Well, I was a product of divorced parents and my single mother, for a number of years, pawned me off on my grandparents. My uncle who was 14 - and I think I was probably 6 -had a dark room in my grandmother’s laundry room closet. I spent a lot of time in there with him and just became fascinated with photography and started taking photo classes from about the 7th grade on. Shot all through junior high and high school. Shot for the yearbook and newspaper and went on from there. So, for better or worse, it’s what I’ve known my whole life. Sometimes I feel like I just want to do something else, but that’s a little daunting, starting all over again at 48. Got a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UW in photography and started photographing bands throughout college.
What was your first paying gig?
I think my first paying gig was for The Rocket, which was a monthly. Actually, I think at that time it was a bimonthly, Seattle music newspaper. Tabloid. Later it became a monthly and then it went defunct in the mid to late 90s. It really just couldn’t compete with The Stranger and The Weekly and whatnot. Music only newspapers were kind of a dinosaur by that point with the rise of the alternative weekly newspapers.
What did they pay? Did they actually give you money?
Oh, I don’t know. Fifty bucks or something a picture. A hundred bucks maybe. Art Chantry was the Art Director at the time, a local graphic design legend. Charles Cross was the long time editor and owner of the paper, the publisher. Grant Alden was there at the time too. Later on he’d go onto No Depression. Just a great, great group of people. Lisa Orthwas there, a designer. She would do some of the early Sub Pop Records. It was kind of a family. I think the first thing Art assigned me to shoot was Cat Butt?
Who was that?
Cat Butt. The band Cat Butt.
I’m not familiar with them.
I think I shot half a roll of film or something at The Vogue one night, and I remember being really disappointed. They were pretty blurry. I was having some technical issues or something was going on. I brought them in and Art just thought they were brilliant and couldn’t decide on which one. He always said that I - as far as photographers go - have probably one of the best hit ratios of keepers that he’d ever experienced.
What was it like shooting Kurt? Was he cooperative?
Yeah, Kurt really had a good relationship with photographers. He really liked photography and appreciated it. I was a little shy with the camera, more shy with the camera back then, especially in sort of a portraits-of-your-friend-type situation.
Kurt was a little shy himself, so we were kind of a little awkward with each other sometimes. We got along and we talked, but we also came from different backgrounds as well.
You know how some people are like, “God, are you done yet?” He was always like, “Well are you sure? You wanna shoot some more?” I remember he asked me that one time, and it was the last time I photographed him. I could see his publicist over there, looking at her watch.
(Laughs) Was that after In Utero?
Yeah, yeah…after In Utero.
There are a couple of shots of Eddie Vedder. There’s one where he’s climbing the scaffold. I think that was an improvised decision on his part, and you were there. Were you standing on the stage when you took that picture?
Yeah, yeah, I was standing on the stage and he was probably like, “Uh, I don’t know, is he looking at my ass?” I don’t know, 60, 70, 80 feet up, something like that, and I was using a telephoto. I didn’t really use telephoto lenses that much, but I usually have one in the bag for situations like that. And, yeah, that was pretty…pretty epic.
I heard the band wasn’t too pleased with that decision of his.
No. I mean, he was just constantly putting his life on the line there, and it just would have been super, super ugly all around for everybody if something happened to him and fortunately it didn’t. I got to shoot them again in September up in Vancouver, the end of the Canadian tour—Mudhoney was opening. They were nice; they let me shoot the whole show.
Yeah, a little different than back in the mid-90s when I’d go on tour with them, and I could hang out backstage and crawl around wherever I wanted to on the stage.
There were a lot more restrictions, yeah. But it’s hard to show up right at the end of something too and just sort of pretend that you’re documenting it.
And they’re a little more insular now. Everyone’s got families. Mike [McCready] said, “Oh yeah, sorry dude.” The Vancouver shows are almost like playing a Seattle show, where it’s like everybody you know, families and friends and everybody wants to have a piece of them. It almost would’ve been easier if I had just gone to Winnipeg or something like that where they don’t know anybody.
You’ve been shooting Pearl Jam consistently for years.
Yeah, I’ve missed a few years there, but yeah, it’s been fun collecting pictures, here and there, over the years. They’re an amazing band to shoot live. Eddie and I - we don’t see each other that often, but I feel a real connection with him. I actually dream about him all the time.
Yeah (laughs)…which is really kind of strange. Yeah, I’ve had---I’ve dreamt about him for years.
What goes on in your dream?
It’s usually meeting somewhere, like backstage. This last crazy dream I had was at this big house-studio-complex out in the middle of nowhere that they all had, and there’s snow all around….
They’re really...they’re kind of...they’re so kind of…bizarre. Yeah, I think part of it is that when I went on tour with them in ’96 to Europe, it was a really rough time in my life. My first wife and I had just finally separated for good and I was just in a really, kind of down, dark space. They took me on this tour; I flew around on their private jet with them, and we stayed in four-star hotels in Prague, Budapest, Istanbul, Spain and Portugal. Eddie and I hung out a lot, just played Scrabble and talked and it was exactly what I needed in my life at that point. I think that’s part of what I come back to.
In the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of visionary plant medicines with a shaman who’s South American-trained or Amazonian-trained. I dream about him a lot as well…this guy Francois. So it’s almost like a mentor-type personage.
Do you view Eddie as a mentor?
Um…yeah. I mean, it’s kind of mentor/peer, in a way. I think he’s a really inspiring person…and very complex. Amazingly difficult to get a hold of (laughs). He’s one of those people you can go like three years or whatever without seeing, and then you run into him again at a party and you’re just like, “Ah, dude, how ya doing?” It’s just like you catch up where you left off the last time.
Um…I don’t know. It’s a little disconcerting. I’ve been kinda waking up in the middle of the night, going, “Oh fuck, what next?” Last year I spent so much time working on the archives and doing licensing and stuff. It was quite lucrative because of the whole 20th anniversary of Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary, and several books coming out on grunge that I did covers for. Fender did a big reissue of one of Kurt Cobain’s guitars that I did a booklet for. All these projects last year totally added up, but unfortunately, there’s no big hoopla around a 21st anniversary.
I’m gonna try and sort of ramp up the fine-art print sales aspect of that work with my archives. I know a lot of photographers, such as Mick Rock and whatnot, are quite invested in that. And try and get some new work, and of course, having a new baby, that will take up a lot of time.
When are you due?
What’s that? Oh, uh…May 3rd.
May 3rd? All right. Wow!
Yeah. Leica will be her name.
Leica, as in the camera. Yeah.