Michael Stonis

Brad Elterman

Michael Stonis
Brad Elterman

How and when did you get into photography?
I got started when I was in my early teens. I was sent off to summer camp when I was about 13 and I hated it. That's when I discovered the darkroom class and that's what I got out of summer camp. When I got back, my parents got me a little darkroom kit and I used my moms art studio in the basement of our house as my darkroom. In 1974 I got a great seat for the Bob Dylan concert, brought my camera, took photos and got one published in Sounds, a weekly British music newspaper. I was on my way!

Where has your work been published in?
Loads of music magazines in the 70's and 80's. Music Life and Rock Show in Japan were my greatest clients. I got my first car from the Japanese magazines when I was about nineteen. It was this cool old Mercedes that I paid cash for. The Germans were the next best at buying photos. Let's see, there was Bravo, Frezight, Bunte, Pop Rocky and Popcorn. I traveled to Amsterdam in 1978 with a suitcase of color slides of Kiss, Queen and Bay City Rollers and sold photos to Musiek Express and Pop Foto. I became their Los Angeles correspondent. Poster Magazine in Stockholm was this amazing large format magazine that all the bands loved. I became friends with their editor, Hans Hatwig who was a legend in the industry. In the UK there was Melody Maker, Sounds and NNE and I would be in those papers all the time. The US magazined paid the least and they had no concept of a cool layout. The Japanese and Europeans were all about amazing full and double pages of one photo while Creem, Circus and Rolling Stone would publish one tiny photo. What did you expect for your lousy $35!

How would you describe your photography?
Eccentric. Back then it was all about taking photos onstage and to me that was boring. That's why I cut school and waited all night for Bowie to come out of a recording studio holding the tapes. If I was just shooting concerts, we probably would not be doing this interview today. All of the other concert photographers would laugh at me as I would strap on my flash and go backstage. I loved to incorporate the street into my photos since most of my editors were in Japan and Europe and they wanted to see L.A. and the sunshine!

Would you consider yourself as a paparazzi photographer?
NO! I worked with the bands and their publicists and record companies. I was hired by the record companies all the time. Only rarely would I go into the paparazzi mode. It was only with legends who I could not get to first base with.

How did you get to photograph such iconic people such as Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan and a ton of other rockstars?
My meeting with Dylan was thanks to my friend Ronee Blakley back in '76. If I live to be a very old man, I will never forget that evening. Michael was always around and I would photograph him at parties or get hired by his record company. He was so stylish and so shy.

Do you have a shoot that sticks out the most?
Yeah, when Dylan asked me to hustle up a young actor named Robert DeNiro and have him come up for a photo with him. Young people today think that they are getting a cool dose of pop culture with reality stars, but they do not have a clue what they missed and the definition of a true icon. I was so blessed to have been around in '77 and '78 and thank god that I had a camera hanging around my neck.

Have you had any on the disasters while shooting?
Sure. Robert Plant screamed at me and sent his bodyguards after me at my local park when I photographed him playing soccer in his speedos. I threw up on Peter Frampton's yacht in Hawaii and during one three day weekend everything I shot came out blank due to my camera shutter breaking down. The usual stuff.

Do you shoot with a similar camera setup from when you first started?
I have a Contax G2 film camera which gives me that 70's effect when I shoot black and white film. I also use a Canon 5D which is fun. I got rid of my old Canons and Nikons years ago. I should have kept them for the Brad Elterman museum!

How has your photography evolved?
Just sort of point and shoot in the street at the same time always speaking to my subjects. I still like to shoot outdoors. In 1980, I had a very cool photo studio at 7402 Beverly Blvd and I hard ever used it. Today it is a lovely hair salon.

What are your thoughts on today's photography? Are there similar styles or fads you can see?
Photography looks like it is making a swing from very over produced shoots to under produced point and shoot style. Precise framing and composition seems to have been blow out the window. Its all about capturing a moment and any camera will due. Grain, soft focus, hair blowing in the face is all provocative. THere are photographers shooting advertising campaigns using point and shoot cameras. The editor of L'Officiel in Paris and Olivier Zahm, my pal and editor of Purple, both told me to shoot photos today exactly as I did three decades ago and to change nothing. The French have the greatest sense of photo design and layout on the planet- bar none.

You seem to be very organized with your images and very prompt in updating your blog. What can you attribute that to and how has that benefitted you?
I am hooked on tumblr and blogging. It is an obsession. It stated out three years ago me posting my old photos that I had kept in a box for thirty years. Now its, about me taking fresh photos. I had put a away my cameras for near thirty years too. What brought me out of it was the internet. Now I am a photographer, editor , publisher all roiled into one. Traffic is a very euphoric sensation.

You co-founded Buzz Foto, can you tell us a little about that?
BuzzFoto is my third photo agency. My first one I started in 1980 and then Online USA which I started in 1992 and sold to Getty in 2000. This is my third one. I still enjoy the brokerage of photographs, but its all changed. There are too many photos on the market today. No icons. No stories and the magazines budgets for photos have been slashed.

You also have a book entitled "Like It Was Yesterday" how did that come about?
The photos, slides and negatives sat in boxes for years and when edited them, I approached a gallery in L.A. and they agreed to let me have an exhibition. The blogging followed soon. The book seemed to be a natural, but I only wanted to do a very limited edition of 500 copies, all signed and numbered. I had the book printed by Toppan, a Japanese printer and Garland Lyn, an amazing designer, did the layout and book design. The book is only available in a few stores, Ralph Lauren on Madison Ave in New York. BookMarc in West Village, LEADAPRON in Los Angeles and Collette in Paris.

Any advice to photographers trying to get into this type of photography?
Do not take concert photos. Do not be shy about self promotion. A blog is a must. Treat yourself as a global brand and marry a rich girl!

Your career has spanned almost 40 year's, what's in the future for you?
I would love to shoot an ad campaign in my original style. I am doing a new t shirt collection with Adam DeAngelis. Our brand is "Summer 77" and our first t shirt features a vintage Joan Jett photo taken in 1977 backstage at The Whiskey A Go Go. I am going to continue photographing and blogging modern pop culture. Bands, actors, artists and groupies. I have Alice Glass, Taylor Momsen , The Kills and Lana Del Rey on my radar to photograph.
Also, June 6 in Basel, at Galerie Eulenspiegel, I have a show opening with my pal, Swiss Pop Artist Marco Pittori. It's a calibration with Marco working his silk screen magic on my early photographs. Its our second exhibition together. The exhibition is entitled 77 Dreamin.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! We look forward to what's up your sleeve next!

Website: www.bradelterman.com