeries in Chicago (most notably  Hewn in Evanston, Il. ) to produce some of the best bread on the planet. Her commitment to the land and the future  is heartwarming and needs to be brought to the attention of the people that are buying that great bread!!

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

It started out as a corner bar just like Cheers if Norm rode a Harley and Cliff was in a heavy metal band. Then a friend of the owners asked if he could cook lunch and dinner in the small kitchen in the back. He made some really great food- I think I was the only person that ate it!!

Kumas Anniversary_0018 Kumas Anniversary_0021 One day Mike, the owner suggested that they start making hamburgers named after heavy metal bands and the rest was history. Lines down the block and “best burger in Chicago” in many publications nation wide.

One of my greatest achievements was obtaining VIP access (first available table).













This week Kuma’s celebrated their 10th anniversary. Next week their 4th location opens in

Indianapolis. I am proud to have my pictures hanging on the walls of all four of them.

The party was great on Saturday- street blocked off and six hours of live metal music. Food trucks were brought in so that the employees could party rather than work. People of all ages reveled in the sense of community that a great burger and great beer can bring to a corner of Chicago.


Kumas Anniversary_0017










Kumas Anniversary_0004


Hopefully there will be 10 more years, and  many more after that!!

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Sports Illustrated

It is very seldom these days that a magazine puts together a single issue that is filled with amazing writing from start to finish. Even more amazing is a spots magazine that has an entire image and does not have a single article in it that describes a sporting event. Last weeks Sports Illustrated fit that bill.

The cover story is on Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks and tries to explain the psychology of how a professional team recovers from a disastrous play call in the final minute of the biggest game of the year (possibly causing them to lose the Super Bowl). It is a fascinating account of the year leading up to this season, with that decision weighing on the team, and how the coach helps them forget it. (My personal feeling is that it was a gutsy call that just didn’t work. Trying something else (the obvious) might not have worked either).

The first article in the magazine is about Zach Greinke, possibly the best pitcher in baseball, who didn’t want to be a pitcher, because he can only pitch every four games and has to sit around the rest of the time with nothing to do.

Another great article is about Shaka Smart, the new coach at Texas, who, a few years ago took VCU, a pretty much unknown school to the final four with his amazing motivational coaching, and got the big money to coach at Texas..

He labels the five days of practice as:

Appreciation Monday

Enthusiasm Tuesday

Unselfishness Wednesday

Teamship Thursday

Accountability Friday

(on appreciation Monday, each must demonstrate non-verbal appreciation to someone that day- a hug, a smile- and report back!!

They save the best for last. 25 years ago, H.G. Bissinger wrote the seminal book on high school football, Friday night Lights. On it’s anniversary, he travels back to Texas to find five of the guys he wrote about a quarter of a century ago. It is heartbreaking to read about what has become of these high school heroes. His description of  waiting in the visitors room in prison for Boobie Miles to come out to meet him is heartbreaking- but breathtaking to read.  It is fascinating how these guys were the heroes who won the state championship, and have now become loners. Makes you wonder!

The magazine ends with a column by the magnificent Steve Rushin, ruminating on his bucket list of activities is hilarious.

Buy a hammock. Check.

Oblige a crowd of children chanting Can-Non-Ball. Check.

Eat nachos from a batting helmet. Not yet!

Makes me smile!!



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Taylor Swift

So, everyone is patting themselves on the back for getting Taylor Swift to back down on her treatment of Photographers. YIKES!!

My thoughts:

It is doubtful (and isn’t spelled out in her contract) whether she will allow you to work off of an assignment from a wire service or agency. So there goes any chance you might have of syndication of the photographs. (Any photographs taken by you will only be used by the organization you represent and its website for news and information/editorial purposes)

She will not allow you to use the photographs for commercial purposes. (You will not use the photographs for any commercial purpose unless you receive prior written permission from us. This use will be for news or information/editorial purposes by the organization listed below and on its associated websites.) That is no big deal as no one is allowed to capitalize on another person’s likeness anyway. Any professional photographer should know that!!

