Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

March 16, 2011

Talking rock photography

Lynn Goldsmith discusses her career in the business

By Thom Jennings
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

LOCKPORT — In the early 1980s, I met photographer Lynn Goldsmith at a concert in Woodstock. We chatted briefly about some photographs and album covers she had done and she struck me as a likeable and extremely confident woman.

I recently attended Graham Nash’s photographic exhibit at The George Eastman House from Nash’s book entitled “Taking Aim” which features compelling photographs of famous rock musicians. Goldsmith’s work was featured and I thought that I might reach out to her for an interview.

Even if you have not heard of Goldsmith, you probably have seen her photographic work on magazine, book and album covers. The list of her subjects is astounding and includes Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards, Michael Jackson, Sting, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Bono. That just scratches the surface.

One of her first jobs in the music industry was working for Joshua White, the originator of the Joshua Light Show, the psychedelic art lighting show at venues like the Fillmore East in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Goldsmith also co-managed Grand Funk Railroad in the early 1970s, resurrecting the band’s career by connecting the group to producer Todd Rundgren and delivering on her promise to get the band their first number one hit, “We’re an American Band,” from the album of the same name.

After that, Goldsmith went into photography and became one of the most sought-after photographers in the music business. One of my first questions was how she built up her reputation as a photographer.

“In the world of music there are artists that only want people to photograph you if you have photographed other musicians,” she said. “If you photograph Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits or Bob Dylan, then other artists of that genre want you.”

A visit to her website, lynngoldsmith.com, will give you an idea of how many artists she has worked with. Nonetheless, Lynn was very easy to talk with, humble, pleasant and wonderfully reflective without being stuck in her past.

I asked her about a few of the artists she had worked with, first being The Police.

“I worked with The Police from the very beginning of their career to the end,” Goldsmith said. “They were my friends we had many common interests. They were intelligent and had interests outside of music. At one time I considered them to be my best friends.”

When asked if she was surprised when they split, she said, “No, I was actually surprised they stayed together as long as they did.”

Goldsmith also worked with Ted Nugent — it is her photograph on the cover of Nugent’s “Scream Dream” album.

“I love Ted Nugent, he will always be young and he symbolizes rock and roll. One time I was in Detroit at a listening party for the follow up to his ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ album, which was his breakthrough album. I said to him ‘Ted, this sounds just like ‘Cat Scratch Fever,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I like ‘Cat Scratch Fever,’ ” she said, laughing.

An artist I found out of place on the list was The Village People. Goldsmith did the cover photo for their “Live and Sleazy” album.

“Their management wanted the cover to look macho so I was screaming things at them,” she said. “I guess the one heterosexual member of the band was upset at some of the things they were saying to me and a fistfight broke out. He wound up leaving the band after that and I had to shoot them with a new lead singer in New York a few weeks later.”

With her reputation, Goldsmith could be picky about who she works with, but the music has nothing to do with her work.

“I never based who I worked with on whether I like the artists music or not,” she said. “That’s why I have worked with everyone from Judas Priest to New Kids on the Block. To me, it’s about the image.”

That does not mean that there aren’t some artists she prefers to work with.

“There are people like Bruce Springteen, The Police, Patti Smith and Tom Petty that I like to work with because they are people I would want to have as friends. It’s not that I don’t like Judas Priest.  I’ll photograph them but we don’t have much in common,” she said.

Goldsmith has a few books of her work available through her website. In spite of her past accomplishments, one gets the sense that Goldsmith is not going to live off of her past glories, so don’t be surprised when you see her name.