Photographer Norman Seeff on his Iconic Exile on Major Side road Photographs

Exile on Major Side road celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this week. It’s extensively considered the Rolling Stones’ maximum necessary album, however even supposing it isn’t your favourite, in case you’re a Stones fan, you comprehend it’s particular, particularly as illustration of the time when Mick, Keith and the lads have been at their coolest and maximum inventive. Coming off the attractive Americana-tinged grit of Sticky Arms, Exile noticed the band at a melodic top level in songwriting and stylistic output,  evoking hedonism, wistfulness and defiance as that they had “exiled” themselves to keep away from exorbitant UK taxes. The yr was once 1972, and song usually had a simple extra about it. (The Black Crowes simply launched an EP celebrating songs from the yr, and it opens with Exile’s first monitor “Rocks Off”). Photographer Norman Seeff was once aware about a lot of the inventive making plans for the enduring file, as he labored with Mick Jagger and John Van Hamersveld on artwork route and pictures.

This weekend Seeff stocks uncommon photographs and ephemera from the mission with “50 Years In ‘Exile,’ displaying photographs from his 1972 photograph consultation with the Stones. Antique pictures and the paste-up format used to provide a collection of postcards integrated with the unique urgent of the album can be on show. Seeff shared some recollections and background at the mission and the band with LA Weekly. 

LA WEEKLY: How did you return to paintings with The Stones?

NORMAN SEEFF: Neatly, it’s roughly an overly large tale and I’m going to only upload some historical past in there. I used to be a clinical physician running in emergency drugs in South Africa in Soweto.  I needed to get in a foreign country as a result of I didn’t just like the South African apartheid device they usually didn’t like me. I stopped up in New York with one little digicam in my palms and, by no means having been skilled within the arts, however within the hubris of minor, concept “I will be able to do the rest I would like.” I began strolling the streets of New York and bumping into fascinating folks, asking them if I may {photograph} them. I’d ran into folks like Patti Smith or folks from The Manufacturing facility and I constructed up this portfolio in New York of what it is advisable to name “the subculture.” All of sudden, to my wonder, I stopped up as this rock photographer in New York! I didn’t even know after I got here from South Africa, that there was once a industry known as the song industry the place you’ll be able to take pictures for album covers. I met a person in New York–he was once thought to be the highest graphic dressmaker within the song global. He was my mentor and unfolded the entire doorways for me.

After about 3 years in New York, he beneficial that I come to Los Angeles as a result of they have been searching for an artwork director for United Artists Data. All of sudden, you already know, from a couple of years previous, simply strolling the streets with a digicam, I’m now a head of United Artists, the graphic aspect. Someway, my recognition should have reached London. I am getting a choice from any individual about The Rolling Stones.  They’ll be in L.A. and would I do the shoots. The 2 greatest tasks it is advisable to get have been capturing both Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I’d were pleased with the Beatles as smartly, however the level is, while you shoot one, you’ll be able to’t shoot the opposite. It’s like doing a industrial for Coca Cola.  They received’t can help you do one for Pepsi.

What was once the conceptual concept at the back of the postcard imagery? 

Mick Jagger was once frustrated in regards to the tax state of affairs in England they usually made up our minds that they had to depart and pass and paintings in a foreign country. Mick had noticed an image of the Ballet Russes, which was once the Russian Nationwide Ballet Corporate.  They have been touring the sector and what took place is the entire ballet corporate defected to the States. He’d noticed {a photograph} of them, I feel, coming down the ramp of an aircraft. The tale that I used to be instructed was once Mick sought after to do it coming down the ramp of a ship, and extra roughly length having a look–Titanic days, that roughly glance. We looked at the Lengthy Seaside docks and discovered that if we introduced the band to Lengthy Seaside, we might have 1000 folks at the docks and that wasn’t going to paintings. Then the speculation was once are we able to construct a collection? I discovered one of the most giant phases in Hollywood and we needed to paintings temporarily. I were given my staff and we took in the future, beginning early within the morning to construct the set.

The opposite a part of it was once we have been instructed that the Rolling Stones sought after to shoot in the dark so we had from seven within the morning until middle of the night.  I bear in mind purchasing gallons of inexpensive purple wine, and everybody was once ingesting all day as we have been construction the set. We have been a bit of loaded through the top of the day, but if the Rolling Stones arrived, I noticed that Mick was once extra stoned than anyone else in my staff. I used to be high-quality with that. The article—in case you do a Rolling Stones mission, you needed to create what I’d name a “Rolling Stones second.” You’ll be able to’t simply create one thing that anybody else has completed.

Norman Seeff

From this author’s private choice of Seeff’s postcards. (Lina Lecaro)

Had been there any standout recollections from the photograph consultation with the band?