She (one of the richest people in the world) still wants to use the photographer’s work with no compensation (If Taylor Swift wishes to post a review or photo of The 1989 World Tour used by your publication on any of her social media accounts or pages, you hereby grant Taylor Swift and Firefly Entertainment, Inc. (FEI), worldwide rights to use such links on her social media accounts.)  (If Taylor Swift wishes to post a review or photo of The 1989 World Tour used by your publication on any of her social media accounts or pages, you hereby grant Taylor Swift and Firefly Entertainment, Inc. (FEI), worldwide rights to use such links on her social media accounts.) This means nothing, as everyone links to good reviews in their social media already. Nobody ever asks permission!!

And now the part that was not mentioned:

You are still only allowed to photograph two songs (the beginning, and the most boring part of the show). More than likely, you will be shooting from about 50 yards away, meaning you will have to bring at least a 400mm lens and you will be shooting through a sea of hands and heads of her fans. You will also be shooting at a straight on angle (very unflattering). If you are allowed to shoot from the “photo” pit, you will be directly in front of (most likely) a high stage, and will be shooting right up her nose. You will also not be able to see all the stage sets, and they will not appear in your photographs.

So if you agree to these terms, you will most likely spend about $150.00 (lens rental and transportation) to make about $50.00 or less back. (Or nothing back, as most blogs don’t pay for photographs!

So to recap:

You still only get to take crappy pictures.

Taylor Swift still gets to use them for free (on social media).

You can still only license them to one entity, and not to an agency.

You lose money on the deal, and do a lot of work for nothing.

Just my 2 cents!!




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FINAL thoughts on the Foo Fighters

From the Digital Photography Review website:


So, no matter what anyone thinks about the Foo Fighters, they have a brilliant publicist! After putting together a set of completely photographer unfriendly rules, the Foo Fighters actually get coverage (Probably more that they would have gotten if they let photographers shoot!)

There are many comments posted on the DPR site, among them:

The answer is simple, don’t shoot or publicise any of their gigs, albums etc. and if they want publicity, make them sign a stupid contract that assigns you the right and royalties to all sales etc.
Maybe this is a good opportunity for less known acts to get free publicity by filling the gap left in the magazine pages!

NO ONE is forced to sign the band’s contract, or very much any contract. It’s that simple.

Just leave them alone. Let their management team photograph them with a smart phone and then see the results!
Maybe then they’ll appreciate the presence of a real photographer, and (maybe) then they’d agree that they should pay the photographer some petty-cash money!

And my favorite one:

The photographer has the option to say “thanks, but no, thanks” and walk away, or “SELL” the copyrights.

If the band/artist buys the copyrights from a photographer, then the photographer has nothing to complain about, and the artist should be free to use the images in any way they like. That’s fair.

Personally, I would not sell them the copyrights unless the price is attractive enough, or if I was in a difficult financial situation without many options.

The other option is to sell the photo gear, go to art school and become a cartoonist :-)

So, the band wins and gets a lot of free publicity.

I was just on the phone with a friend of mine who licensed a lot of photos to the HBO “Sonic Highways” series. She reminded me that that series couldn’t have happened without archival images from the 70’s and 80’s.

I wonder what is going to happen in 20 years when someone wants to do a TV show and there are no images to be had!!!


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Foo Fighters Contract

There has been a lot of internet talk about the Foo Fighters photo restrictions. First and foremost is a post from a Norwegian photographer named Jarle H. Moe


He talks about the integrity of photographers, something that Jim Marshall taught me many years ago. It is a great read, as it talks about how giving in to these contracts makes you lose any artistic integrity you might have thought you already had! It also explains why things are different in other countries. The comments are even more interesting, including this response by Jarle to a comment:

As pointed out, I wrote this piece to show how we, Norwegian concert photographers, have greatly benefited from banding together to not sign contracts, so your whole argument is faulty. The matter at hand here, is not photographers working directly for a musician/management or promoter. Then, there are, naturally, different terms; and you get to actually negotiate them. On the other hand, a photojournalist that gets handed a contract at a venue, either has to sign it, or walk away. Those are the only two options. I say, that for photojournalists with any integrity for their profession, signing is not an option. When all concert photographers band together to uphold the freedom of press and free flow of information, contracts gets dropped, as musicians and their managements value getting coverage more than having control.

Of course, banding together in the US is nearly impossible (kind of like herding cats). Norway is a relatively small country, with a small amount of photographers, who probably all know each other (at least in passing). It is something to think about here in the US, although it has been tried before with disastrous results!

