Legendary Rock Photographer's New Exhibit Features The Boss, Neil Young And Tom Waits On A Carousel
Danny Clinch has had a prolific photography career thus far, shooting some of the most legendary names in rock. He’ll be signing copies of his book, Still Moving, in WeHo tomorrow with an accompanying exhibition at Morrison Hotel Gallery at the Sunset Marquis Hotel opening to the public on October 24. But while the photos are beautiful, Clinch's stories of how he captured the images are equally captivating.Clinch was born in New Jersey and cut his teeth interning for Annie Leibovitz, something he said was an important experience for a young artist who wanted to photograph musicians and interesting people.
"She's very intense and works really hard," he said. "I found that to be a great learning experience early on when I could have been going off with the other assistants who would work say, 'I can't handle the ethos, we're photographing models and drinking wine at lunch.'"
He’s done regular work for Bruce Springsteen and has shot Tom Waits, Neil Young and Tupac Shakur. When he began compiling images for Still Moving, Clinch told LAist he intended to submit 400 photos to the editor, but ended up "dropping 1200 on the poor guy." He defines his style as "unobtrusive," saying he likes to try to capture his subjects when they're relaxed and their guard is down.
It's hard for Clinch to narrow down a favorite photo, but he does have an affinity for one of Tom Waits riding a carousel. (A different photo of Waits is on the back cover of the book; Eddie Vedder is on the front.)
In 2004, Clinch was scheduled to shoot Waits in San Francisco, but Waits had other plans. The musician had promised to take his son and nephew to the county fair and wanted to know if Clinch wouldn't mind joining them. Clinch, not one to pass going to a fair with Tom Waits, agreed.
"I rolled up into the parking lot to meet him and, funny enough, he had all sorts of little props," Clinch said. "He had a big magnifying glass, a funny Elvis mask and this little orange pistol."
The group brought the glass and the pistol into the fair. Clinch suggested they shoot Waits on the ferris wheel, but Waits said he was afraid of heights.
"So,we went to the carousel and the second time around, he pulled out this plastic pistol and I just embraced it," Clinch said. "It's great when someone will collaborate with you."
Ben Harper (Photo by ©Danny Clinch/courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery)
Another frequent collaborate is fellow Jersey boy, Bruce Springsteen, who wrote the forward for Still Moving. Clinch met The Boss when assisting Leibovitz while shooting the cover of the Tunnel Of Love album. Later, when Clinch was putting out an earlier book called Discovery Inn in 1998, he decided he was proud of work and thought he'd send it to Springsteen to see if he could possibly photograph him a some point. Springsteen liked the book so much that he invited Clinch to a rehearsal of the E Street Band.
Clinch found Springsteen to be an inspiring character who treated everyone with respect while working as hard as he could.
"He gives 150 percent all the time, no matter what he’s doing, whether telling a joke or playing a song in front of 10 or 50,000 people," he said.
In a way, Cinch said Springsteen reminded him of his own father.
"I think that's why [Springsteen and I] get along so well and there's such a great respect..and in turn, he's given back and written the forward for the book."
Another story Clinch likes to tell takes place when shooting Neil Young. It was in 2006 and Young was making the film Heart of Gold with filmmaker Jonathan Demme. They were in Nashville and Clinch was there to document the process and then shoot some publicity photos. They wanted Clinch to shoot Young at the hotel where he was staying, but Clinch really wanted to use the Ryman Auditorium as his backdrop.
That's when Clinch spotted a '48 Cadillac for sale. Knowing that Young was a fan of old cars, he called the owner and asked if he could use it in a shoot. The owner couldn't turn down his car being used in a photoshoot with Neil Young, so he drove the car to the hotel. Young loved the car and agreed to take it for a spin to the Ryman, and it was on that drive that Clinch was able to shoot a photo of Young through the rearview mirror that remains a favorite photo of his today.
Up next, Cinch is working on a film about the band Blind Melon. He photographed them frequently while they were on your, during which frontman Shannon Hoon would frequently carry a video camera and document what was going on.
"[Blind Melon] was the first band to give me great access and to led me do what I always dreamed of doing," Clinch said.
When Hoon died of an overdose in 1995, Clinch said it stopped him in his tracks. However, Clinch recently got a hold of the tapes and is working to "create a film through Shannon's eyes of his life, music and friends. It's gonna be pretty moving."
In addition to his film and photography work, Clinch is a husband and father who also plays harmonica in the Tangiers Blues Band.
Danny Clinch Photo Exhibition. Morrison Hotel Gallery at the Sunset Marquis Hotel, 1200 Alta Loma Road, WeHo. Opens October 24 to November 7 . Clinch will sign copies of his book on October 22 from 6 to 9 p.m.