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It Was Hard To Take A Bad Picture Of Prince, The Musician's Longtime Photographer Says11:08
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"Prince: A Private View," by Afshin Shahidi. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
"Prince: A Private View," by Afshin Shahidi. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
This article is more than 3 years old.

In his new book "Prince: A Private View," Afshin Shahidi unveils many unseen photos and reflects on the two decades he spent as Prince's photographer.

Shahidi (@AfshinShahidi) tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson about his collaboration with Prince and the impact the artist had on him and the world.

Interview Highlights

On what it was like to photograph Prince

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"Part of what was exciting shooting Prince was also the challenging part, which was the fact that we had nobody else there. He liked to keep it small and intimate, and so I respected that. And so I didn't have any support, really, so it was just him and I. And there was a little bit of discussion at first: I'd tell him what I was thinking, what I'd like to do, and I would show him a couple of test shots, and he would hit a zone — and it was just, it was magical. It wasn't so much that I wanted to stay quiet, but he was in a zone that just worked for him. And he would come, and I didn't have to direct him. He had already picked out — based on what I said the background's going to be, or the image — he had already picked out wardrobe that always ended up being perfect, and had done a little bit of makeup, and came in and, literally a lot of the portraits in [the book] that you see I shot maybe two or three images, and then we went on and did the next thing."

On Prince's eyes

"His eyes were piercing, and they always seemed to be looking through you and to know so much about you. And I remember even before I was photographing him or even knew him, but as a child growing up, seeing images of him and watching 'Purple Rain' and stuff, there was always something about his eyes that seemed special. And so when I got to photograph him, they became the focal point, and they are really of a lot of subjects. I mean you see a lot in people's eyes and that's where you focus your camera. When someone's eyes are out of focus, that's typically when a photograph looks out of focus. So it's always the focal point anyway. But his gaze was just so piercing that it kinda drew me to it."

Paisley Park, Chanhassen, Minnesota, 2009. (Courtesy Afshin Shahidi, from "Prince: A Private View")
Paisley Park, Chanhassen, Minnesota, 2009. (Courtesy Afshin Shahidi, from "Prince: A Private View")

On travel and other challenges working with Prince presented

"There was not a lot of preplanning in terms of scheduling, so he would call me the night before, and [say], 'Can you come to Morocco?' Or, 'Can you come to Panama,' or wherever it may have been, 'Can you come to Japan?' It was very exciting. And I laughed at the fact that it just became so normal that someone could just call and ask for that, and I'd say, 'Sure,' and get on a plane the next day. But it became more difficult ... I should take that back. Not more difficult, but a lot of my priorities, and in terms of having children and wanting to be around, dictated what I decided to do and not to do."

On his reaction to Prince's death

"I was devastated. My whole family was, I know the world was. I felt bad for myself because I had lost a friend. I felt horrible for the world, because they had lost an icon and an amazing voice that I think would've been really needed today in the political climate that we're in. So I was devastated. In terms of how he passed away ... I'm just sad that he's gone. I don't have any strong feelings on it. I know he was in pain from years of heels and dancing and performing for audiences, for his fans. But really, I made this book to celebrate his life and not his death so much."

On Prince's legacy and influence

"I mean, for so many of us he was kind of the soundtrack of our lives, and we grew up with him. I can tell you personally that fans from all over the world have reached out. Part of the reason I made this book was because they reached out and said, 'He was such a huge part of my life and we know you have these images,' and, 'Please, it'll help us with the healing process and with the mourning process.' So for me the book was therapy, and hopefully something that helps everyone else out there. But he had an enormous impact, both musically as an artist standing up for his rights and showing other artists how to do that. So I don't know if I could put into words, really, what an influence he was and what a great loss it is that he's gone."

"These were some of my favorite moments to shoot," Afshin Shahidi writes. "If the sound was good, Prince was relaxed and in a great mood. Here he is relaxing after the sound check at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, during the One Nite Alone Tour." (Courtesy Afshin Shahidi, from "Prince: A Private View")
"These were some of my favorite moments to shoot," Afshin Shahidi writes. "If the sound was good, Prince was relaxed and in a great mood. Here he is relaxing after the sound check at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, during the One Nite Alone Tour." (Courtesy Afshin Shahidi, from "Prince: A Private View")

This article was originally published on October 30, 2017.

This segment aired on October 30, 2017.

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