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Foo Fighters

Whenever a photo controversy comes up, you can be sure that the Foo Fighters are involved! Seems kind of funny that a band that talks so much about coming from punk roots would have such disdain for artists trying to ear a living.

The Washington City Paper says it won’t be sending a photographer to this weekend’s Foo Fighter concert due to the fact that the band’s contract “sucks.” Instead, the paper hopes to buy photos directly from fans who attend the show.

In an article explaining its decision, the newspaper shared a copy of the contract that was provided by the Foo Fighters: “If we signed it, we would have agreed to: the band approving the photos which run in the City Paper; only running the photos once and with only one article; and all copyrights would transfer to the band,” writes the City Paper.

“Then, here’s the fun part, the band would have ‘the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations’ without any approval or payment or consideration for the photographer.”

“That is exploitation of photographers, pure and simple.”

Their contract states:


I _______________________ (name of photographer) hereby agree to the following in favor of Foo Fighters (“you”) with respect to the photographs to be taken by me of the members of

Foo Fighters  (either as a group or as individuals) on the date referenced below (the “Photos”): 1. I have the limited right and permission to use the Photos, subject to your approval of the Photos, solely in connection with one (1) article about Foo Fighters  contained in ___________________  _____________________ [name and description of article, publication or other medium]. The Photos may be used only in an article, publication or other medium initially disseminated to the public within one year of the date of this agreement. I shall have no right to use or re-use the Photos in whole or in part, in any medium or for any purpose whatsoever, including, without limitation, promotion, advertising, and trade, without your written consent therefor.

2. I hereby acknowledge that you shall own all rights in the Photos, including the copyrights therein and thereto, and accordingly, I hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to you all right, title and interest throughout the universe in perpetuity, including, without limitation, the copyright (and all renewals and extensions thereof), in and to the Photos. I agree that you shall have the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations as you determine, without obtaining my consent and without any payment or consideration therefor. I understand that you will give me appropriate “photo credit” where possible. I understand further that all aspects of said “photo credit” shall be determined by you in your sole discretion and that failure to accord said “photo credit” shall not be deemed a breach of any obligation, express or implied. I will, upon request, execute, acknowledge and deliver to you such additional documents as you may deem necessary to evidence and effectuate your rights hereunder, and I hereby grant to you the right as attorney-in-fact to execute, acknowledge, deliver and record in the U.S. Copyright Office or elsewhere any and all such documents if I shall fail to execute same within five (5) days after so requested by you

You may assign your rights under this agreement in whole or in part.

4. I hereby waive all rights of droit moral or “moral right of authors” or any similar rights or principles of law which I may now have or later have in the Photos. I warrant and represent that I have the right to execute this Release and that the Photos are and shall be new and original with me. I shall indemnify and hold you, and your employees, officers, agents, assignees and licensees, harmless from and against any losses, costs, liabilities, claims, damages or expenses arising out of any claim by a third party which is inconsistent with any warranty or representation made by me in this Release.

5. This Release contains the entire understanding of the parties and will be governed by the laws of California applicable to contracts entered into in California

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have signed this Release effective as of this ______ day

of  _____________________, 20____.

By:  ___________________________________________ Photographer

The newspaper contacted the Foo Fighters’ management, but the response was typical: these contracts are “standard” and are necessary to “protect the band,” they claimed. City Paper points out that the Rolling Stones, though one of the biggest names in music, don’t make the same demands in their contracts.

Instead of signing the contract and sending a photographer to the Foo Fighters show, City Paper is asking fans who attend the show to send in photos if they’d like to see it published.

“We’ll pay you for it,” the paper says. “And we won’t ask you to sign over the copyright or your first born, either.”