The entire length of that point was once song was once the cultural engine of trade at that time. We have been breaking loose, in the whole thing–sexual revolution, drug revolution, political song was the onus of the motion as smartly. We have been developing cultural icons… I knew that if I photographed The Rolling Stones wearing a undeniable means, and that was the billboards, what we produced would develop into a cultural roughly influencer. At that time, they didn’t have that phrase, however that’s precisely what album covers have been. On the identical time, you’ll be able to’t do exactly a photograph consultation. One thing abnormal goes to occur, however I’m now not a conceptual individual. I’m an experiential photographer. Additionally I’m now not a documentary photographer. I by no means went to live shows and simply photographed artists appearing.  The artists got here to my studio and we evolved an interactive verbal exchange and a courting. With out realizing the rest, no preconceived, conceptual concept, we allowed the moments to conform into one thing that was once so robust emotionally, that mainly I’d record the enjoy. It was once my roughly way.

For the Exile consultation… we began in the dark.  We had long past to Western Gown, which was once the large film dress position and we’d gotten all this era clothes. I needed to have a complete forged of folks so I introduced a number of the folk from my studio and a number of women that labored for my studio assistants and manufacturers and folks like that. All of them liked it as a result of they’re all dressed as much as the nines. Mainly, what we had was once this boat aspect set that we constructed. Stones and the “forged” have been intended to have simply disembarked from the ramp.  The Rolling Stones are actual professionals, particularly how Mick works—he was once ingesting wine, however he didn’t glance loaded or the rest. Keith is some other factor–Keith simply events. Mainly, it was once the Rolling Stones. About two within the morning, we’re getting stunning photographs however that’s all I’m getting. They have been status round and it was once all very spontaneous, no matter occurs…occurs.

In the ones days, I used to be capturing Nikon movie cameras sooner than virtual and there was once the sort of factor as a motor power, however it wasn’t out in point of fact. For every shot that you simply took, you needed to cock the lever and shoot it. Each time I sought after to cock it, I needed to do it two times to shoot. I love to shoot very speedy, one body a 2d as a result of I shoot nearly cinematically, however I’m now not fascinated by the {photograph} after I’m running with an artist. I’m in truth chatting with them and tasty them in a courting with the cameras that were passed to me through my assistants. All of sudden, my major lady made up our minds she sought after to kiss Mick deeply at the mouth. She spun round and he or she attempted to kiss him.  The 2 of them misplaced their footing they usually actually did a somersault in combination. I occur to be close to them proper on the time she kissed him. I were given the shot of him flying throughout the air along with his legs up within the air and her legs shot up within the air! Someway, I used to be in a position to cock my digicam and shoot it as though it was once a film digicam, and I were given this unbelievable collection of stuff. Subsequent factor is that they’re laying at the flooring! I’m satisfied I were given my shot. That was once what you could name a Rolling Stones second.

As an artwork director, dressmaker of album covers in addition to a photographer, I used to be going to design the entire marketing campaign, however I additionally introduced on one of the most best graphic folks on the planet of graphic design. His title was once John Van Hamersveld. I did rather a lot and quite a lot of covers with him. You must test him out as a result of his paintings is good. He’s a in reality impactful, high-quality artist. He and I collaborated in doing the entire bundle which was once to develop into an overly well-known piece of art work.

How did the speculation to create postcards and come with inside the Exile come about?

John and I checked out what we would have liked to do and we each got here to the similar conclusion that no matter we do, it must be one thing that’s dynamic. Then I remembered, on the time, the ones days of the Titanic when folks went in another country, they’d purchase those concertina postcards. At this level, the Rolling Stones have been dwelling in Bel Air and the speculation was once that they have been going to do a 2d shoot, it was once in Delhi, and I went to the home. And what I stated to John, “why don’t we now not use the picture for the quilt? If we make this to seem like that exact length and make it a type of concertina issues and put it throughout the album, we will be able to design the album any means we wish.” He got here up with some good graphic designs.

We display Mick and he loves the speculation of creating the postcards. We additionally stated, “Concentrate, what’s your handwriting like?” So all of us sat across the eating room desk and we had Mick scribble the entire credit score strains. John and I and Mick have been like a number of children at a type of kindergarten arts length with a bit of scissors and tape. We simply minimize the whole thing up that Mick would write.  He would say, “oh, yeah” and write down pictures through Norman Seeff. We minimize it up and all folks in truth simply taped up the whole thing onto the album quilt. It was once very a lot one of those a collaborative factor however it was once the speculation of John’s to do it like that. We printed the postcards and we put them in. When folks purchased the album, they discovered the postcards and each and every postcard was once other. It was once the hip factor to do to write down folks in your Rolling Stones postcard. In fact, Atlantic Data have been extremely excited. It was once like, a complete new approach to “pre social media.” That’s the tale across the evolution of an album quilt, which turns into very a lot built-in into society. Then we additionally designed the campaigns for billboards. It was once very sturdy.  It received a number of awards. It was once a collaborative technique of Norman, John and Mick to in truth create this piece. In order that was once the evolution of the entire procedure.

