Patti Smith

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Patti Smith.

That’s all Rob Smith…the Art Director of Arrive Magazine…said when he called me a few months back.

Patti. Motherfucking. Smith.

I said “Yes!” before he even had time to get another word out. Are you kidding? Of course I wanna shoot Patti Smith! Besides adding to my current string of portraits of iconic women…Judy Collins, Gloria Steinem, Misty Copeland…Patti is someone I have always been fascinated by, and having the opportunity to shoot her would be a dream! The shoot would be tied in with the release of her new book, M Train. But then Rob had more to add…

No Hair and Makeup…

No Styling…

We’d get half an hour from the time she arrived at the studio…not a second more.

Fine..done…it would be a challenge, but I didn’t care…let’s get on with it!

I originally booked a studio in Long Island City because it had lots of character…but a week later Patti’s publicist nixed it saying Patti didn’t want to cross the river. She said Patti lived in the West Village and that she liked shooting at Industria. OK…less character, but if it makes Patti happy, we’ll book Industria. So more than a month goes by and it’s now about a week before the shoot date and I call the publicist and ask if we’re still on track to shoot and if we can confirm the studio…“Sure…we’re all set!”, she says…and I confirm Industria. But then a few days later…only three days before our shoot…she calls back to say that Patti now doesn’t want to shoot in a studio…she wants to do the shoot at Penn Station! She apparently had written a lot of her book while riding the Acela train and liked the metaphor of shooting at Penn Station since we were shooting for Amtrak’s magazine. But besides the fact that canceling Industria meant we would lose about $2 Grand…exactly how were we gonna shoot in the departure lounge of the busiest train station in America on three days notice?!! Without getting into detail, I’m just gonna fast-forward past the conference calls, begging and hand-wringing that ensued,  and say that somehow we were given permission. And so on an extremely hot August afternoon, myself and my crew took over Penn Station…

Patti wanted the Departure Board…she gets the Departure Board…

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…but even though I lost my studio aspect of the shoot, I figured we could still set up a smallish backdrop off to the side…

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The two areas were only a few feet apart, but the Penn Station folks were still kinda freaked out when they saw the size of our setup!

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But I didn’t care…I was shooting Patti Smith, dammit!

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Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

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Now let’s move over to that backdrop…

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Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

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And then…just as we were pretty much finished…something truly magical happened…

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Those kids sticking their heads around the corner might be the best happy accident I’ve ever photographed.

For one final setup, I pulled back the curtain to show the overall set and exactly where our little popup studio was…

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Here’s how everything looked in ‘Arrive’…

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So even though we were thrown more curveballs than I had seen in a year, everything worked out in the end…

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26 thoughts on “Patti Smith

  1. I don’t know if everyone who received your email notification got it in 2 emails as I did…

    So I’m reading the first email which ends with the magical “Happy Accident” photo and I was thinking that’s really a cool shot, and certainly in keeping with your “Pulling back the curtain” style.

    When I then opened the 2nd (extended) email it was doubly gratifying to see that the happy accident was used in print in all its glory.

    Yeah…there was a small hiccup where the blog went live too soon, but it was fixed. BT

  2. BT,

    I’m stuck in the background doldrums and am on the hunt for something new. I like what you used here and would like to inquire about the details. Because you are in their hood, my first guess is Oliphant.

    Thanks in advance,

    FM

    Sarah Oliphant it is…number 1679…

    Oliphant #1679

    BT

  3. First time visitor to your lovely blog and loved this story. Hearing all the “how it went down” is interesting and way rad. Thanks for sharing and being interesting and way rad! I’m looking forward to future posts.

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