See Bono, David Byrne, Billy Joel and More in Early Photos - Rolling Stone
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See Bono, David Byrne, Billy Joel and More in Intimate Early Portraits

Photographer Deborah Feingold reveals stories behind her portraits of some of rock’s most iconic artists in the Eighties

Deborah Feingold's 'Music' photography book

"I try everything to get a good shot," photographer Deborah Feingold says. "But for me, being polite, good manners and having a great sense of humor do the trick."

For nearly 40 years, Feingold has been shooting portraits of rock royalty for several publications, including Rolling Stone. Her new book, Music – which will hit bookstores on September 30th – collects photos she has taken since the mid-Seventies of musicians like Mick Jagger, Madonna and B.B. King. Over the years, she's been in the position to capture a host of now-famous names in the early days of their careers. (She's also photographed President Obama, Johnny Depp and Bill Gates in the years since.)

Rolling Stone recently caught up with the photographer to get the stories behind shoots she carried out in the early Eighties with Billy Idol, Billy Joel, Bono, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne, as well as one with Pat Benatar from the early Nineties. 


Deborah Feingold

Bono, 1981

"This was from U2's first publicity shoot in the States. It was all quite new to Bono; I don't think you'd see him posing like that ever again. What you see is what you get with him. They were extremely shy and quiet and kind of hung together. Evidently, when he took a look at these photos, before the book came out, he got a kick out of them.

"I shot the whole band, who came to my little one-room apartment, and I realized it was too dark. I started panicking, because it was overcast that day, so I went to the hardware store and bought one of those silver reflectors that painters use and a 100 watt bulb. I've always just kept it simple, and I love looking at that photo, because we were both kind of new to what we were doing, trying to do our best with somewhat limited experience."

David Byrne

Deborah Feingold

David Byrne, 1983

"David had a big suit on, so that was going to be interesting regardless. I wanted to get more, because this was being shot for, oh, I don't know…Rolling Stone. So I wanted more than just a picture of a crazy suit. In order to try to elicit a little more expression, I just played a little game of 'Simon Says' and the exciting one was just called 'Do a Silent Scream.' And it was silent and that's how that came about. It was effective. That's really the only frame with that expression."

Pat Benatar

Deborah Feingold

Pat Benatar, 1993

"That was a publicity shoot. She's just a real pro and a pleasure to work with. She's so entertaining. She brought her own clothes to the shoot, which I liked. We decided not to do it in a photo studio and instead do it against a wall to get full sunlight, and it just came out really well. She really liked the way this one came out."

Peter Gabriel

Deborah Feingold

Peter Gabriel, 1983

"This was one of the few instances,where I can say, 'We worked together.' The first shot was the one with his hand out the window. I was on the balcony, outside of the conference room. There's a magic and a 'mystical-ness' to that shot, but I'm not even sure I fully comprehended while I was shooting it. And, the other photo, of him peeking out, that was another example of the playfulness of the moment and the time."

Elvis Costello

Deborah Feingold

Elvis Costello, 1982

"I'd forgotten about this shot until I started this book. We did the shoot in a conference room in just a couple of minutes. There was no environment, so I just had his face; that's not an easy thing to capture well. I never looked back on that shoot and felt all that happy, but when I was researching the book, I saw these shots and went, 'Oh, my God, I love this.' I've looked at a my contact sheets a lot more generously 30 years later than when I was actually shooting it."

Billy Joel

Deborah Feingold

Billy Joel, 1982

"This was an interesting shoot, because it was still at the beginning of my career. He was the first, really mainstream, very successful musician that I have ever photographed. I was really nervous, because I had mostly shot more alternative characters. I kept thinking, 'When is he going to do something? When is something going to happen?' I kept trying to make it happen, putting him here and putting him there, but he would always lay back into his chair. It wasn't until this year that I realized, he was doing something that was unique: He was relaxing. He really let himself just be himself and that's why I love the one of him on the dock. Nobody had those pictures of him, and I finally forgave myself. It wasn't really that bad."

Billy Idol

Deborah Feingold

Billy Idol, 1983

"This shoot was a very dramatic experience for me. I had mostly been shooting jazz and new-age musicians, he was one of the few 'punks' – if that's the word – who I worked with. I knew of him and his reputation, but I didn't really tailor the shoot to who he was. He just kind of stood there and posed, and every pose was somewhat the same. So I asked him if he would take his cape and just get a little movement in it, since I couldn't get him to move his body. I think he felt a little uncomfortable in that request and might have done it, perhaps begrudgingly. Anyway, his cape accidentally hit my light, a second after that shot, and my light crashed to the floor, and he walked out of the shoot. He didn't say a word. He just took his stuff and walked out. I remember just standing there and very quietly saying to my assistant, 'I guess the shoot is over.' I never had that happen ever again. I'm a very gentle soul, so the whole thing was rather awkward and embarrassing."

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