Lou Reed

Velvet Underground rehearsal

Velvet Underground rehearsal

In the days when I photographed rock stars, friends would ask me what they were like. This was always a difficult question as usually I would be working under tight time restraints and the subjects, more often than not, didn’t like having their picture taken. It’s not really fair to make judgements under these conditions.

The format for the shoots normally involved me taking photographs after they had done an interview with the journalist. By this time the artist has had his say (sometimes repeating this frequently to other journalists that day) and just wants to leave. It wasn’t unusual for them to be quite tetchy during the session.

Lou Reed (and Van Morrison) were infamous in the music business for being ‘difficult’. They both consider themselves ‘artists’, believing that their music should speak for them. Unfortunately this isn’t how the industry works and they have to publicise their latest album if it is going to sell.

I photographed Lou Reed three times. The first and last time he was quite surly and made it obvious that he was a reluctant participant. The second shoot was when I photographed him before a rehearsal session with the re-formed Velvet Underground in a warehouse in Manhattan.

Lou was obviously very pleased to be working with the band again and allowed me to shoot them rehearsing for about an hour, much to the surprise of his manager. At the end of the shoot Lou shook my hand for about two minutes, which I was quite embarrassed by. That’s a long time to hold someone’s hand and I was acutely aware that this was Lou Reed’s hand.

He wished that we would work together again and we did a couple of years later. Of course this time he was back in his Mr Grumpy persona.

As well as the music, I will always remember the ‘nice’ session – pretty close to being a perfect day.

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