What in regards to the quilt?

John had discovered those wonderful footage of this man with giant balls in his mouth and there was once additionally a ravishing documentary filmmaker, who was once capturing the Rolling Stones on 16 millimeter movie. We took his movie, we made copies, we minimize it up, and we did a collage with the circus performers, that roughly stuff. It was once only a loopy, irrational, meaningless quilt. My pictures was once supposed to be the quilt was once now it moved to the interior. Sadly, what took place is the file corporate, to economize in a while after the primary unlock, stopped striking the postcards in. Therefore,, the postcards have develop into collector’s editions in it, with folks looking for them.

Norman Seeff

(Courtesy Norman Seeff)

So how did this iconic consultation encourage or impact your pictures profession?

I’m new on the planet. I’m nonetheless very contemporary. I don’t even bring to mind myself but as a success. It takes some time as an artist. You’re at all times in a state of what I name “divine discontent” as it’s thrilling, the inventive procedure, however you by no means assume it’s just right sufficient. For me the affect of all at once, after giving up a profession in drugs, I’m the fellow that Mick Jagger comes to a decision must shoot his subsequent album? It began dawning on me ‘possibly you’re going to be ok. Perhaps you’re going make it, you already know?’  I used to be like, “Oh, ok, so getting the Rolling Stones in my portfolio of folks I’ve shot offers me a undeniable credibility.” My artwork shape is an artwork type of mainly inventive verbal exchange. I’m actually exploring the inventive procedure with the artist, however developing this intimate interplay with them, and in a duality of being compassionately desirous about them feeling secure. On the identical time, pronouncing, in case you don’t push your limitations, all you get is mediocrity.

What I began doing was once after I had artists appearing, in the event that they did a music, I’d cause them to do a music over and time and again and push them to do it other ways. Steadily artists would get concepts and what would occur within the photograph consultation could be issues that they’d combine in a while onstage. We might additionally discover stuff.   I’d spray them with water and reduce to rubble their hair, in point of fact remove the relief zone that artists would are available in and assume, “Oh, I’m coming in, you’re photographing me,” and I’m pronouncing, “I’m now not photographing you, you’re going to be noticed, the pictures that pop out from nowadays, initially, will create an everlasting, iconic identification for you on an international scale. Tens of millions and hundreds of thousands of folks will see those photographs.” I imply, the Rolling Stones, the ones photographs should were printed 10-20 million occasions.

Numerous my paintings was once about after I’ve created the security, they usually knew my motivation, that I’m now not there to check out and manipulate or regulate them. They have got to really feel I used to be as a lot at the frontline as they’re. In order that complete procedure was once what I used to be studying. What I realized out of that consultation and others is that even supposing you’re running with essentially the most iconic artists, you can’t mission onto them.

And what are you running on now?

I’ve been filming my periods for years, I’ve were given the biggest unseen archive of movie periods of artists within the act of introduction. We are actually construction a TV collection and a function movie. I’m a multimedia artist who used movie and pictures as my car to do what I in point of fact do, which is discover the interior adventure of the inventive procedure that artists undergo with a purpose to create. Notice that the nice artists are what you’d name boundary-pushing artists. They survive the brink of the unknown and they’re keen to enter that position the place I sought after them to move. The good artists are adventurers, and each and every consultation is an stumble upon with an artist keen to damage their very own threshold. What I’m pronouncing is that everybody has get right of entry to to the similar assets of creativity, however maximum folks are too scared to make use of it. The good artists are scared however they pass anyway. It’s a shockingly brave heroic adventure. That’s what my mission’s going be—it’s going to be known as Norman Seeff: The Energy and Pastime To Create Encounters With the Artists. That’s the actual paintings presently, however the concept is to convey this subject material out to turn people who we’re all inventive.  All of us have the similar emotional powers and strengths. we simply must be brave sufficient to move at the adventure. Creativity is a hero’s adventure.

(This interview has been edited for duration and readability) 

“50 Years in Exile” on the Rock Images Museum Particular Exhibition House, 123 Artsakh, Glendale; opens Sat., Might 14 and runs via Solar., June 12. Extra data at and


Updated: May 13, 2022 — 2:17 pm