After photographer Jason Sheldon wrote a viral open letter to speak out against Taylor Swift’s concert photo contract,

The Irish Times said:  Taylor Swift played the first of two sold-out shows in Dublin last night, but you won’t find a photograph of her onstage at the 3Arena in The Irish Times today.  The singer has insisted all photographers covering her live shows sign contracts which outline restrictions on what they can and cannot do with pictures of the pop star onstage. The use of such contracts has become increasingly common in the live music business in recent years.  However, Swift’s photograph authorisation contract includes a number of onerous restrictions, including a “one-time-only” use limit on publishing the photograph which elapses at the end of 2015. Any other use requires “written consent” from the artist or her agent, while Swift reserves the “perpetual, worldwide” right to use the photographs for publicity and promotion.  Talking about the decision not to use photographs of the singer, The Irish Times deputy picture editor Brenda Fitzsimons said: “The terms and conditions of the contract are exceedingly restrictive and just not feasible for a working newspaper and website.   “The photographs may be used on a one-time only basis and by signing her contract we grant Swift perpetual, worldwide right to use the published photographs in any way she sees fit.”

I was always under the impression that a contract was only legal if both parties signed the contract in each others presence, and in good faith. Leaving a contract at the box office does not work for me, as I would like the ability to negotiate the terms of the contract with a representative of the band. If not I will hand the contract back and walk.

I was also always under the impression that a contract has to have a penalty clause included or it is not valid. What will happen to me if I don’t follow the rules of the contract? If I don’t know that answer, I will hand it back and walk.

I also don’t think it is in the best interest of a major star to sue a poor lowly photographer in public. It would not make them look good!

The Foo Fighters management says that these contracts are “Standard” and necessary to “protect the band.” Protect them from what? Publicity!!

A good picture can double the size of the article. A good picture can double the size of the advance article, even a year from the date the picture was taken. Many good pictures can make a greatest hits box set bigger and better!! (Oh, I forgot. They now own all the images taken of them on this tour, and can use them whenever they want!!

I hereby acknowledge that you shall own all rights in the Photos, including the copyrights therein and thereto, and accordingly, I hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to you all right, title and interest throughout the universe in perpetuity, including, without limitation, the copyright (and all renewals and extensions thereof), in and to the Photos. I agree that you shall have the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations as you determine, without obtaining my consent and without any payment or consideration therefor. I understand that you will give me appropriate “photo credit” where possible. I understand further that all aspects of said “photo credit” shall be determined by you in your sole discretion and that failure to accord said “photo credit” shall not be deemed a breach of any obligation, express or implied.

It is hard to imagine that their publicity company “Nasty Little Man” agrees with this, but maybe so. Many large publicity companies are just doing what the managers of the bands want. Kinda like the tail wagging the dog. Not many have the balls to tell the manager they are wrong.

The only good thing to come out of all this is that there are two newspapers in the world that will stand up to this craziness. But they didn’t go far enough. Foo Fighters still win if the paper buys fans photographs. They still get the publicity. Professional photographers lose!

I will always remember a review in a Toronto paper of a Wham- Pointer Sisters show. The entire review was about the Pointer Sisters (photos included). The final line of the review was: “Wham closed the show.”

When that happens more often, maybe there will be a chance!









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Taylor Swift is in the news again!

She complained that Apple isn’t paying here for streaming her songs for a short time on their new streaming service. This is not costing her a lot of money- but it is getting great publicity for Apple. They must be rolling on the floor laughing!! They cannot buy this kind of publicity!

From Taylor’s letter to Apple:

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

So….A photographer (Jason Seldon)wrote on his blog that after reading her contract for photographers on her last two tours, he deemed it “a complete rights grab.”

He wrote:

How are you any different to Apple?  If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great..  make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support.  But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else? Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.

He is correct that Taylor is participating in a complete double standard, but as usual, like almost every photographer on the planet, he gets it completely wrong by calling it a “rights grab”

A rights grab would be if the tour personnel locked the photographers in a room, demanded their Compact Flash cards, downloaded them into a computer, wiped them clean, and then let the photographers go! This is an example of many stupid photographers who GIVE AWAY their rights because they want a picture of Taylor Swift for their portfolio. They all have a choice- they could refuse to sign her contract, hand it back, get in their cars and go home. They won’t be losing any money (other than their parking fee) and won’t have to spend any computer time editing photos that they have given away WILLINGLY.

The economics of the situation are such that a photographer loses money every time the sign one of these ridiculous contracts. But still, every time I go to a show where these contracts are presented to photographers, I see five to ten of them in the photo pit. The only way they could have gotten there is to have signed the contract!

So…My advice is rip up the contract and go home. You will save a lot of money.

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