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These Rare Shots From Prince's First Photoshoot Show A Young, Vulnerable Side To The Purple One

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In 1977, a 19-year-old kid named Prince Rogers Nelson was in the midst of recording his first album when he came to the attention of local Minneapolis music agent/manager Owen Husney and his partner Gary Levinson. The pair signed Prince, and started trying to get him a record deal.

Photographer Robert Whitman, then 26, was also just starting out in his career when his friend Husney came by his apartment to play him some music in the hopes of convincing the photographer to help him out and take photos of the young recording artist. After hearing just one song played on his car stereo—an early version of "Soft and Wet"—Whitman agreed to the job.

"We went in the car and drove around, listening to it, and it was just amazing," Whitman told Billboard last year. "They said, 'We want to make a little brochure on him, to get him a record deal. Would you be willing to shoot him?' I said, 'Sure. I don't know what I'm doing, but I would be happy to,'" Whitman recalled.

Whitman would go on to photograph Prince during three different shoots in 1977—the first professional photos ever taken of him. Only 15 copies of the press kit were ever produced and the photographs from these sessions have rarely been seen, according to Whitman.

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Here's how Whitman described the shoots to Billboard:

He was very, very shy. But he opened up to me and he was willing to play around, willing to try different outfits. I didn't know what I was doing, so I experimented. I put light behind his hair so his Afro was like a halo. We put sequins on him and then I put a scarf on the lens, but it didn't work. We took his shirt off. We had him blowing bubbles. This is all old analogue stuff. But he really opened up and we had some silly moments. He was young and was just starting and so was I.

A collection of new, never-before-seen selects made by the photographer in 2013 from the three shoots taken in 1977 are now on view at Mr. Musichead Gallery in Hollywood.

Mr. Musichead Gallery is located at 7420 W. Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (323) 876-0042. The exhibit will be on display until June 24.